Players robbing a bank vault in Payday 3

Pull off the perfect heist with these tips and tricks for Payday 3

By Julian Benson, Contributor

If you've walked past your local bank and noticed the guards look a little too relaxed, the security cameras have blind spots, and the vault is a little too laden with cash…then you may need something to take the edge off of your criminal impulses before you get caught up in a robbery spree.

Thank goodness then that Payday 3 is here to give you all the thrills of a bank heist without the inevitable stint in maximum security prison. Like its predecessors, the four-player co-op shooter challenges you and your crew to empty the vault at various venues, including banks, a storage container facility, and an art gallery—pitting you against hordes of AI-controlled security guards and police in the process.

While much of Payday 3 is familiar, developer Starbreeze Studios has also overhauled critical systems and added new mechanics. You'll need to master them all if you hope to escape with sacks of cash instead of ending up in the back of a squad car. Here are some tips to kick off your criminal career.

Getting an Edge (and a Grit and a Rush)

When Payday 3’s Heists get hard, you can activate three powerful buffs that give you an advantage in the thick of the fight: Edge, Grit, and Rush. When Edge is activated, you deal 10% more damage, while Grit reduces the damage you take by 10% and Rush makes you move faster.
Payday 3 Crew
You still need to play skillfully to succeed, but you should take advantage of these buffs when taking on the most challenging waves of enemies, activating them when they can best aid you.

How you activate these buffs is entirely down to the skills you choose for your character in the new skills system.

Pruning the skill tree

In Payday 2, you picked a class and then invested the reputation points you earned in matches to buy perks from that class’s skill tree. While it was a straightforward system, it forced players into defined roles, and there weren’t a lot of variations between builds. For Payday 3, Starbreeze has come up with a new system that offers a lot more flexibility when building your bank robber.

Instead of skill trees, there are now Skill Lines. These comprise a base node, a set of upgrades, and a Mastery Node. You unlock base nodes, such as Medic or Tank, as you complete heists and raise your infamy level. Each alters specific actions, supporting different styles of play. For example, Medic lets you revive teammates 20% faster and adds two additional charges to any medic bags you drop, while Tank increases the speed of your armor regeneration and adds charges to your armor bag.

Once you’ve selected and equipped a base node, playing more matches will unlock upgraded skills. For instance, one of Medic’s upgrade skills is Steady Hands, which means you get 20% more health when you use a medic bag.
Payday 3 Skill Lines
Use a skill enough, and you will eventually unlock a Mastery Node. At the end of the Tank’s Skill Line is Disengage, which lets you break free from a special enemy’s stun attack once per heist. While you can only activate upgrade skills if you have the base node selected, once you’ve unlocked a mastery skill, you can equip it without needing the base node. And you don't need to have all of the upgrades in a Skill Line active either. You can pick and choose.

The new Skill Lines system can take a little while to get used to, but it’s a potent tool for creating a build that suits your playstyle. There are more than 100 skills across 17 different Skill Lines, and by the time you reach level 100 you’ll have picked up to 21 separate skills.

Skill Lines also tie into the new Edge, Grit, and Rush system, changing how you accrue these buffs and enhancing their power when you activate them. If you select the Mower, Sharpshooter, and Gunslinger base nodes, for instance, you will gain Edge whenever you fire 35 bullets, stand still and aim down your scope, and when you switch to your secondary weapon. You can then pick upgrade skills that reduce recoil, add extra damage, and increase armor penetration when Edge is active.

Old guard dogs with new tricks

As in the older games, there are three enemy tiers in Payday 3: Common, Uncommon, and Specials. Common covers your basic police footsoldier. Initially that includes security guards, then unarmored cops, SWAT, and eventually fully-armored heavy SWAT. While none of these basic troops should give you much of a challenge individually, when they mass in large numbers you might see your health and armor whittled away.
Payday 3 Hostage
You’ll also face a few Uncommon units in most waves, and they’ll appear more frequently as you get closer to escaping with the loot. The sniper will sit on a distant rooftop and take potshots at you with a high-powered rifle—enough to cause real damage to your armor or health bar. The Shield cop is even more of a challenge. Armed with a ballistic shield, this policeman is practically invincible from the front, and you’ll need to use grenades or flanking maneuvers to take him out. While the Shield is a familiar face to Payday players, in Payday 3 you’ll quickly discover that the standard cops will now line up behind the Shield, using him as cover.

Special units are the people who will really mess up your day, though. The Bulldozer, for instance, is a seven-foot tank wrapped in layers and layers of body armor. You and your crew must pour rounds into his hulking frame to take him down. The Bulldozer’s also picked up some new tricks since the last game. He’ll now charge you down, knocking you to the floor—and if you get too close, he’ll hoof you with his heavy steel-toed boot.

The fast-moving, silent Cloaker and stun-inducing Taser return with tweaks to their toolset. The Cloaker, now wholly clad in black tactical gear and armed with two wrist-mounted nightsticks, will pounce on you and beat you on the floor until someone shoots him off you. The Taser, meanwhile, can stun you from a distance with its electrified dart gun. You have a brief window where you can slowly turn and shoot them before you become entirely immobilized and must wait for help from your teammates. However, the Taser now has a weakness as well: a small battery pack on his waist. Shoot it and it will explode, shocking anyone nearby.
Payday 3 Thermite
Payday 3 also features a new Special enemy, the Nader. Toting a utility belt stuffed with gas grenades, this new unit can slow your whole squad and sap their health. If you get caught in the green, noxious cloud that spews from his explosives, your sprint is disabled and your health bar drains away. Like the Taser, he has a weak spot: Shoot his grenade belt to take him down quickly and trap the cops around him in a toxic gas cloud.

Hard times

As with the previous Payday games, Payday 3 has a spread of difficulty settings—Normal, Hard, Very Hard, and Overkill—but they work a little differently from before.

For starters, every enemy type appears in every difficulty mode. You won’t need to play on Overkill to see the new Nader character. Enemies also have the same amount of health on each difficulty mode, which makes it easier for lower-level players to join in with their friends in higher settings or veteran players to join rookies in lower settings.

While enemies don’t have more health in the higher settings, you’ll face (many) more of them. Waves are much, much larger on Overkill than they are on Normal. Enemies are also more accurate, so expect them to quickly strip away your armor and health. Higher difficulty modes demand much more from your squad.
Payday 3 Difficulty Modes
As you increase the difficulty, you will also see changes in the world. For instance, security cameras become indestructible in Hard mode, and when playing on Overkill difficulty, there will be a lead guard patrolling the map who you can’t kill without raising the alarm.

While Payday 3 looks a lot like its predecessors, Starbreeze has made many changes that result in a richer heist 'em up. The new Skill Lines system gives you much more control over your character, the new difficulty levels make it easier to play with your friends (whatever their skill level), and the updated enemies—well, they're just better at making a mess of your day.

If you're looking for a new thrill to keep you away from a life of crime, Payday 3 may be it. You can find it on the Epic Games Store.