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Payday 3 is ready and waiting to steal all the new Starfield Xbox Game Pass users

Almir Listo, global brand director and head of community at Starbreeze Entertainment, knows exactly how to build Payday 3 up from the foundations of Payday 2.

There’s something quite poetic about Payday 3. The story of the game follows veteran heisters getting the gang back together for one last job – a retirement plan they really didn’t see coming. But, in the eyes of Almir Listo, global brand director and head of community at Starbreeze Entertainment, that narrative also works as a clean and tidy analogy for the studio. And the players, as well, actually.

“The story of the Payday gang follows the story of our audience,” says Listo, in an interview with VG247 at Gamescom. “And even us, who are making the game. Think about it, right? The Payday gang has been away for five years, most of them are unaccounted for. For whatever reason, they’re being drawn back into a life of crime. Though we still have a lot of concurrent players, a lot of Payday players have also left their lives behind – Payday 3 will be the first time in many years that they’ll go back to a life of crime.”

Payday is famous for its community. Even now, some ten years after the last game in the series was released, we’re seeing a lot of players flock to Payday 2 (and those numbers have only gone back up since the Payday 3 marketing campaign began in earnest). Given that it’s a PvE title – where players must cooperate to infiltrate secure locations, steal valuable items, and extract them without too much hassle – having a good team to play with is vital. It’s fortunate that the player base is so welcoming, then. Which they will have to be, even to the inevitable Xbox Game Pass scrubs.

“We’ve seen it before when Payday 2 came to Epic Games Store,” says Listo. “It was a huge success for us; the influx of new players were supported, welcomed. The same was true of the Switch version of Payday 2, too.”

And the difference with Payday 3 is that it will start as one community; the game comes to Game Pass, day one (with cross-play and cross-progression), and Listo truly believes this will be a great starting point for new players, lapsed players, and veterans alike. “The third game is the perfect time to get into this series – and you would know, you’ve just been playing it!”

There's plenty of Payday 3 to look forward to down the line.

At Gamescom, there were booths for media to try the title out. And Listo is right; he played on my team and saw how much I enjoyed it. To coax belly laughs, sweaty palms and hijinks out of a team of hungover journalists on the last day of an event is no mean feat, but Payday 3 delivered in spades. I have limited experience with the series, and – thanks to my CoD, Destiny, and Halo experience – knew exactly what I was doing as soon as I picked up my pad. The UI and instructions are clear, the objectives and heisting as intuitive as any objective-based CoD mode you’ll play, and the presentation of it all is tight. Polished. A refinement on what’s come before, a solid launch package ten years in the making.

But, these days, a shooter isn’t just good for its release window. It needs to have a tail. And Payday 3 is planning to stick around for a long, long time. Listo acknowledges that the DLC campaign (and a slew of gaffes and controversies) muddied the brand with Payday 2. But Payday 3 is a “resurrection”, to him. It’s a reset. “I think what happened with Payday 2 was that we went overboard. You know what I mean? We did so many different collaborations. Some super exciting, some very weird. It was like a testing ground.

Custom header of Ice T and Payday 3
Yes, Ice T does align with the brand. | Image credit: VG247

“But, with Payday 3, we’re going back to our roots, you know? Starting up from a much more grounded position. When we designed the IP originally, it was a very heavy, grounded, mature experience, aimed toward adults.” Payday 2 became fairly infamous for its… obscure… collaborations: Hardcore Henry, Yakuza, Point Break, Tony Montana, Ron Perlman, Hotline Miami – there were some fairly out-there flirtations with other media, and not all of them worked.

This is where, for me, the Call of Duty comparison comes in – with so many collaborations that are really taking away from the idea of a boots-on-the-ground shooter, CoD has become something of a parody of itself. Nicki Minaj running around the Gulag is it? OK, sure. The horrible doll from Saw teabagging you? Nothing you can do about it, loser. These collaborations often risk having a more negative cultural impact than a positive one, and that’s something Listo is aware of.

“In my capacity as brand director, we don't want to dilute the quality and the integrity of that idea. Of a mature, serious game. And the worst thing that can happen is that our players feel that we introduce a new character collaboration or whatever, and they feel it negatively affects their experience or takes away from the fantasy of being a career criminal.”

Mask, and you shall recieve.

Listo admits that Payday 2 “did a lot of good things, and a lot of shitty things” and that, ultimately, the developer has learned from the experience. After over 200 updates in one game alone, you’d be foolish not to. Payday 3 is a fresh start for Starbreeze, and you can see it’s done the work to make the foundation for this game as solid as possible. It plays well, it looks great, it’s easy to pick up and difficult to master, and it has everything you need to be your new ‘Friday night and some beers’ game with your pals.

“The community will welcome the Game Pass players with open arms,” concludes Listo. “You can never get enough people when you want to commit criminal activities.”

An open technical beta is scheduled for Payday 3 this weekend. Payday 3 releases on September 21 for PC via PC Game Pass, Steam, and the Epic Games Store. It will also be released on PS5, Xbox Series X/S Game Pass, and GeForce Now.

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Payday 3

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About the Author
Dom Peppiatt avatar

Dom Peppiatt


Dom is a veteran video games critic with 11 years' experience in the games industry. A published author and consultant that has written for NME, Red Bull, Samsung, Xsolla, Daily Star, GamesRadar, Tech Radar, and many more. They also have a column about games and music at The Guardian.