PAYDAY 3 – Ultimate Skills Guide

A simple guide to picking the right skills for loud and stealth.

Guide to Skills


Skills will be rated with personal opinions.


  • Loud Viability: OK, has insane potential for a dedicated medic
  • Stealth Viability: useless, skip

If you were someone who liked to use a medic/inspire type build in payday 2, you might enjoy this skill tree. Benefits to healing yourself and teammates quickly, along with receiving necessary buffs such as damage reduction and run speed when going for a revival.

However beware that the medic bag has become kind of useless when you have the ability to trade civilians/dominated cops for first aid kits along with the armor bag being somewhat superior of a choice due to the game being playable without taking health damage once in the first place

Always take the medic bag to stealth though. Fall damage is one hell of a drug.

  • Best skills to take: Combat Medic, Code blue

Combat medic allows you to tank the incoming damage whilst you and your revived teammate run for the nearest cover, whereas code blue combined with the first perk (Medic) will allow you to revive very quickly

  • Skills you shouldn’t take: Steady hands

Its just pointless. Triage is better than all of them, and field surgery has a better side effect.

General overview:

  • Base Medic: Good
  • Aced Medic: Amazing
  • Steady hands: Poor
  • Extra charge: Good if using medic bag
  • Combat medic: Situational but amazing; make sure you ace Medic to use it though
  • Code blue: Good
  • Triage: OK
  • Field surgery: For higher difficulties only, useless if you can keep alive

Ammo Specialist

  • Loud viability: Mandatory/useful
  • Stealth viability: useless, skip

If doing loud game play, one (or preferably two) teammate(s) should always have this so that the team doesn’t run out of ammo; doing so can result in the cops kicking you in the balls so hard you’d wish you got a matchmaking error instead.

Possible to avoid needing ammo if the whole team is using mower, however supplies will be stretched very thin and ammo running out is going to happen eventually

  • Best skills to have: Ammo specialist, Fully loaded, Top up

All of these skills help you by letting you carry extra ammo or be more efficient to the team when sharing. Ammo specialists 20% extra ammo goes a lot, and top up with its grenade refill is extremely useful on higher difficulties.

  • Worst skills to have: High grain

Its pointless as it will require you to drain ammo constantly which in turn causes very poor ammo efficiency, or you’ll have to bring a gun that fires quickly but most of those are also poor choices to bring in the first place (i’m looking at you, commando)

  • Synergies: Demolitionist – Extra munitions

More grenades per restock. Useful if you’re into using grenades often against crowds of enemies

General overview:

  • Ammo Specialist: Mandatory
  • Aced Ammo specialist: Meh
  • Scrounger: Good if using grenades often
  • Fully loaded: Mandatory if using ammo bags
  • Plate up: Situational and good but without Mower synergies, requires a suicidal play style-
  • High grain: Useless, avoid
  • Mag throw: Situational, good if working as team and camping on higher difficulties
  • Top up: Amazing, mandatory on higher difficulties


  • Loud viability: Good
  • Stealth viability: skip, useless

Mower allows you to stay in the fight longer and stronger, giving you ammo for kills along with lower recoil and penalties for the enemies pushing you via staggering.

Not by any means mandatory but will definitely give you that extra boost you need when taking on a group of enemies

  • Best skills to take: Recoil Handler, Replenish

Both skills very useful when you have edge; recoil handler to keep your aim well, and replenish to keep your gun fed without having to move out of cover

  • Worst skills to take: Sprint loaded, Aced Mower

Sprint loaded is kind of useless as you shouldn’t be running when reloading to avoid turning a corner right into a group of enemies and as for aced mower, there are better options out there to refresh edge

General overview:

  • Mower: OK;
  • Aced Mower: Useless
  • Recoil handling: Amazing, especially if poor weapon level
  • Suppressive fire: Good
  • Ammo funnel: Good
  • Replenish: Amazing, good synergy with mag throw; you can refill you and your team by just hitting good shots from behind cover.
  • Sprint loaded: Meh


  • Loud viability: Skip, useless
  • Stealth viability: Useful

The first proper stealth tree you will likely see when you open your skill set.

Gives you some useful tools at your disposal when doing things quietly, and some of these tools are absolutely amazing.

  • Best skills to pick: Base Infiltrator, Quick fingers

With these two you can speed run lock picking and save a lot of time on some doors provided you have rush already (which you can get from the other stealth skill trees down the line). Useful on higher difficulties when the lead guard is present, or when time is important (Grinding dirty ice, yeah?)

  • Worst skills to pick: Retriever, blade bouncer

This is literally a waste of skill points. Retriever is only good if you’re doing the challenge for throwing knife kills but other than that those two are completely made obsolete by the attachment you call a silencer, suppressor or whatever.

General Overview:

  • Base Infiltrator: Good
  • Aced infiltrator: Situational but can be useful on guard heavy maps
  • Quick fingers: Mandatory
  • Retriever: useless unless doing throwing knife challenge
  • Bagger: OK, but only if you do not have points elsewhere to spend
  • Blade bouncer: Rethink your choices please
  • Frugal thrower: Pray to rng gods, but made obsolete by ammo scroungers Specialist perk


  • Loud viability: Mandatory
  • Stealth viability: skip, useless

This tree has by far one of the most useful and arguably best perk to take: Armor up.

Some people think that playing loud without that perk counts as griefing, just because of its efficiency

The armor bag itself is the go-to for protection; essentially what the medic bag was back in payday 2 and the heist but made better and more useful due to the new armor mechanic.

Some other useful skills included

  • Best skills to pick: Armor up, Disengage

Armor up essentially doubles your effectivity/halves your cost of taking armor plates from the bag; 6 plates become 12, and the team essentially becomes invincible if all 4 have this and if 2 people have armor bags as you have more than enough armor to last you through the next 2 overkill heists

Disengage is incredibly situational but can help you avoid a very sticky situation if you’ve decided to run away from your team, or if you’re playing solo with unreliable teammates

  • Worst skills to pick: Hardy

These effects should rarely be a problem. Only exception is if you re a fan of flash bangs in close quarters or using a hostage shield

General overview:

  • Base tank: Good
  • Aced tank: Good
  • Hardy: OK
  • Extra plates: Mandatory for armor bag carriers
  • Armor up: Dont you dare show up without it
  • Last man standing: For payday 2’s Swan song fans. Bit tougher to activate but can be incredibly potent if paired with the medic tree, allowing you to run into a group of bulldozers to pick up your buddies
  • Disengage: Situational, useless if good cooperation team, useful for solo players/snipers


  • Loud viability: Good
  • Stealth viability: skip, useless

Just an average loud skill tree that increases your performance in the field. Similar to mower but more useful for players who prefer single shot rifles like the a144/m308 or the 900s.

Focuses on rewarding skilled head shots instead of mag dumping towards the general enemy direction, allows you to get one shot head shots from a much further range than average.

  • Best skills to pick: Basic sharpshooter, Long shot and Cutting shot

These 3 will allow you to play from further away than normal. Good on maps like road rage where there is a vantage point for you to use or on 99 boxes where there’s a lot of potential sniping positions for the 900s user.

  • Worst skill to pick: Precision shot

Its not bad by any means but missing a shot will require you to pause for 2 seconds before you can shoot again. Worse if using the 900s as you have to cycle the bolt and unscope.

General overview:

  • Basic Sharpshooter: Amazing
  • Aced Sharpshooter: Good
  • Collateral Control: OK
  • Long shot: Mandatory if using the a144 or 900s
  • Precision shot: Situational, lets 900s do a lot of damage at the penalty of punishment if missing
  • Cutting shot: Amazing, useful on any loud build
  • Speed aim, Amazing but up to player if they wish to take it


  • Loud viability: Good
  • Stealth viability: Good

The first perk tree where its arguably both useful on stealth and on loud.

Escapist allows you to gain RUSH the easiest way. Useful for when you need to get to somewhere faster than normal, though some of the skills are rather dumb or useless.

  • Best skills to take: Basic Escapist, Swift

Simply put it gives you a lot of movement speed for pretty much free, along with practically on demand rush activation for Infiltrator synergy

  • Worst skills to take: Balanced, Move & Cover, Slide tackle,

All of these are just useless. Do not take them unless you personally have found a good synergy with these as I personally do not see any point when there’s better options.

General overview:

  • Basic Escapist: Good
  • Aced Escapist: Meh
  • Balanced: No
  • Move & Cover: No
  • Slide Tackle: No, for the third time
  • Battering ram: Situational, allows you to save some time but generally not worth the perk point: in stealth it destroys the door and alerts guards, in loud you may as well just lock pick it.
  • Swift: Useful


  • Loud viability: Amazing if use grenades, otherwise do not use
  • Stealth viability: Skip, useless

This perk tree focuses on making your Mamba/Piglet stronger and your throwable grenades more potent. Only really useful if you use the throwables given to you.

  • Best perks to take: Overcooked, Extra munitions

Overcooked turns all your grenades into impact grenades. This is incredibly potent but is also incredibly risky as throwing grenades now requires care as to not hurt yourself with the blast if too close. Again though, incredibly potent as it gives you a pocket mamba. Extra munitions is free grenades, good synergy with Ammo specialists Top up.

  • Worst perks to take: Shell shock

Its pointless. If they’re damaged then they’re probably 2 bullets away from being dead

General overview:

  • Base Demolitionist: Good
  • Aced Demolitionist: Useful if no other way to gain rush
  • Cooker: OK, better choices out there
  • Shell shock: No
  • Blow back: Pointless but there is use for it i guess
  • Blast shield: Very useful if you have a tendency to damage yourself, otherwise pass
  • Overcooked: Amazing, mandatory for grenade enjoyers
  • Extra munitions: Amazing, mandatory for grenade enjoyers


  • Loud viability: Useful, very potent
  • Stealth viability: useless, skip

Enforcer is the close range play style, pretty much the polar opposite to sharpshooter. Rewards you for being up close and personal, giving you buffs as long as you keep going. Shotgun players advised to take these!

  • Best skills to take: Quick reload, Combat reload

Quick reload allows you to spend less time reloading, and combat reload is an on demand refresh for your grit and edge. Very good when used correctly

Note: Shotgun shells and piglet shells count as individual reloads per shell; every shotgun shell you reload refreshes it, allowing you to essentially keep your edge and grit infinitely if timed well. One bullet reloads count too otherwise for you rifle enjoyers.

  • Worst skills to take: Shock & Awe

Maybe its just my personal testing and opinion but its random number generator based therefore not really worth as it may not activate when you need it. Though it doesn’t require edge or grit which means it could activate anytime.

General Overview:

  • Base Enforcer: Good
  • Aced Enforcer: Good
  • Quick reload, Good, valid for any loud build
  • Face to face: Good
  • Solid: Potent and useful if you’re annoyed by shields or swats punching you with your hostage
  • Combat reload: Very useful
  • Shock & Awe: Meh


  • Loud viability: Good, mandatory if playing in a team
  • Stealth viability: meh, better pass

Manipulator allows you to tie your hostages faster along with making the bonuses for trading them higher, letting you buy more time for your team when on higher difficulties to set up initial objectives.

Note: Not advised to take in public lobbies unless you trust your teammates. I’ve had a lot of people just outright shoot the police as soon as they arrive, making this perk useless in the process.

  • Best perks to pick: Aced manipulator, Silver tongue, Menacing

Aced manipulator makes your 1 hostage worth 2. Silver tongue will allow you to make it 3. Menacing allows you to take swat as hostages, and use them like civilians; meat shields and bartering coins.

  • Worst perks to pick: Overbearing, stockholm syndrome

Just tie them down instead. Useful on stealth perhaps but otherwise avoid. As for stockholm syndrome, its unlikely youll go down that early in the heist where you still have hostages or that you dont use up all of them for buying yourself time.

General overview:

  • Basic manipulator: OK
  • Aced manipulator: Good
  • Overbearing: only for stealth
  • Silver tongue: Good
  • Negotiator: OK, good alternative source of health if no medic bag
  • Menacing: Very useful
  • Stockholm syndrome: OK, though very situational
  • Master trader: Very potent but its effects can arguably be useless if no one goes into custody


  • Loud viability: Good
  • Stealth viability: useless, skip

Engineer is the return of the payday 2 sentry gun, though not known if its worse or better. You have no ability to put on silencers on your turret, but your sentries come built in with AP ammo and high damage.

  • Best perks to pick: AP turret, Dual sentries

Both of these increase the potency of your build and allow you to be much more aggressive with your placements

  • Worst perks to pick: Detonation

This essentially requires that you put it in a place where it will be guaranteed to be destroyed, which is in a lot of places, but there is much more use of the turret if its covering a hallway and not dead in the middle of the street waiting to be rescued.

General overview:

  • Base & Aced engineer: Good
  • AP turret: Mandatory for using sentry
  • Cooling system: OK
  • Detonation: No
  • Spin cycle: Good
  • Dual sentries: Mandatory for using sentry
  • Targeted fire: Good, though kind of pointless


  • Loud viability: Not ideal, not recommended
  • Stealth viability: skip, useless

This one is for the people who have trouble aiming or just simply enjoy hip firing. Not recommended for general use, as its penalizing if not following the play style

  • Best perks to pick: From the hip, Heavy hipfire

These two just allow you to be more potent with the playstyle. Enough said to be honest

  • Worst perks to pick: Finisher, Quick draw

Both of these are kind of useless. Finisher because this is a playstyle meant for people slinging bullets all over the place, and quick draw just because its not really good outside this perk playstyle.

General overview:

  • Base Gunslinger: OK
  • Aced Gunslinger: OK
  • From the hip: Good
  • Heavy hip fire: Good
  • Finisher: No
  • Quick draw: Maybe? Honestly no


  • Loud viability: Useless, skip
  • Stealth viability: Mandatory, Insanely potent

This perk tree arguably breaks stealth. Why? Cameras in private areas become minor blockades for doing objectives at best, and employees become as dumb as civilians.

  • Best perks to take: Base grifter, Walk the walk, Social engineering and Open mic

All of these give you some sort of benefit that is big when combined with each other. You can do rock the cradle without ever masking up with just the first 3 perks.

  • Worst perks to take: Slippery

You may as well restart.

General overview:

  • Everything but aced grifter and slippery: insane potential
  • Aced grifter: No
  • Slippery: Only in public heists, though you’ve already screwed your team by getting spotted and triggering search


  • Stealth viability: Very useful
  • Loud viability: skip, useless

Hacker allows you to make cameras behave passively and guards to get distracted on demand, allowing you to yoink that sweet key card in the right moment.

  • Best skills to pick: Secure loop, Glitch protocol

Secure loop makes cameras completely friendly and not react to your crimes, and glitch protocol lets you buy some time for you and your team by distracting the guards from everything but running. They will investigate running after theyre done with the animation.

  • Worst skills to pick: Routed ping

Just use a motion sensor, this one is only useful if you need a third one to mark the lead guard or something

General overview:

  • Basic hacker: Good
  • Aced hacker: Good, dont use the ability though
  • Secure loop: Mandatory
  • Appliance breach: Situationally useful
  • Routed ping: Meh
  • Glitch protocol: Mandatory
  • Signal catch: OK, decent time save or if the guard is out of reach or something. Range is very short, beware


  • Loud viability: Very potent
  • Stealth viability: useless skip

Tactician is for the flash bang user. Allows you to make more use out of them with effects and stun duration. Also gives you smoke grenade buffs but they’re rather minor and not too useful. A medic may synergize using the smoke in some scenarios.

  • Best perks to pick: Base tactician, Expose, Scramble

Base tactician allows you to get edge on demand via bashing an enemy. Expose allows you to melt a stunned crowd by bypassing armor and Scramble makes your flash bangs last longer.

  • Worst perks to pick: Crowd Control

Just use the middle mouse button. Or bring a negotiator.

General overview:

  • Base Tactician: Potent, viable for getting edge
  • Aced tactician: Good bonus
  • Crowd control: No
  • Coup de grace: OK
  • Discombobulate: Useful, especially for buying a team some time for taking down a group of enemies; allows you to take less damage when you expose yourself
  • Expose: Not sure if affects teammates or only you, but incredibly potent and mandatory for a flash bang user
  • Scramble: Good


  • Loud viability: OK
  • Stealth viability: OK

Strategist gives buffs to your already gotten effects, and allows you to mark enemies for longer during stealth.

  • Best perks to pick: Misdirect, Combat marking

Misdirect is incredibly potent for a medic about to rush into a crowd of enemies to pick up their friend.

Combat marking is useful for the sharpshooter.

  • Worst perks to pick: Marked for death

The chat will display what happened to you, so unless the teammate really is clueless this one is pretty much useless

General Overview:

  • Base & Aced Strategist: Good
  • Combat marking: Potent, not reccomended
  • Threat assessment: meh
  • Misdirect: Incredibly potent for the medic
  • Marked for death: No

CQC Specialist

  • Loud viability: OK
  • Stealth viability: OK

CQC Specialist is made for people who enjoy using hostages as meat shields. Extra bonuses for stealth and negotiators too.

  • Best perks to take: Cover up

This tree doesnt have too many ones that have some sort of potency or usefulness, but cover up allows you to answer the radio instantly instead of having to wait for it to trigger. Useful when saving time

  • Worst perks to take: Savage Takedown

Have you heard of the middle mouse button???

General overview:

  • Basic CQC: No
  • Aced CQC: OK
  • Soft assets: Only for the 5% speed bonus, main ability is dumb
  • Groundskeeper: Time save, skip otherwise
  • Pin puller: Free smoke grenade though it has very limited throwing range
  • Savage Takedown: No
  • Pressure points: No, just hide the body
  • Cover up: Useful

Closing Words

Thank you for reading and i hope you found some use out of this guide.

Written by Samantha

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