The Risk Levels, also called Difficulty Settings or Difficulties can generally be adjusted by selecting one of several available modes, with each difficulty being progressively harder than the last one but also award more money and experience.
In the first PAYDAY, only a few heists are playable on Easy. PAYDAY 2's basic heists only allow Normal difficulty. Higher difficulty heists costs more offshore money to buy than standard ones at the contract broker.
Choosing one of the many preset difficulty levels alters certain aspects of a heist's gameplay, with the most observable change being the enemy AI behavior improvements, spawn rate and number of hostiles engaging the crew at once.
The difficulty levels in order of increasing challenge are:
As difficulty increases, the amount of enemies in police Assault Waves, the frequency of enemy spawn, their accuracy and damage will also increase. From some of the difficulties onward, stronger enemy types will replace weaker enemy types and become the standard spawn. The contract prices and the price of Assets (including Pre-Planning Assets) will also increase. (Note however, excluding Mayhem and above, the stealth portion of most heists in PAYDAY 2 will have very little changes as difficulty increases.)
The prices of loot and contract payouts (both EXP and cash) will both increase as the difficulty increases, making a more difficult heist much more profitable than easier heists.
Of the five preset modes, the fifth difficulty level in both games could be considered a "Special" difficulty, with unique mechanics exclusive to the setting. Both requires the player to be at a certain character level before hosting, though in PAYDAY 2, one can join a heist in progress regardless of mission difficulty and player reputation.
In both games, unique map changes or events can either happen exclusively on the hardest settings (Overkill 145+ or Mayhem and above) or may occur at lower difficulties at much lower frequencies. These changes can range from subtle ones such as removal of passageways (Watchdogs Day 1), to special map-specific spawns (the Big Diamond in Diamond Heist and Room 145 in Panic Room) or even rather drastic game-changing degrees like the increased chances of hack or equipment failure/success (Diamond Heist).
Beating a heist on certain difficulties under specific circumstances, often on Hard and above (PAYDAY: The Heist) or Overkill and above (PAYDAY 2), may sometimes yield an achievement, with the completion of any given level on Overkill 145+ or Mayhem and above always granting one.
These generally only vary in enemy damage and health. Death Wish and One Down also have an additional level 80 lock for non-Infamous players. Additionally, heisters being helped up from an incapacitation have greatly reduced health (from 40% on other difficulties to 10%, and only 13% with Combat Medic Aced).
Two new enemy classes are featured on Mayhem and Death Wish modes -- the GenSec Elite SWAT Unit and the "Skulldozer", a Bulldozer wearing digital camouflage with a skull on its face plate and wielding the KSP Light Machine Gun. One Down introduces the Zeal Team consisting of several new models of law enforcer units and specials.
These difficulty modes have a few unique map changes. However note that there are several maps such as White Xmas which do not have significant changes between Mayhem and lower difficulties.
Common changes include;
Regular security cameras on most maps will be replaced with Titan-class versions, an indestructible variant of the normal camera. Apart from their invulnerability, they do not function any differently from normal cameras. They do not appear on the following heists:
Easy is as its name implies, the simplest difficulty setting possible for the game. It offers a relatively challenge-free form of gameplay that is suitable for players who are new to the game, or FPS in general.
Overkill 145+ is a PAYDAY: The Heist-exclusive difficulty and the most difficult difficulty in that game.
In addition, individual heists will have Overkill 145+ exclusive changes that will make them even harder to complete.
In PAYDAY 2, the hardest difficulty is One Down, able to be hosted by players at and above Reputation level 80, or depending on levels for players with at least one Infamy level. However, all players can join a One Down game regardless of level.
In PAYDAY 2, each difficulty level also corresponds to a "Risk Level", which appears as a heist asset showing some information on what to be expected in this difficulty.
Normal is the easiest difficulty. This difficulty does not have any skull signs and corresponds to Risk Level 0.
In PAYDAY 2, the XP gained is the default amount received. The price of the loot bags and loose items will not be modified. Aside from scripted events, the only special units to spawn on Normal difficulty are Shields and Snipers. There are no health multipliers.
Hard is the second easiest difficulty in PAYDAY 2 and corresponds to Risk Level 1.
In this game, the XP bonus for this difficulty is 2x base XP, making the total amount of XP received 3x compared to Normal. The price of the loot bags and loose items will increase to twice their value in Normal. Tasers will start appearing at this difficulty level. There are once again no health multipliers.
In this game, the XP bonus for this difficulty is 5x base XP, making the total amount of XP received 6x compared to Normal. The price of the loot bags will increase to 2.6 times of their value in Normal, while the price of loose items will have quintuple value in Normal. Bulldozers, Cloakers, Captain Winters and SWAT Turrets will start appearing at this difficulty level. Health and headshot multiplier is multiplied both by 2 here.
Overkill is the standard difficulty in PAYDAY 2. It was the hardest difficulty before Death Wish / Mayhem / One Down were added. This difficulty setting corresponds to Risk Level 3.
Here, the XP bonus for this difficulty is 10x base XP, making the total amount of XP received 11x compared to Normal. The price of the loot bags will increase to 4.2 times of their value in Normal, while the price of loose items will increase to 10 times of their value in Normal. At this difficuly level all specials including Medics will start appearing. Health and headshot multiplier is both multiplied by 3 on this difficulty level.
On Mayhem, these units do less damage, and Skulldozers are rarer than usual. However, Death Wish map changes (such as there being two servers on Firestarter Day 2) are present.
The XP bonus for this difficulty is 11.5x base XP, making the total amount of XP received 12.5x compared to Normal. The price of the loot bags will increase to 7.2 times of their value in Normal, while the price of loose items will increase to 13 times of their value in Normal. Health is modified by 6 and headshot multiplier is multiplied by 1.5 on this difficulty level.
Death Wish is a PAYDAY 2-exclusive difficulty that was released during the Death Wish Update. it was the hardest difficulty before Mayhem/One Down were added during Hoxton's Housewarming Update.
Death Wish is corresponding to Risk Level 5 and is the second hardest difficulty
The only difference between Mayhem and Death Wish is the amount of damage enemies inflict. Enemy health is modified by 6 and headshot multiplier is multiplied by 1.5 on this difficulty level.
In PAYDAY 2, the XP multiplier for this difficulty is 13x base, making the total amount of XP received 14x compared to Normal. Loot bags are worth 8.2x more than Normal value and loose items give out 13x more money when collected.
One Down is a PAYDAY 2-exclusive difficulty and the hardest of the bunch that can be considered a corresponding to Risk Level 6 or the difficulty of Overkill 145+ from PAYDAY: The Heist.
On One Down, the player's bleedout limit is reduced to just one, meaning if left untreated they will be taken into custody the next time they are shot down. However, players bearing the Nine Lives skill aced will be permitted two downs before needing a doctor bag.
Being the hardest difficulty, it also comes with its own unique set of enemies, the ZEAL Team courtesy of the Department of Homeland Surveillance to replace the GenSec Elites and the FBI SWAT as a last resort to take down the PAYDAY gang for good. Standard units, Shields, Bulldozers and Cloakers will be replaced with their ZEAL counterparts, sporting more advanced armor and harder-hitting weaponry. Most enemies will also receive a massive health and damage boost, however police officers and normal Security Guards are unaffected. Stealth is relatively unmodified, using Death Wish presets, although gangsters and Murkywater PMCs will be harder to silence upon being alerted due to their health boost. Enemy health is modified by 9 and headshot multiplier is multiplied by 1.5 on this difficulty level.
The XP multiplier for this difficulty is 14x base, making the total amount of XP received 15x compared to Normal. Loot bags are worth 9.2x more than Normal value and loose items give out 13x more money when collected.
Getting Back at Dmitri Complete the Ukrainian Job on the Mayhem difficulty or above.
Dmitri, Dearest of All My Friends! Complete the Ukrainian Job on the One Down difficulty.
Tax Return Complete the Undercover job on the Mayhem difficulty or above.
Death and Taxes Complete the Undercover job on the One Down difficulty.
Dallas Security Firm Complete the Watchdogs job on the Mayhem difficulty or above.
Fight Like Cornered Animals Complete the Watchdogs job on the One Down difficulty.
Upstanding Citizen Complete all of Vlads contracts on the Mayhem difficulty or above.
A Sad Vlad Is Bad Complete all of Vlads contracts on the One Down difficulty.
For the Republic Complete all of the Elephants contracts on the Mayhem difficulty or above.
Democracy at Work Complete all of the Elephants contracts on the One Down difficulty.
Colombian Imports Complete all of Hectors contracts on the Mayhem difficulty or above.
We Can Trust This Guy Complete all of Hectors contracts on the One Down difficulty.
Trusted Friends Complete all of Bains contracts on the Mayhem difficulty or above.
Crime.net is my Homepage Complete all of Bains contracts on the One Down difficulty.
Master of Mayhem Complete all contracts on the Mayhem difficulty or above. Unlocks "The Mayhem Skull" mask.
One more down, No more to go Complete all contracts on the One Down difficulty. Unlocks "The One Down Skull" mask.
The following appeared on October 3, 2016.
What's around the corner? What's around the corner?
Maybe C. Orner Maybe C. Orner
The following appeared on October 4, 2016. All four teasers were replaced on October 5, 2016.
What's over the next hill? What's over the next hill?
Maybe H.Ill Maybe H.Ill
The achievements for the difficulty achievements are the first to be added before the update containing the achievements' content, as well as the first to have fewer teasers than released achievements.
The achievements for completing GO Bank on the Mayhem and One Down difficulties were originally named Rush B and I Would Like to Move My Money to a Bank That Doesn't Get Robbed respectively. The One Down achievement was renamed and the old name moved to the Mayhem achievement in a later update, because there also was a Side Job called Rush B.
I Would Like to Move My Money to a Bank That Doesn't Get Robbed is part of a phone call that can be heard in the GO Bank heist in stealth.
A $2000 Sports Car is a reference to the Falcogini in the level that's supposed to grant $2,000 in property damage when destroyed, however due to bugs, it grants $6,000 in property damage in-game instead.
I'll Break Your Malls is a pun on "I'll break your balls".
On the Death Wish announcement site, the poster advertising the GenSec Elite units was claimed to be found on a server and appears to be printed out, but clicking on it shows a version of the poster that appears to be ripped out of a magazine, complete with a page number in the corner.
The images showcasing the GenSec units on the Death Wish announcement site show them in what appear to be the warehouse Election Day Day 2 Plan A/B, but oddly set in daylight.
Any Death Wish heist completion achievement unlocked prior to the Housewarming Party Event will automatically have their Mayhem mode equivalent granted automatically upon booting up the game.
The overview image for Risk Level 5 shows a GenSec Elite rifleman standing next to a SWAT Shield officer, despite the latter having his own GenSec counterpart on Death Wish.
Easy is still a valid difficulty in PAYDAY 2, even though it cannot be accessed or played without crashing the game. This is presumably a leftover from PAYDAY: The Heist.
In addition, the various difficulties follow a similar naming scheme from their internal names; "Very Hard" is the counterpart of Overkill, "Overkill" uses the spot for Overkill 145+, Mayhem is considered "Easy Wish" (being an easier version of Death Wish), Death Wish is called Overkill 290+, whereas One Down is "Sm Wish" (presumably Super-Mega Wish).