Payday 2 introduces new game elements into the series:
- Heists that take multiple days
- Random "Escape" encounters
- Pro Jobs (higher reward, can't be retried if failed)
- Modifiable weapons
- Modifiable masks
- Skill Points which can be distributed onto one of five skill trees
- ECM Jammers to disable electronic devices such as cell phones and keypad locks
- More Stealth options
- Casing mode
- Spendable money (used for weapons, skills, masks, weapon/mask modifications)
- Multiple armor types
- A metal-cutting Saw
Most heists can be done using only stealth. Successfully doing so will also make the following days of a multiple day heist easier. The focus of the game for the most part is still about stealing stuff.
Though there are still standard "bank heist" style missions (with variations based on what your intel says is in the vault), some newer missions involve causing general mayhem, such as terrorizing stores in order to force the owners to pay a Russian mobster for "protection". Others involve assisting a corrupt politician in taking down his rivals, or getting revenge on a drug cartel's enemies.
The difficulty of the game has been adjusted compared to the first Payday: The Heist. There are five classes from which players can choose their skills. Teamwork is encouraged by offering those skills with better perks if players stay within one class. Even new players can beat heists on Deathwish (hardest difficulty) with the right strategy.
Some heists can be finished in less than 50 seconds (Ukrainian Job on Overkill) or even 20 seconds (Jewelry Store on Normal).