The game is played from either a third-person or first-person perspective and its world is navigated on foot or by vehicle. Players control the three lead protagonists throughout single-player and switch between them both during and outside of missions. The story is centred on the heist sequences, and many missions involve shooting and driving gameplay. A "wanted" system governs the aggression of law enforcement response to players who commit crimes. Grand Theft Auto Online, the online multiplayer mode, lets up to 30 players explore the open world and engage in cooperative or competitive game matches.
Players use melee attacks, firearms and explosives to fight enemies, and may run, jump, swim or use vehicles to navigate the world. To accommodate the map's size, the game introduces vehicle types absent in its predecessor Grand Theft Auto IV, such as fixed-wing aircraft. In combat, auto-aim and a cover system may be used as assistance against enemies