The wait is finally over. Nearly two years after its initial announcement, Grand Theft Auto V has finally made its way to PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, once again engulfing gamers in a life of crime with three unique characters – the experienced Michael, the newcomer Franklin and the completely insane Trevor.

There's a lot you can do in this game, as you might have seen from our favorite activities article and "ten things you should do" recap, but what if you're a newcomer to the Grand Theft Auto universe? Is it possible to get lost or, worse yet, get in over your head.

Relax, we're your tour guide through the city of Los Santos and its neighboring Blaine County. We've got some tips that will get you started on the right foot through this glorious adventure. Hang on tight – and try to put on some pants, will you…?

(Warning: minor spoilers ahead.)

A Cold Start 

When you first begin Grand Theft Auto V, it'll be in the midst of a robbery that took place nine years ago, with Trevor and Michael breaking into a vault with a third partner. It's here you'll learn the combat basics, as well as how to switch between characters.

When it comes to combat, there are two main functions you'll need to master – fighting and shooting. Fighting consists of using punches and kicks to attack your opponent, while occasionally pressing the circle or B button, depending on which version you have, to counter incoming attacks. When you first run into Samir with Michael, you'll put these fighting tactics into action.

For the robbery, though, you'll stick with shooting. It's real simple. Left trigger helps you aim your weapon, while right trigger shoots it. For the opening stage of the game, you'll only use it once in the bank – when you need to protect Michael from being killed by a guard, using Trevor – and then more when you get into a shootout with the police as you leave.

You get into cover by pressing the right shoulder button, which will automatically draw you close to whatever you're near, whether it's a car, wall or anything that resembles sustainable cover. From there, you can peer out by holding the left shoulder button, and shoot with the right, as you would in plain sight. Just remember, when you're peering out, you're vulnerable. 

If you have multiple targets – and you will with all the cops that show up trying to stop you – you can switch between them with ease using the right analog stick. This is good for a "quick shift" after you take someone down, so you don't have to worry about manually aiming at them. Most of the aiming is handled automatically, though you'll have to make slight adjustments if you want headshots.

Behind the Wheel 

Following a quick driving segment that will get you used to vehicular controls, the action will switch to the modern day, where you'll jump into the shoes of Franklin, a repo man working alongside a violent cohort to complete jobs for a local car dealer – in this case, Samir.

General driving controls from previous games apply here, though the handling can be loose depending on what you're driving. For instance, if you have a sports car and are clearing well over 80 miles per hour, you may find yourself in a spinout going around tight turns if you don't maintain your speed. Try to keep a good handle on your speed so you don't lose control of your car.

When you're in pursuit – which you will be when you initially team up with your friend to steal a pair of sports cars – you can press the circle or B button to keep them locked on, so you don't lose sight of them. This is a good view if you want to keep someone in range, but be careful. Switching to this style will take your eye off the road at times, which means you can hit oncoming traffic or something else if you lose too much focus. Try to save switching to this view for open roads, like when you're pursuing an escaping thug on a motorcycle later in the mission.

Each character has special abilities, but you'll be introduced to Franklin's first – being able to handle a vehicle better while going in slow motion. Simply activate it by clicking both the left and right analog sticks together. If the meter is full enough, you'll go through slo-mo for several seconds, not only catching up with your intended target, but also getting rid of any police that may be in pursuit. 

The Odd Jobs 

Along with main missions – which are highlighted on a map with capital letters for each character, like "M" for Michael or "F" for Franklin – you'll have side duties you can complete for extra cash. At one point in the start of the game, you'll need to help the skeezy streetwalker Tonya with towing an abandoned car. It's a real simple retrieval job, and gets you used to how larger vehicles in the game handle. Do yourself a favor and don't get into a pursuit with this tank-like thing. You'll have a hard time losing the cops, and you won't make the cash since you can't deliver.

The Map

When it comes to getting around Los Santos, your map is your best friend. With this, you can set waypoints to your next mission, which are then highlighted so you can follow the course directly where you need to go. You can also find secondary stores, including the barber, clothing stores and vehicle customization shops, in case you feel like changing your personal appearance or the look of your car.

Let's Switch

Finally, when it comes to switching characters, it's easy. Simply hold down on the indicated direction on the D-Pad, and, if that character is available to play, use the analog stick to point to them. You'll switch almost instantaneously, even if they're busy doing something else.

You won't have to worry about switching too much at first, as your first few missions will automatically start with Franklin. As time goes on, however, you'll be introduced to Michael and Trevor – in an interesting fashion, at that – and be able to put this ability to better use.

Good luck, and enjoy your stay in Los Santos.


Grand Theft Auto V is available now for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Be sure to check out our other GTA V coverage, including a full look at Social Club features and our Character Guide.