The game is played from a third-person perspective and its world is navigated on-foot or by vehicle. Players control the three lead protagonists throughout the single-player mode, switching between them both during and outside of missions. The story is framed by the heist sequences, and many of the missions have shooting and driving gameplay. The player character's criminal activities may incite a response from law enforcement agencies, measured by a "wanted" system that governs the aggression of their response. Grand Theft Auto Online, the online multiplayer mode, lets up to 16 players explore the open world and engage in cooperative or competitive game matches.
Development began in 2009, soon after the release of Grand Theft Auto IV. The development team envisioned Grand Theft Auto V as a spiritual successor to many of their previous projects, such as Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3. The game's use of three lead protagonists is a break from series tradition—a design choice from the developers to innovate on the core structure of its predecessors. As part of their research for the open world, the developers conducted field research around California throughout development and captured footage for the design team. Development duties were shared between many of Rockstar's studios worldwide.
Following its announcement in October 2011, Grand Theft Auto V was widely anticipated. At release, it was acclaimed by many reviewers, with praise particularly directed at the multiple protagonist design and open-ended gameplay. Critics were polarised by a scene depicting torture and the game's treatment of women. Some labelled the game inherently violent and misogynistic. Grand Theft Auto V broke industry sales records and became the fastest-selling entertainment product in history, earning US$800 million in its first day and US$1 billion in its first three days. It won year-end accolades, including Game of the Year awards from several gaming publications.