Very few buttons are dedicated to a single action, and most of the gameplay comes from following the instructions on-screen, which may be to press or move any number of contols alone, in sequence, together or in time. In addition, you may also be asked to manipulate the controller itself. The following controls are generally the same throughout the game, in every scenario, although they may be included in on-screen instructions as well.
Depending on the icon, you will be expected to perform different types of control manipulation. Each instructions consists of a control overlayed on top of the icon. In most cases, when you have finished performing an action, the instructions will briefly flash white before disappearing. The instructions also reflect your character's emotional and physical state, by shaking, flickering or otherwise appearing differently.
- Standard movement instructions
These are your most basic actions, performed by moving the or controller in the direction indicated. In the former case, you will see a single arrow, indicating one or more directions. For compound movements, start at the end of the movement without the arrow head, and follow the line to the other end. When using the controller, you will either be shown a single direction, in which case you should move the controller in that direction with quick, sharp movement, or you'll see the controller unmarked, which means you should control the character by tilting the SIXAXIS in the way you want the character to move.
- Tapping instructions
The icon and control will rapidly blink, growing larger and smaller indicating that you should tap the control. While doing so, you will see the inside of the icon fill with gray from the inside moving out to the borders of the icon. If you don't fill the icon completely within an allotted time, the action will be failed. The fill icon can also be used with the controller, by shaking it up and down, or side to side, or with the , either by moving it in a circle or by flicking it up and down, or left to right.
- Combined instructions
When the icon is displayed with a white triangle at the top, pointing down toward the center of the icon, this indicates you should press and hold the control. This icon can be used with all buttons or the . Like the tapping action, the icon will slowly fill up with gray until it reaches the border of the icon. However, if another instruction appears, you'll need to perform that one while still holding the previous one. This can go on for multiple buttons, sometimes requiring creative maneuvering to hold all the buttons at once. You will fail the action if you use a different control than the one indicated, or if you let go of a control before it fades off the screen. Sometimes the instructions don't fade off the screen, but require you to release them. This is indicated by the white triangle at the top of the icon flipping to point upwards and bouncing until you let go.
- Timed instructions
These are indicated by a circular icon filling up clockwise with small, gray pie slices. You have until the icon fills up all the way around to perform the indicated action inside. These can be any of the face buttons, the or the controller. These are a mainstay of most action sequences, where completing a series of timed instructions will result in your success or failure. You can usually miss one or two actions and still be successful for the sequence, although it varies depending on the situation. When faced with multiple directions at the same time, you are also choosing which direction your character will take.
- Slowly unfolding instructions
This icon looks the same as the standard movement instruction, except with a dashed outline instead of a solid one. You'll perform the movements in the same way with the , but you must do so slowly because it is a delicate action. As your perform the movement, the icon will fill up so you know how close you are to completing the action.
- View change instruction
A unique instruction, this icon is a U-shaped, double-headed arrow, facing upwards with the image at the bottom of the "U". When you see this, you can move the the view around to uncover more actions. You can normally move the view this way whenever you want, as the camera adjusts to the direction your character is looking, but this icon appears when there are definitely other actions that aren't being seen at the moment.
Movement and speech
In order to move around the way you want to, you'll need to hold the down, rather than tapping a direction once and then walking that way. Pressing once in a direction will turn your character in the general direction, but you'll want to fine tune it while holding to walk.
When viewing your character's thoughts or when you have something to say out loud, you'll see the options either floating by your character, or circling around them, with a face button next to each choice. Press the corresponding button to think the thought or speak on the subject. You will hear your characters thoughts spoken out loud, but no one else will. Thought dialogue is canceled when performing some actions or moving into a cutscene.
The Added Reality Interface (ARI) is used by Jayden to analyze crime scenes and research his clues and files. The system consists of virtual reality glasses and a sensor glove. The ARI system works differently depending on where Jayden is and what he needs to do.
- Crime scene investigation
When you are at a crime scene, you'll see a small, persistent instruction near Jayden's head indicating he can put on his glasses. When you put on the glasses you'll have computer-enhanced vision, allowing you to spot clues. While wearing the glasses, press at any time to read the area around your with your glove. You'll see the sensor circle spread out from you, and any clues in the area will spring up with indicators. Walk over to a clue and perform the instruction to analyze it more closely. The clues you collect will help you uncover more clues, or aid in the research phase of your investigation. You can remove the glasses and take off the glove at any time by performing the instruction that remains by Jayden's head.
When Jayden isn't investing a crime scene, he can use the glasses to fully block out the real world, which lets him concentrate on going over his clues and files. In the top left corner of the screen you'll see the available topics – Clues, Files, and Environment – each with an instruction next to it to open them up. Anything in the topic will manifest as virtual objects going in a circle around you. Use and to cycle through the objects, or quickly move the entire controls to the right to clear the objects and go back to the main interface. When you have an object in front of you, you can press to analyze it, or to perform a geoanalysis on it. To exit this mode of the ARI, wait until an option to do so appears, usually after you've completed all the research you can do.