There are two types of gameplay: on-foot and in vehicles. There are also two types of menus, the SAT phone menu which contains various gameplay options, and the Pause menu, which has options concering the game itself.
- Music: Select the song or genre of songs to be played. If you don't select anything, it'll just be random shuffle. With over 100 songs, it's quite a nice selection of signed bands including songs from the movie.
- Exotics: Here you can buy all sorts of things from cars to spacesuits, from henchmen to boats. Some are incredibly helpful, while others are just a bit of fun.
- Weapons: You must buy the Arms Dealer from the exotic page for this option to be unlocked. Here you can buy weapons, ammo and upgrades for selected weapons. They will appear at Tony's weapon locker or the boot of an exotic car, meaning you can get new weapons or more ammo quite easily.
- Driver: You need to have bought the Driver from the exotic menu to have this option unlocked. The Driver transports any of the exotic cars you own to your current location in double quick time. He will also hang around providing you with backup until he gets kills, you tell him to leave or he gets lost.
- Boat: You must have bought the Boat Pilot from the exotic menu for this to appear, in addition to that you must either be on a dock or in the water for it to appear, as boats don't work on land. He will also hang around providing you with backup until he gets kills, you tell him to leave or he gets lost.
- Empire: Here you can check what the next mission is, follow up leads given by Felix or "The Sandman" and take part in coke deals. You can also switch to one of your henchmen using this menu. Also, you can check on your turf and repair fronts and give them security. You also can reduce heat levels using this menu and it gives you a map, which is most useful.
- Main: Gives you the run down of your main stats.
- Stats: In-depth stats, which is a must have in this sort of game after GTA made it so.
- Cheats: Input cheats or replay past missions.
- NOTE: Cosmetic cheats (ex. clothing or sound) are safe to use anytime, but any cheats related to gameplay will disable saving. The game will warn you if you attempt to use such a cheat.
- Options: Fiddle around with various options.
- Profiles: Choose to load saved games, handy for when you've messed up.
- Controller: Gives you a run down on the actions buttons take.
- Credits: Shows the credits.
One of the most important mechanics of the game is a timing meter that appears when you interact with certain people (and sometimes even objects). It comprises of two gauges: one circular and one horizontal. When you first press the button, the circular meter starts filling rapidly clockwise, then resetting and repeating. You must time your second press of the button so that the gauge is as full as possible, keeping in mind that being late means the gauge goes over the top, resetting all the way at the bottom again.
Once you press the button again, the right gauge fills proportional to the level you stopped the left gauge. This gauge will represent the quality of Tony's eventual response and has varying bars ranging from hazard stripes (the failure zone) to dark gray all the way to nearly white (varying degrees of success). Each end of the gauge has a label indicating the result at that end. If the meter has a hazard stripe, the left end invariably reads "Failure", while the right end will indicate the result if you get it into the rightmost zone. Should you achieve a suboptimal success, this end will then report your actual result.
Some gauges have no hazard stripes (such as negotiating the bank's cut of your deposit) and simply have a lousy result while others (like intimidation and fast-talking) are strictly pass/fail. Also, the positions and sizes of the various zones can change depending on your relations with the target (for example, increased gang heat increases the failure zone in supplier interactions). Since failing the meter can have potentially fatal consequences, it helps to gain a sense of the meter's timing early with less-consequential interactions like simple intimidations.