Players fight either on foot as free-running "pilots" or inside agile mech-style walkers called "Titans" to complete team-based objectives on a derelict and war-torn planet as either the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC) or the Militia. The game is online multiplayer-only, but injects single-player elements such as plot, character chatter, and non-player characters into its matches. Respawn founder Vince Zampella described the game as bringing "scale, verticality, and story" to first-person shooter multiplayer gaming.
Up to twelve human players choose their pilot types and are dropped on the map, beginning the game. A timer displays the time until a Titan can be deployed, which is reduced by killing other players. Once deployed, Titans are protected by a forcefield for about 30 seconds, which protects the player-pilot as well. Pilots are agile and accumulate momentum while running (similar to Tribes), which lets players run on walls and chain together double jumps. There are multiple types of Titans, each with unique abilities and animations. Pilot and Titan controls are identical except where the pilot's double jump becomes the Titan's dash, as Titans cannot jump, crouch, or cover. The mechs are not slow, but their movement is slower than the nimble pilots. Titan game-balancing abilities include the vortex blocker, which stops and returns enemy ammunition in midair, and electrified smoke, which hurts and repels pilots climbing the Titan's back. Player-pilots can eject from Titans that take too much damage, and the Titan replacement timer is reset upon the Titan's death. Titans can also act autonomously when put in guard and follow modes, which directs the Titan either to protect their vicinity or to tail their pilot, respectively. Games end with a race to the losing team's evacuation dropship.
Respawn has unveiled three Titan classes: the agile Atlas, the ponderous Ogre, and the nimble Stryder.