Running with Rifles is a top-down tactical shooter played on large battlefields. The player controls a single soldier, part of a larger squad, in matches both offline and online with over 40 players fighting to gain control, completing missions and objectives using guns, explosives, driving vehicles and sabotaging. By gaining experience better ranks are achieved, providing access to radio calls for drops and strikes, equipment and throwables. Soldiers with a higher ranks form squads automatically (in single-player) where others join the squad and follow orders. Players can define different squad lay-outs and increase or decrease capacity.
Next to a tutorial map, the single-player campaign consists of an invasion where one map after another needs to be conquered by choosing a path. During a match the balance is shown as a dynamic tug-of-war scenario about capturing sectors where the progress is shown through a coloured meter at the bottom of the screen. Each map has different objectives but is either based on capturing the entire map or King of the Hill scenarios. There are three factions: the Greenbelts, the Graycollars and the Brownpants. Most of the focus is on multiplayer however, where the campaign can be played by a large team working together against the AI (also for single maps) or in matches fighting each other. The main game modes are Quick Match (standard 'sandbox' mode), Classic (similar to Quick Match but with defined rules), Invasion (co-op campaign), Dominance (similar to Classic but with slower progression and more persistency), Minimodes (matches with different sub-stage modes), Teddy Hunt (Capture the Flag variant), Team Elimination and Deathmatch.
The single soldier controlled by each player is guided with basic movement keys while the mouse is used to shoot in any direction. To survive, cover in the environment needs to be used and there are three stances (standing, crouching, prone) that influence visibility and accuracy while shooting. While prone it is also possible to crawl and while running a character can dive. Characters can also vault walls and climb ladders, swim, use a knife in melee battles, throw grenades and place C4, and pick up weapons from fallen soldiers. The focus of a match is often tipping the scales in favour of your team through pressure over control and characters respawn often as a single bullet is often lethal. Jeeps, APCs, boats and tanks can be manned by multiple soldiers to drive, shoot or hitch a ride. In single-player simple commands can be given to the squad. In multiplayer this is done through chat and characters also use cartoon-like speech balloons themselves for many actions. The game uses line-of-sight and a detection rage system. Global progress can be followed on a separate map and colours to the sides of the screen are used to show where other soldiers are.
Resource Points (RP) are the in-game currency. It is earned by capturing bases, spotting enemy vehicles, selling valuables, destroying targets and growing in rank. The points are used for radio calls and to buy equipment at the armory. Players have access to armories with different types of weapons and items for each faction. It is possible to switch quickly between weapons such as an RPG, a sniper rifle or a regular rifle (only at armories, not anywhere on the battlefield), but weight is limited and usually only one large primary and one small secondary weapon can be carried. Players have access to a stash however to store items after they have been bought. Weapons include assault rifles, submachineguns, shotguns, sniper rifles, grenade launchers and pistols. There are also deployable covers, tank traps, stationary turrets, medikits, flares, mines, flashbangs, vests and camouflage.
Other game elements include spotting enemy vehicles and structures for the team, targeting and destroying specific structures such as radio jammers and towers, comms trucks, anti-air replacements, fuel tanks, water towers and mortar ammunition. Next to calling in support, extra troops are provided by rescuing prisoners from doors or buses. Stealth and theft is encouraged by stealing briefcases dropped by elite soldiers, cargo trucks (to access the enemy's armory using a different faction) and enemy infantry weapons by capturing and selling it at the armory.
The game supports dedicated servers and it has a modding system.