Each mission begins with a parachute drop as you jump out of your C-47 transport and land anywhere on the map. From there you often work with your allies against the axis to fulfill mission objectives that are both set out at the beginning briefing and introduced dynamically as the level progresses.
Similar to other World War 2 games Airborne sees you taking part in various operations around the European theater of war, including the invasion of Normandy. Unlike the popular MoH:Allied Assault title, you don't take part in the actual Normandy invasion itself, instead you drop in a few hours earlier to clear the way for advancing soldiers. Regardless of the level's objectives the overall layout of each mission remains the same involving the drop, fighting with your allies, and completing objectives.
The gameplay mechanics are similar to the average first person shooter with a few new twists that EA adds. More accurate aiming is accomplished by looking down the "iron sights" which prevents you from moving, but allows you to lean left and right. A sprinting ability is included that lasts indefinitely, however you can't fire your gun while activating the sprint. Lastly, and in the biggest departure from other WW2 shooters, Airborne lets you upgrade your weapons. "Experience" is tied to each weapon, the more you use it, and the more kills you get the more experience is gained. At certain thresholds the gun gains a new level (up to 3) that adds a bonus, such as more ammo in a clip, or less recoil.
A multiplayer mode is available on all three versions of the game. There are three different game types, each revolving around two teams: Axis and Allies. In "Airborne Teammatch" the Allied team drops into the map similar to the single player game, and has to eliminate the Axis side. "Regular Teammatch" is the same thing except both sides start on the ground. The third mode is a territories mode similar to that found in games such as Battlefield 2. Six maps are included with the game, and online supports up to 12 players at a time.