The first Spec Ops title on the PlayStation to feature a third-person 3D shooting style, Spec Ops: Airborne Commando literally drops you behind enemy lines as an elite U. S. Ranger paratrooper equipped with essential gear and a lethal arsenal. Weapons include a standard military knife, a Colt 1911A1 Semiautomatic pistol, silenced M4 rifle, sniper rifle (Barret M82A1), the M3 RAAW reusable launcher rifle, hand grenades, and C4 demolition packs. Binoculars, a laptop, and a handheld radio round out the inventory, with satellite imaging available for locating positions of rangers, checkpoints, helicopter extractions, and both real and decoy SAM launchers.
Players earn awards and promotions for successfully completing the 16 missions, with scores based on factors such as reconnaissance and intelligence recovered, rescue of hostages, enemies killed, and demolition. Ten ranks can be achieved, ranging from Private E1 to Sergeant Major and, depending on success, six decorations and medals can be earned, including The Purple Heart, Bronze or Silver Stars and the Congressional Medal of Honor. Airborne Commando features five difficulty settings, ranging from Super Easy (10 extra lives) to Super Hard (no extra lives).