, up to 4 players work together to complete missions such as eliminating enemies or retrieving data from terminals. Players wear a battlesuit called a warframe (with its own set of abilites and statistics) and are equipped with 3 weapons; a primary weapon (such as a rifle or shotgun), a secondary weapon (usually a pistol), and a melee weapon. Players are given Affinity (experience points) for killing enemies and completing challenges and missions, which allows them to level up their weapons and armor. Warframes and weaponry have access to modifications that can be installed, removed and upgraded between missions, and higher-level equipment can accommodate higher-quality mods. Players will also have to hack terminals by completing a puzzle minigame to complete certain objectives or overwrite lockdowns that enemies have engaged.
The camera is positioned over the shoulder for third-person shooting. The player can jump, sprint, slide, and roll, as well as combine techniques to quickly move throughout the level and avoid enemy fire. The game also allows players to utilize parkour techniques to evade enemies, bypass obstacles or gain access to secret areas. Maps are generated procedurally; with prebuilt rooms connected together so that no levels have the same layout.
Credits, ammo, resources, and mods can be found in set locations, such as lockers and destructible containers, as well as dropped by enemies. New weapons, warframes, and equipment can be purchased in the market (either the items themselves or their blueprints), using either credits earned in game, or platinum purchased via microtransaction. Blueprints can be constructed using resources found during gameplay.
There are currently 9 available mission types, scattered across the planets of the solar system (along with moon Phobos and dwarf planets Pluto, Ceres, Eris and Sedna). These missions can also be played in a pocket dimension known as the Void. Occasionally, a new objective may either be added after completing the original objective or may override it during the mission. The mission types are as follows:
- Assassination missions require players to eliminate an enemy boss unique to the given planet. Said boss usually has unique abilities and weaponry to distinguish them from common soldiers;
- Capture missions, require players to find a VIP target within an enemy ship. Once the VIP is located, he can be incapacitated and then captured, after which the players must fight their way to extraction;
- Raid missions require the player to steal an artifact from enemy ships;
- Rescue missions require players to locate a hostage and then bring him to the extraction;
- Sabotage missions require players to reach and destroy either a ship's generator or a random number of mining machines;
- Deception Missions require players to take a "datamass" to the ship's navigation core, upload the datamass to the target, and then escape to extraction;
- Spy Missions require players to locate and hack a set number of terminals which hold datamasses. Players must pick up the datamasses and then bring them to the extraction point to complete the mission;
- Defense Missions, which require players to protect an artifact from waves of enemies. Defense Missions come in two forms; Endless Defense (where players must protect the artifacts from increasingly difficult waves) or Mobile Defense (where players must defend key points with given time limits); and
- Extermination missions, which involve players moving throughout the level and wiping out a set number enemies.
Alongside the set missions on a given planet are Alert missions, which can have any of the available mission types or factions (regardless of the original mission type or faction present) but are only available for a limited window of time (from 30 minutes up to 24 hours). These missions are more difficult, but have increased credit rewards and/or special rewards (such as rare equipment, blueprints or resources). Another mission modifier is "Nightmare Mode", which greatly increases the difficulty of a preexisting mission (while keeping the original mission type and faction intact) but rewards players with unique modifications.
There are currently four major factions present in Warframe, three of which serve as enemy factions, The playable faction are the Tenno, descendants of warriors from the bygone Orokin era. Following an unspecified war, the surviving Tenno were cryogenically preserved for centuries before being awakened by The Lotus (voiced by Rebecca Ford, community manager of Digital Extremes), a mysterious (though benevolent) figure who guides them during missions. The Tenno are extensively trained in the use of Warframes, suits that grant them various abilities for combat and support.
The primary antagonistic faction is the Grineer Empire, fascistic, militaristic brutes who dominate the solar system. Relying on mass cloning and cybernetic enhancement, they primarily use sheer numbers to overwhelm and overpower their foes, occasionally supporting their troops with specialized or heavily-armed soldiers. The second major faction are the Corpus, a proto-corporation who control the trade routes across the solar system and reverse-engineer their technology from any Orokin artifacts they find, viewing said artifacts as a resource exploited at any cost. As a result their soldiers—while frail compared to their Grineer counterparts—are equipped with advanced technology and are assisted by sophisticated mechanical drones. The last faction are the Infested, victims of the "Technocyte Plague" who have been warped into monstrous abominations. Much like the Grineer they rely heavily on sheer numbers to overwhelm their targets but lack any significant ranged abilities. Occasionally scattered in the Infested swarms are Ancients, individuals in much more advanced stages of infection and endowed with unique abilities.
While the Orokin are not directly encountered, missions that take place in Orokin derelicts are inhabited by "Corrupted" foes; raiders and trespassers (composed of soldiers from the previous factions) who have been brainwashed into protecting these derelicts at all costs. Occasionally players may be accosted by The Stalker, a vengeful figure (strongly implied to be a rogue Tenno) who appears in response to a successful assassination, attacking a specific player in revenge. Players may either choose to evade or fight him; defeating him may grant the victor with The Stalker's unique equipment.