The player controls the main character from a third person perspective during navigation, the camera switches to first-person when aiming and shooting. During encounters with hostile survivors, the player can use various tactics to stay alive, including sneaking to surprise enemies with a machete quick kill, performing stealth kills with a bow, or using bluff and intimidation e.g. pointing an empty gun at hostilenon-player characters.
The game has an emphasis on climbing and exploration. The player will scale wrecked buildings and navigate hazardous areas. Every effort has a cost and, when engaging in physically demanding activities, such as climbing or jumping, it is critical to manage the main character's stamina for him to survive. By managing stamina skillfully players are rewarded by accessing hidden paths, resources and other survivors.
Gameplay also involves collecting hidden resources and supplies scattered throughout the city: water, food, batteries, gas, medicine, cigarettes, tools, climbing gear, weapons, and ammunition. Anything that the player can salvage from the destroyed city can be used to keep the main characters strong and healthy, or prove helpful in his quest by allowing him to rescue survivors. Retries can be collected throughout the game by helping or rescuing people, with optional side quests to complete.