Set in the midst of World War II, Day of Defeat includes no single-player campaign, with focus left only on the game's multiplayer aspects. The game favors teamwork and features objective-based gameplay in combination with its system of classes. Maps are primarily made up of narrow paths, all of which typically lead to a few key locations.
A round begins with two opposing teams starting simultaneously in their respective spawn area of a map, both acting towards the goal of achieving their respective objectives whilst preventing the enemy team from accomplishing theirs. A round ends when one team accomplishes all of its objectives, with that team claiming victory. Eventually, the game with the expiration of a set time limit, and the team with the most objectives achieved is the winning team regardless of kills or casualties, except in the case of both teams having not achieved any objectives or having achieved the same number of objectives.