Cabal offers one player and two-player-simultaneous modes of gameplay. Each player assumes the role of an unnamed commando trying to destroy several enemy military bases. There are 5 stages with 4 screens each. The player starts with a stock of three lives and uses a gun with limitless ammunition and a fixed number of grenades to fend off enemy troops and attack the base. The commando is seen from behind and initially starts behind a protective wall which can be damaged and shattered by enemy fire. To stay alive, the player needs to avoid enemy bullets by running left or right, hiding behind cover, or using a dodge-roll. An enemy gauge at the bottom of the screen depletes as foes are destroyed and certain structures (which collapse rather than shatter) are brought down. When the enemy gauge is emptied, the level is successful completed, all of the remaining buildings on screen collapse, and the player progresses to the next stage. If a player is killed, he is immediately revived at the cost of one life or game overs if he has no lives remaining. Boss fights, however, restart from the beginning if the only remaining player dies.
From time to time, power-ups are released from objects destroyed on screen. Some power-ups give special weapons such as an extremely fast-firing machine gun or an automatic shotgun with a lower firing rate and larger area of effect. Others grant extra grenades or additional points.