Set 40 years before the Sci-Fi Channel's 2004 Battlestar Galactica miniseries, the game acts as a prequel to the events in the new series. Players control Captain William Adama as he participates in 15 missions leading up to the end of the First Cylon War.
Missions are tightly scripted. Players control three varieties of Viper fighters, as well as captured Cylon raiders, depending on the needs of the mission. Players also will man the stationary defense turrets on board the Galactica. Missions have clear goals, often with time limits, and are expressed and tracked through voiced radio chatter between wingmen and Galactica's war room. Players are graded in a variety of areas after each level (including accuracy and keeping wingmen alive), and unlock upgrades and bonus material for high ratings.
Players control their craft from either a first or third person view. Fighters have unlimited ammo, missiles, and auto-repair any damage taken, but only if enough recharging energy is available. Firing weapons and using afterburners drain energy, and the fighter only repairs itself when the energy level is full. Players must be aware of their energy usage to keep from running out at critical moments.
Missiles on every craft can also be configured on the fly through an option in the pause menu. Pilots can program missiles to have increased power at the cost of speed, or increase maneuverability at the cost of blast radius. This system allows players to adapt their missiles to the current needs of the mission, from swatting down formations of fighters to breaking through a capital ship's defenses.
Though it acts as a prequel to the new series, art and design is pulled from the original 1978 Battlestar Galactica. The intro from the original series is used. Cylons Raiders, Colonial Vipers, and the Galactica itself use the original designs, Cylons themselves look like the original chrome toasters, and the reptilian race that created them (in the original series, not the reboot) make appearances.