Delta Force: Hawk Ops preview – Black Hawk Down meets Call of Duty

The upcoming Hawk Ops already has more than 1 million pre-registrations
Delta Force: Hawk Ops
Delta Force: Hawk Ops / TiMi Studio Group / Level Infinite

You would be forgiven for not knowing the name Delta Force. While the hardcore FPS series was well known in the late ’90s and early ’00s, the IP has lived in limbo for almost a decade. Passed around major companies without any games for the series in development, it was finally enthusiastically bought up by Tencent for Team Jade, the developer of Call of Duty Mobile that has passionate memories of the series. Thus, a new entry in the Delta Force series, Delta Force: Hawk Ops was announced with the team working hard to develop a new game for the series it is so fond of.

“Twenty years ago, Delta Force was so popular in China and especially in Net Cafés,” head of the studio Leo Yao tells GLHF at a preview event in LA. “When I was in college, I played it with my roommates all day. When we saw the information [that the IP was on the market], we just rushed to get it because we thought this is a very good IP. It was very shocking 20 years ago. The maps and realistic AI, it was some very revolutionary design. If you only ask one reason [why we wanted to bring Delta Force back], we just really like the series.”

Team Jade isn’t the only one that has nostalgia for the series. The upcoming Hawk Ops already has more than 1 million pre-registrations even though it’s set to be released in 2025. The team put a strong focus on asking the fanbase what they want from the return, and one thing stood out. Delta Force earned the video game rights to the film Black Hawk Down, and in 2003, Delta Force: Black Hawk Down was released featuring a campaign based on the film. This was the most popular campaign in the series’ long history, and fans wanted it back.

Delta Force: Hawk Ops is split into two distinct parts. There are the online multiplayer-focused modes, which will be free-to-play and available across multiple platforms, and the story mode based on the original Black Hawk Down campaign from 2003. This will be purchasable separately, and while I didn’t have a chance to play, I’m told this is the most challenging part of the game. You can play alone or with a squad, but you are expected to die a lot and change up your tactics to make it through the 5-6-hour campaign. It’s not designed for beginners but is an add-on for those who want more from Delta Force.

Delta Force: Hawk Ops screenshot
Delta Force: Hawk Ops / TiMi Studio Group / Level Infinite

While the Black Hawk Down campaign is designed to be challenging, the online multiplayer will have reactive difficulty based on your skill level. The easiest of the multiplayer modes is Havoc Warfare, where players are put in an attacking or defending position on the map. These are large-scale maps where attacking teams slowly push the advantage to claim every base. For beginners, you will have several powerful AI teammates to help out, but as you develop your skills, you’ll have to rely more on other players.

The next level up is Tactical Turmoil, an extraction mode you can play alone or in a squad of three. This features a large map with numerous objectives and extraction points. You can head straight for the extraction point, but this defeats the main purpose of gathering the rare resources you can find here. Of course, there are other squads on the same map, and it’s a winner-takes-all. Dying in a video game is part of the process and one that gamers are used to. Tactical Turmoil ups the stakes, as anything you bring into the fight you will lose if you don’t make it to the extraction point. You can go in with just a knife and try to loot your way to victory, or you can equip your best weapons for the greatest chance of success, but risk them all if you don’t make it to extraction.

Delta Force: Hawk Ops screenshot
Delta Force: Hawk Ops / TiMi Studio Group / Level Infinite

There is an overall meta game, where you collect gear to give you the best chance to win matches and collect more gear. You can do this risk-free in Havoc Warfare, where you will earn new items, win or lose, and when you think you’re ready, you can take it into Tactical Turmoil. No matter how much equipment you lose, you’ll always be able to earn gear back – it might just require going back to basics.

“People don’t like to be set back,” Yao explains. “But you need to think not only of the tactics in that match but also about the tactics of the whole loop, the meta. You can only bring a knife in the game, then you kill an AI and grab their weapons, and you can make a big profit in that match. Or you can choose to bring some very powerful armor or weapons and you hope to just get every enemy you meet, but you have the risk. If you don’t have the risk, that’s not fun. We have a lot of mechanics for managing the economy and inventory. If you don’t have any of the inventory, then you haven’t lost the game overall. But the key is to make you feel nervous when you make these decisions. That’s very important.”

Delta Force: Hawk Ops UI screenshot showing an M4A1 Assault Rifle
Delta Force: Hawk Ops / Delta Force: Hawk Ops

These different game modes are one of the mechanics that balance the in-game economy, but another is the microtransactions. As a free-to-play game, it naturally has in-game purchases, but the team wanted to ensure that these didn’t impact the metagame as a whole. Yao wanted to impress that there are two currencies. One you earn in-game and one you can purchase, but they both have limitations on what you can buy. In-game currency can purchase upgrades, weapons, and armor, but real-life purchases are confined to cosmetics. 

“The microtransactions for the multiplayer are just for cosmetics,” Yao tells us. “Because we are the developer of CoD mobile, we know how to do cosmetics well. The secret is to update the content very quickly.  We don’t want to do pay-to-win because for FPS shooters if you do pay-to-win, it just damages the whole economy of the game.”

Delta Force: Hawk Ops operator
Delta Force: Hawk Ops / TiMi Studio Group / Level Infinite

So far you’ll notice that Black Hawk Down crossover aside, Delta Force: Hawk Ops sounds similar to many multiplayer FPS games you’ve already played. Just looking at it, you can see a lot of attention has gone into the finer details, but it will take more than great graphics to pull fans away from well-established series like Call of Duty. For Delta Force, that starts with the operators. There are five classes of operators, with two characters in each class and this is planned to be expanded on in the future. These are standard classes like healers, snipers, and tanks, but special skills separate them from your average FPS.

While the team points out that it’s not a hero shooter, it certainly borrows some aspects from the genre. Each operator has several special skills, ranging from self-healing to smoke bombs, that can help you or your teammates in battle. Some are realistic – like grenades or other weapons you expect on the battlefield – but others are more for style, like a crossbow that fires three arrows out to clear a path for your teammates. These still need balancing, of course – a team member tells me that in initial testing over 50% of participants chose the healer, but with more playtesting, it could create an interesting hook.

Delta Force: Hawk Ops map screenshot
Delta Force: Hawk Ops / TiMi Studio Group / Level Infinite

The main attraction is the weapons, which have more customization options than I’ve ever seen before. I’m told the designer is a military fanatic, and almost every part of each weapon can be changed out – everything from scopes, silencers, and triggers can be changed to alter the way each gun functions. Those not interested in this level of detail can just opt for the recommended loadout, but with over a thousand options for weapon modification, it gives experts of the genre something more to play with.

In the hour I spent with Delta Force: Hawk Ops it certainly showed promise, though I felt I only got the smallest glimpse of what is to come. The cross-play between PC, console, and mobile will mean it has a fantastic chance at building a dedicated community, and the pieces are certainly there to succeed. Despite being an early build, it already played beautifully, and the technical performance impressed me. Fans of FPS will want to watch out for this one.


Published
Georgina Young

GEORGINA YOUNG

Georgina Young is a Gaming Writer for GLHF. They have been writing about video games for around 10 years and are seen as one of the leading experts on the PlayStation Vita. They are also a part of the Pokémon community, involved in speedrunning, challenge runs, and the competitive scene. Aside from English, they also speak and translate from Japanese, German and French. Their favorite games are Pokémon Heart Gold, Majora’s Mask, Shovel Knight, Virtue’s Last Reward and Streets of Rage. They often write about 2D platformers, JRPGs, visual novels, and Otome. In writing about the PlayStation Vita, they have contributed articles to books about the console including Vita Means Life, and A Handheld History. They have also written for the online publications IGN, TechRadar, Space.com, GamesRadar+, NME, Rock Paper Shotgun, GAMINGbible, Pocket Tactics, Metro, news.com.au and Gayming Magazine. They have written in print for Switch Player Magazine, and PLAY Magazine. Previously a News Writer at GamesRadar, NME and GAMINGbible, they currently write on behalf of GLHF for The Sun, USA Today FTW, and Sports Illustrated. You can find their previous work by visiting Georgina Young’s MuckRack profile. Email: georgina.young@glhf.gg