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As Battlefield 2042 winds down, an unlikely new contender is ready to take its place

Delta Force: Hawk Ops is very much going after the Battlefield audience, and often in a shameless way.

A split image with Delta Force Hawk Ops soldier and Battlefield 2042 soldier going head to head under a triangular symbol from the BH game.
Image credit: VG247

Delta Force is back, have you heard? No, it’s not a revival of the classic Novalogic tactical shooter, but it’s something that may actually prove to be no less interesting. In a word, the new game, titled Delta Force: Hawk Ops, has more of Battlefield in it than Delta Force.

It’s pretty common knowledge now that EA is moving on from Battlefield 2042. The game recently received its final major update, as several studios within EA embark on the next adventure in the series. By most accounts, we’re well over a year from getting our hands on a new Battlefield, so there’s a window of opportunity here for a new game to offer Battlefield’s particular flavour of gameplay.

It’s easy to be sceptical about Delta Force: Hawk Ops. It’s a game that picked an unusual classic franchise to attach itself to. It’s certainly raised its profile, but the game’s Chinese publisher-developer isn’t exactly known for making this style of game. I initially dismissed it as a knock-off, one that will inexplicably become popular in parts of Asia while the rest of world ignores it.

But the more of it I see, the more Hawk Ops appears to be - at worst - a Battlefield-lite, which I can’t say I am against. As longstanding and popular as it is, Battlefield still doesn’t have enough competition in the multiplayer FPS genre. Battlefield games really only compete with themselves, and most of the series fumbles are entirely the result of unforced errors on the part of EA and DICE. In that sense, there remains a real gap in the market for a combined arms military shooter that isn’t bogged down by the logistical cobwebs of Squad or the ultra-realism of Arma.

This is something Tencent, parent company of Hawk Ops’ developer-publisher, seems to be well aware of, and you could tell that much of the marketing for the game plays right into those similarities. From the design and layout of the main menu (especially with those character animations!), its characters’ uncanny resemblance to BF2042’s operators, game mode structure, in-game icons and sound effects, the look of the spawn screen, all the way to the editing style of trailers - this is a game that screams Battlefield.

This most recent gameplay showcase, in particular, could easily be mistaken for a Battlefield trailer. Hawk Ops’ operators are even split into what are essentially Battlefield classes (Assault/Support etc.), and the official website is quite happy to bring your attention to the array of pilotable vehicles in the game.

Tell me this doesn't look like Battlefield art? | Image credit: TiMi Studio, Level Infinite.

Digging further into the available information, I suspect Hawk Ops entered development right around the initial reveal of Battlefield 2042. The near-future themes are close, but more pertinently, Hawk Ops is a a bit of a hero shooter, whose various operators each stand out with unique gadgets and themed passives. It almost seems like Battlefield 2043, or a BF2042 from an alternate dimension.

And you know what? It doesn’t appear to be just for show! Well, at least judging by footage of the beta on YouTube. The game’s multiplayer closed beta has been accessible in Asia for weeks now (though nowhere in the West, strangely), so there’s plenty of gameplay to go through and dissect.

Both Hawk Ops’ main, not-Conquest mode, Havoc Ops, as well as its extraction mode Hazard Operations (another BF2042 nod?) are available to play as part of the test, but most of my time was spent watching the former to see just how much, well, Battlefield-y it is.

The first thing that stood out to me is the emphasis on destruction and chaos. Battlefield’s environmental destruction remains unparalleled in multiplayer shooters, and though BF2042 all but abandoned it as a core pillar in favour of much less exciting additions, future entries appear to be doing the right thing and bringing it back as a focus.

It's a Black Hawk, downed. | Image credit: TiMi Studio, Level Infinite.

One of the maps in the footage shares more than a few similarities with Bad Company 2’s iconic Arica Harbor, which I don’t imagine is accidental. There’s more of a focus on urban combat here, with the only air vehicle available so far being the attack helicopter - another thing that reminds me of Bad Company. Indeed, as I continued going through gameplay, one of the beta's featured maps looked very familiar, almost like it was cribbed off Battlefield 2042.

The similarities are admittedly too on the nose. It’s one thing for a game like, say XDefiant, to borrow from Call of Duty’s gameplay, but its visual identity remains unique to it, and what it reuses comes from other Ubisoft franchises. Hawk Ops looks like it was designed specifically to be a new Battlefield 2042, and not necessarily just a simple competitor to Battlefield.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the character-driven, operator-with-distinct-gadget schtick may end up being as poorly received as Battlefield 2042’s was. I know it’s a popular trend (there’s a reason multiplayer games keep trying it), but it could end up being less emphasised than it was in Battlefield 2042. It’s hard to say without spending enough time playing it.

The next few months will be crucial for Hawk Ops to build something of a following amongst Battlefield players, many of whom have been jumping between different games to get their fix. But they always return, so if Hawk Ops can recreate just enough of that vibe, they’ll be there for it.

Delta Force: Hawk Ops is a free-to-play, first-person shooter developed by Timi Studio. More information is coming on the game at Summer Game Fest 2024, with a new trailer premiering on June 7.

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