The basic gameplay mechanics of H.A.W.X are similar to those of other console-based flight simulators, such as Ace Combat. Players take on enemies with over fifty aircraft available to them. Each mission is set amidst real world locations in environments created with commercial satellite data. A cockpit, first-person, and third-person view are selectable, with third-person view giving the player an external view of both their plane and the target.
All aircraft in the game are equipped with guns, a large supply of the Joint Strike Missile (JSM) heat-seekers and a handful of flares. Most enemy aircraft that appear in the single-player campaign are downed when they are hit by two JSMs. Heavier aircraft such as strategic bombers are downed with four JSMs. Guns inflict little damage but their supply of bullets is infinite. Each aircraft may also carry one or two additional weapons. For instance, the A-10 attack aircraft may carry cluster bombs that are effective against a column of tanks but cannot be fired against airborne targets. The player may not customize the weapons, but may choose between predefined configurations.
The game features an “Enhanced Reality System” (ERS). The ERS includes radars, incoming missile detection, an anti-crash system, damage control system, tactical map, information relay, aircraft interception trajectories and weapons trajectory control. The ERS also allows players to issue orders to their squadron and other units. When fully activated, the ERS provides a great deal of assistance to the player, but the system features can be turned off selectively to make the game more difficult and give the player more maneuverability.
||Intel Pentium 4 2.0 GHz/ AMD Athlon XP 2000+ or higher
||1 GB Windows XP / 2 GB Windows Vista
||Windows XP (Service Pack 3) or Windows Vista (Service Pack 1)
||128 MB DirectX–compliant video card with Shader Model 2.0 or higher (NVIDIA GeForce FX 5900 and better or ATI Radeon 9800 / X800 / X1300XT / X1650-1950 / HD 2000/3000/4000 series)
||DirectX 9.0 or 10.0 libraries (included on disc)
||4x dual-layer drive