Desert Hawk is a 2D-side-scroller shoot-em-up similar to Choplifter!- The player's mission is to fly a military helicopter behind enemy lines. Search for comrades and rescue them by landing close to them to pick them up. Three can be collected at a time, and must be returned to your base. The helicopter can only be landed on safe ground; it's onboard computer will tell you when this can be done. Enemy tanks and aircraft shoot permanently at you, with heat-seeking missiles especially dangerous. You are limited to 100 missiles and limited fuel on each level.