Cody Giunta
16 Apr, 2011

Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars Review

3DS Review | Not what we were expecting...
After our disappointing take on the Splinter Cell remake for the Nintendo 3DS, you could be forgiven for thinking that anything with Tom Clancy’s name attached to it for the DS would be forsaken by PALGN. However, in the case of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars, disappointment doesn’t exist all around. Shadow Wars is an original title in the series that has been built from the ground-up and doesn't feel anywhere near as rushed as Splinter Cell 3D did. While It might not be a killer app for the console, its deviation from the norm of the series gives it a bit of freshness that it might otherwise lack, married with some decent gameplay.

Shadow Wars isn’t your average shooter. Indeed, it can be argued that it’s not a real shooter at all in some ways. The gameplay is much more similar to a strategy-action title than any other conceivable genre. Think more along the lines of something like the Advanced Wars series. In the game, you will play chapters of a campaign in a bid to overthrow the forces of a hostile Russian leader who wants to make his nation the dominant force in the world once more. The story is fairly average, but it's not painful to watch unfold and it never really dominates or stands in the way of the gameplay. Your characters move a certain amount of spaces and have weapons with varying powers, capabilities and special attacks. A sniper, for example, has greater range when it comes to picking off enemies, but another character with an assault rifle has the capability of automatically returning fire when struck by an enemy combatant. There is also the usual assortment of robots, drones, fixed turrets and other mechanical nasties that you can expect from the genre. Likewise, the missions themselves are what you would expect - kill a certain enemy here, destroy an installation there, make it to this spot here within a certain timeframe, etc. As you complete your missions, weapons will become more powerful and can be upgraded significantly.

Charging and firing.

Charging and firing.
Controlling Shadow Wars is mostly tied to the face buttons rather than the touch screen, though the latter does sometimes have some functionality. The 3DS analog stick is used to move the camera around, which can be extremely useful to scout out an enemy's position. and get an idea of where you can move to for cover. Speaking of which, movement is controlled with the use of the standard d-pad. Sometimes it can be a bit unresponsive, but it will usually get the job done well enough, and given that it's a strategy game it's not as if you're short on time to plan your next step. When you do select your character to move around, a grid will light up to show you where you can go, with different coloured squares to indicate where you can merely travel to and where you will be in range to shoot an enemy. Other face buttons have a variety of functions, including selecting characters, performing their actions and detecting what kind of firing range an enemy is working with. The touch screen is mainly used to alter weapon properties and functions. When all of these qualities marry together, the game proves easy to control with some surprising depth - using a powerful attack at the wrong time can cost you dearly, and sometimes taking a chance with a character will pay off. One early mission has you guiding a medic to safety that can heal herself and has a surprisingly powerful gun to take people out with. We had to desperately scramble to an old shack and supporting fire came from a sniper and an assault rifle wielding guy, but their fire was of mostly a supporting nature and our gutsy medic managed to heal herself and take out the majority of the troops on her tail without any worries.

Visually speaking, Shadow Wars probably doesn't push the 3DS as much as it should. The 3D effect is in place, but it never really has an impact on how you are able to play the game. It's more of a window dressing effect that you can really take or leave - it doesn't help the gameplay, but it doesn't hinder it either. You'll notice that pipes, walls and enemies will have a bit of depth to them as you stare down at the battle unfolding before you, and menus will have a similarly floating feel about them. Again, the 3D effect is nice and can be noticed, but you will probably have a similar level of enjoyment out of the game if you leave it off. Cut-scenes within the game are presented in cartoon format with some minimal animations, meaning that most of the game's level of characterisation comes from text rather than vision or, as you will read in a moment, sound.

The sound design of the game is pretty minimal. As alluded to above, there is no voice acting present, which would have given the characters a bit more character than their mostly cliched nature. Outside of the spoken word, there isn't a pounding soundtrack throughout the game, but it does have some nifty sound effects for firing weapons and the cries of combatants as they are struck or killed. It's not steeped in blood-curdling realism, but the effects are nonetheless amusing.

The same thing we do every night Pinky..try to take over the world!

The same thing we do every night Pinky..try to take over the world!
For a portable title, there really is a mountain of levels to get through. Depending on the difficulty level you set, you can expect to play the campaign mode for almost 40 hours. Admittedly, some of the missions do get a bit repetitive after awhile, but they are executed well enough that it doesn't always feel like you're just simply grinding through, and the minimal story does still manage to chug along. Completing the campaign missions will also unlock optional single-player skirmish missions and multiplayer missions. Interestingly enough, these can be a bit more varied and tougher to beat than the normal game modes, and will require you to stretch the limits of your unit's capabilities. The multiplayer mode is slightly disappointing in one aspect, however - wireless play is not present, so you will have to use the old pass and play system to get stuck into it.

Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is probably one of the stronger titles available in these early days of the 3DS, and certainly trounces the likes of that other Ubisoft Tom Clancy game Splinter Cell. For devotees of the Ghost Recon series, it may come as a bit of a surprise to find out that Shadow Wars is really a strategy game, but it does prove to be surprisingly engaging in the end. The story might not be the best and there may be a bit of repetition in the missions, but at a potential 40+ hours, you can't help but be impressed by what lies within this handheld game. Counterbalancing the possible repetition and story issues, the mechanics of the game remain very respectable. It doesn't quite tap into the raw potential of the 3DS, but Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is still fun to play.
The Score
Much better than a lot of other Ubisoft launch offerings for the 3DS, Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is a great title if you're looking for a lengthy strategy game with nice mechanics. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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3 years ago
Great review. I would probably have gone 7.5 as I am enjoying just a little more than expected.
3 years ago
I'd give it an 8/10, for me the best launch game for 3DS
3 years ago
Agreed, as a completely original game, I think it manages to edge out Street Fighter for the position of best 3DS launch title.
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