Game Review

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars 3D Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Emerging from the shadows

The debut of the 3DS has seen a number of releases and ports tailored to show off 3D effects, with some perhaps coming up short in terms of depth and content, but Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars 3D aims to set itself apart from the field. There is pedigree behind the development: the project lead, Julian Gollop, is a highly-regarded game designer who has specialised in strategy titles for over 25 years, and handheld games such as Fire Emblem and Advance Wars have also been cited as influences on development. The question is, does Shadow Wars live up to the standards of these classics?

It's not a great start. The storyline is, to be honest, rather cheesy: in an upcoming Presidential election in Russia the aggressive nationalist challenger, Yuri Treskayev, aims to cause instability and chaos in neighbouring nations. His fiendish plot is to damage Russia’s interests and prompt a loss of confidence in the incumbent President, thereby seizing power. In his way stand your ‘Ghosts’, a team of six special ops soldiers intent on foiling his plans. It’s not exactly contemporary story-telling – the Cold War finished a while ago – and the enemies represent a variety of cardboard cut-out villains, with your Ghosts conforming to almost every US action soldier stereotype. The story keeps things moving along, though, paving the way for the most important part of the game: shooting baddies and blowing stuff up.

In terms of the gameplay, Ghost Recon is turn-based strategy played from an overhead, third person perspective. The game is played using the D-Pad and a variety of buttons to select characters, view line of fire or select weapons. The touchscreen is used to give you all of the most important information to allow you to plan effectively: details such as an environment map, character’s health remaining, weapons options and ammo. Once you get accustomed to moving around the environment with the D-Pad the controls are intuitive and relatively easy to pick up.

A challenge for turn-based strategy games is to find the right level of immersion and challenge, while ensuring that it doesn’t become a confusing mess of weapon and attack variations. It is here that Shadow Wars truly shines, even though on paper there is a lot of strategy to consider. Your Ghost team characters, for example, represent six different classes of unit, each with its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses: the sniper is excellent at long range but cannot return fire, while the recon unit can avoid detection and execute fatal close proximity kills, but is vulnerable and weak when spotted. As you are introduced to each new character you learn how to use them most effectively, and it is thrilling when a well-planned attack pays off.

It’s not just a matter of understanding the team members, but also the environment you’re fighting in. The game encourages you to consider aspects such as shooting range, level of cover and the threat of return fire, to name just a few, as well as a power bar for each soldier that allows you to use special attacks. You are also tasked with earning command points to earn benefits such as extra power points for your team or, most fun of all, air strikes.

There’s a lot of strategic depth, but the development team have done a stellar job of balancing the gameplay so that it is suitable for gamers of varied abilities. The game can be played in three difficulty levels: Rookie, Veteran and Elite. You earn the most mission points, and can upgrade your team most quickly, in Elite mode. This hardest mode resembles playing a chess grand-master, as one sloppy mistake and you are well and truly on the back foot. In our play-through the Veteran setting felt just right: the AI was smart and challenging, and a couple of mistakes meant a seat-of-your-pants finish to the mission, without necessarily experiencing game over screens.

So, this is a strategy title with depth and excellent playability, but what about the all-important content? The most substantial mode is the lengthy single-player campaign containing 37 missions, some of which include a menagerie of objectives that will easily take over an hour to finish. Even skilled players will need well over 20 hours to finish the adventure, with less experienced strategists taking longer. Your missions take in a variety of locations, though the objectives are generally restricted to three key goals: shoot the bad guys, blow stuff up and activate or deactivate an item by entering a certain room or area. Some players may find the campaign starts to get repetitive, but fans of the genre and those immersed by the title will happily take everything thrown at them.

Secondly there are a number of Skirmish missions. These are scenario based levels unlocked by progress in the campaign; you are assigned specific ghosts to fight with, such as a team of gunners tasked with defeating a rival team of snipers. The missions are well thought out, and their completion adds to the same ranking system utilised in the campaign. These skirmishes are excellent diversions and add variety and further depth to the title as a solid extra feature.

The Multiplayer missions are also gradually unlocked with progress in the campaign. You choose from a selection of maps and two players are each given mini-armies, after which it's simply a case of taking turns to try to eliminate the other player. Unfortunately, this mode is executed on a single 3DS, with the players passing the device back and forth. Although not a major gripe, it would have been nice for local multiplayer as an additional option, as passing the system to the other player is stubbornly old-school, and there's no online play, which may disappoint some. However the sheer depth of content and number of play-hours in the title does make this omission more forgivable.

When considering the visuals it must be said that, particularly in 2D, this looks like a high-end DS title. There are some nice flourishes such as explosions and dust clouds blowing across the screen, but the graphics processor isn’t overly taxed. In 3D however the textures sharpen up, the characters look like miniature toy soldiers and the action is fun to watch, although the 3D doesn’t actually improve the gameplay in any way, so for longer play sessions we had the effect turned off. The sound is excellent, with a nice soundtrack and solid effects for gun-fire, explosions and so on. The dialogue is text only rather than voice acting, but considering the size and scope of the title this is not surprising.

Conclusion

Shadow Wars is without a doubt one of the most robust titles on offer for the launch of the 3DS. The negatives are few and relatively minor: the storyline and characters are forgettable, the multiplayer is a little clumsy and the visuals could be better. However, the developers have done a superlative job of creating a turn-based strategy game that can, conceivably, be appreciated by newcomers to the genre as well as experienced strategists. If you don’t enjoy this style of game, Shadow Wars does nothing new and will struggle to convert you. However, if you are interested in the genre or have enjoyed titles like this before, our recommendation is simple; buy this game.

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Game Trailer

Ubisoft takes us through a mission segment in detail

User Comments (78)

TheBaconator

#1

TheBaconator said:

I might be getting this game now. I might just wait for a price drop counting it is a third party game though, especially since I have never been a huge fan of the genre.

MasterGraveheart

#3

MasterGraveheart said:

Wow, really? Huh... I may need to consider this, even if it means fueling the Tom Clancy series. Hmmmmm...

Malkeor

#5

Malkeor said:

This is a game i've been looking at.
Didn't end up getting it because since it's a third party game it will probably have a pretty decent price drop in the future, unlike the two 1st party titles I got with the Toys R Us deal.

But will get later!

pepsilover2008

#8

pepsilover2008 said:

wow i'm kinda surprised by looking at the screenshot it looked kinda like crap, but then its one of the better reviewed 3ds games, considered me a little bit shocked :)

SamIAm69

#10

SamIAm69 said:

This game looks promising, and I will get it eventually, but I think my first game will be Streetfighter, just for a features and the fact that I love it. I bought a 3DS, but didn't get a game...

djosh444

#13

djosh444 said:

i was originally gonna get ssfiv 3d at launch, but wasnt in the offer i took, and looking at the reviews i decided not to get super monkey ball, i got this instead, and its great if you want a game that will last a while, ive played it for about 6 hours on elite,the hardest mode and am only 9% through the game, i would highly recommend it to people who love a strategy or long completion time sort of game ;)

Sylverstone

#15

Sylverstone said:

Not into strategy games, but this is really outstanding! I never gave the game a chance and it totally blew my expectations out of the water!

Great stuff! :D

JayArr

#16

JayArr said:

For some reason the phrase "Tom Clancy" completely turns me off to this game. I know its a great game but I cant over it for some reason. >.<

Excellent Review.

Supremeist

#21

Supremeist said:

Looks great! Surprised to see another good 3DS launch title. But I'll stick with SSFIV until Ocarina Of Time or Mario Kart 3DS.

HandheldGuru97

#22

HandheldGuru97 said:

Wow. (Checks Toys R us Website to see special is still going on.) They are!! No seriously this was one the game i was going to get but then I got there and kind of panicked and got super street fighter in stead. Now I have go buy this.

Burn

#23

Burn said:

This game is hella fun and looks pretty good to boot. I passed my system over to my friend saying "look at those smoke effects!"

Wesker

#24

Wesker said:

Interesting... But can it really stack up to games like Valkyria Chronicles 2 or Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together on the PSP? I highly doubt it, so why the 9/10? Surely it's an 8 max.

Also, How can you recommend such a time consuming game when you are such a strong advocate of reading books? DOES NOT COMPUTE

Boshar

#25

Boshar said:

"In 3D however the textures sharpen up"

You are onto something there. I see it in all 3DS games. Switching into 3D softens the jaggies and provides a smoother image.

Slapshot

#26

Slapshot said:

With all the lackluster launch titles, I'm glad to finally see another good game emerge.

jsb1138

#28

jsb1138 said:

I wasn't satisfied with the 3DS launch titles, but was entitled to a game of my choice because of a deal I made at a Game Stop. I chose this game knowing nothing and was incredibly disappointed when I learned it was one of these turn based strategy games... fast forward a day or so and I was hooked by it. I can now say that I like these types of games all because of this one winning me over as a newcomer to the genre.

I recommend for anyone, even if you typically don't enjoy these types of games.

CorbsAdmin

#29

Corbs said:

I shall have to dig this one out tonight and give it a go. Not really a big RTS fan, but if it's that good, who knows? LOL :D

Bolts

#30

Bolts said:

This was my first game for the 3DS, have to say it's great value and has really good gameplay. Just one gripe really, been playing it on elite and don't feel like the AI is ruthless enough. Had a few times where I'd compromised myself near the end of the mission and one of my ghosts was there for the taking, but then the enemies just attacked someone else.

A minor gripe though...

StarDust4Ever

#31

StarDust4Ever said:

Great to see this game get a solid review. While I'm not a fan of war games or FPS by any stretch, it's important for other core gamers to have access to these types of titles shortly after launch. Otherwise, the 3DS/Wii2 generation may become lost to these gamers.

cheetahman91

#32

cheetahman91 said:

Definitely going to pick this one up. I've been wanting to play a new turn-based strategy game and this one looks fantastic.

ThomasBW84Admin

#34

ThomasBW84 said:

@billy-beauts - easy, games don't have to be 'beaten' quickly! For review purposes I had to sink a lot of time into this game, but generally I could happily play this in short bursts over quite a few weeks. I happily advocate good books, writing and gaming as co-existing hobbies, I'm weird that way...

The main thing that prompted the positive review, beyond the reasoning already given, is that it just feels solid and well developed, and I found it compulsive and enjoyable to play.

Wesker

#36

Wesker said:

Sounds good, glad you enjoyed it. What interests me is the story and Eastern European setting. I really don't like the idea of cardboard cut-out soldiers though. You said that 3D in unimportant but i read somewhere that you can tilt the 3DS to look round corners, I guess that's just a pointless gimmick.

Slapshot

#37

Slapshot said:

@Mickey.... dude, I have no idea why the entire time I read the review I had RTS in my head!

I actually do enjoy Turn Based Strategy titles, and I'm going to have to pick this up! :)

WhiteTrashGuy

#38

WhiteTrashGuy said:

I was going to get SPLINTER CELL, but it looks like UBISOFT will be getting my money regardless because I am super psyched for this game!

pedrron

#39

pedrron said:

I'm really enjoying this game and the 9/10 is well earned. Also, in my opinion the 3D does add to the experience. With the 3D on it feels like you're playing with those green toy soldiers everyone had as a kid! If you liked any of the Advance Wars games definitely pick this up!

Azikira

#41

Azikira said:

I was highly suprised by the quality of this game, as I was expecting a very half-assed game

Kelvin

#43

Kelvin said:

I don't know why anyone is surprised by the score; this is from the man who gave us Laser Squad and X-COM so it has an illustrious heritage.

Spoony_Tech

#47

Spoony_Tech said:

Great game and I'm glad I decided to pick it up. Although I disagree about the 3d visuals is look really good to me and I wont be turning down the 3d on my system for sure. I also think it looks and animates way better then any DS game. Nice pick up and finish a mission game and do it again another day. I like a game that doesn't have to be one long play session.

ThomasBW84Admin

#48

ThomasBW84 said:

@Tech101 - As said in the review the visuals with the 3D on are quite fun to watch. I only personally turned the 3D off when I was playing for more than an hour, just to rest my eyes. More than an hour of 3D and my eyes get a bit squiffy. I agree that those able to play for longer periods in 3D should keep it on to enjoy the visuals more.

It's the gameplay and design that makes the game, hence the high score, but I still think that in 2D it looks like a top-notch DS game. It reminded me, at points, of the Chinatown Wars visual, albeit slightly sharper. I agree that the animations are nice though!

@billy-beauts - You can move the camera perspective with the circle pad. The manual, nor the in-game instructions, mentioned moving the camera with the gyroscope, so I honestly haven't tried. I'll give it a go next time I play it.

Samholy

#49

Samholy said:

if it was action or even metal gear solid kind of game, i would buy without hesitating.
i might consider getting it used one day, it looks interesting.
sorry, ill pass it for now, like every launch titles so far anyway. geez

SwerdMurd

#50

SwerdMurd said:

I knew this one would get high ratings. I saw a few gameplay vids really early on and it looked remarkably solid--good to know my only blind launch buy is gonna pan out!

MeloMan

#51

MeloMan said:

Cool, I had a pretty good feeling about this one. I'm kinda in the mood for a lil strategy action anyway, so I'll probably pick this up since my friend got SSFIV3D.

Bunta

#52

Bunta said:

This game (along with Samurai Warrior) were the 2 games i was considering getting because they look interesting, but i didnt get them because of the little info i knew about the game and pre-launched videos didnt help, this review gave me little hope that i may enjoy this game and i thank you! ill probably wait a little till i see some actual footage of gameplay (hopefully walkthroughs)

IanUniacke

#53

IanUniacke said:

I bought this game on a whim because it was either that or Rabbids or Rayman as a bundle. I must say it is one of the best games I've played in ages. Interesting to hear that it's by the guy who brought us Xcom because it really is that good and somewhat reminiscent of the old Xcom games. The 3d looks fantastic in this game...seeing down into ravines as well as seeing the explosions in 3d are two highlights. It adds a lot to the games graphics and takes a style (top down) that looks otherwise quite dated and makes it look modern.

But mostly the gameplay is just supremely polished. I'd recommend this to anyone.

One thing that the review didn't mention that I think works really great is that there are often 3rd factions that are "rising up" so to speak against the bad guys and it really helps to make you feel like you are part of a bigger struggle.

daznsaz

#54

daznsaz said:

got this yesterday im impressed played for 6 hours odd already its easy to get lost in and is good looking and its a new game was thinking of getting the samurai chronicle one is it like rpg? like good story

Rugaard

#55

Rugaard said:

I was very happy that I decided to go with this at release. I jumped back and forth between Samurai warriors and Street Fighter but ended up on this once I actually read about it and found out it was a turn based strategy title. I still plan on getting the others but this was a home run for me as far as the fun level is concerned.

sam322

#56

sam322 said:

i just bought a new 3DS and this is yet my very game to purchase.Well it's almost like a clone of fire emblem but i think this game is quite better than fire emblem if you buy 3ds early just like i did then this game must be your first purchased game!

jerryo

#57

jerryo said:

9/10 indeed. for the single player. I just love this game!!! The artwork is impressive, (i never play it in 2D mode 3D is awesome!) the sounds as well, the gameplay deep, the content a lot and high quality! Level design.. amazing!

As a modern video game product though, i give it a 8.5 because i would love to play online!

jerryo

#58

jerryo said:

DO NOT get Splinter Cell. It's a tourist Trap! We should demand a brand new Splinter Cell for 3DS. (Splinter Cell is one of my all time favs btw and this one blows!)

raedjhn

#59

raedjhn said:

i never like ubisoft my last game form them was splitter cell 1 in gamecube!!
but this game it worth it. if you like advance wars or fire emblem
you will die for this game

daze0f_theweak

#60

daze0f_theweak said:

After playing the heck out of SSFIV, I traded in some of my old DS games for this gem. I was not ready for how much I enjoyed it.

When I first read or watched reviews and videos, the game looked a little too complex/difficult. But it is not. If you like thinking strategically and learning from mistakes, (shakes fist at Bit-Trip-Runner) then you'll like this game. If you enjoy real-time strategy battles like Commandos, Age of Empires, and Starcraft OR if you enjoyed turn based strategy battles like D&D, Worms, Devil Survivor, or even Chess, then give this game a try! I am enjoying the challenge so much that I have persistently played each level on its hardest settings. (so far)

Ubisoft posted a tour of the first level. Check it out!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mw91QruN5dY

RocketBird

#61

RocketBird said:

@daze0f_theweak
Thanks for posting the youtube link! Between this review, the comments that I've read in the forum and that video, I think this is going to be my very first 3DS game!

Vinsanity

#62

Vinsanity said:

This game, visually, reminds of Killzone Liberation. That's cool. This seems like a rad 3DS game.

Wilford111

#65

Wilford111 said:

When I heard of this game I thought it was going to be a first person shooter. I was pretty disappointed to hear that it's a turn-based strategy game...

Objection

#66

Objection said:

I really liked this game until about 10 or 11 missions in. I've attempted it probably 5 times, losing 5-7 hrs of wasted time and each time I get cheap shotted at the end. The AI purposefully all targets one unit (when they rarely if ever do this under normal conditions.) Seeing as this is about 1/3 through the game, I can only imagine it gets more frustrated and BS-y. I can't recommend it all to anyone anymore. Proceed at your own risk.

THENAMESNORM

#68

THENAMESNORM said:

This game is superb, and with (what seems to me anyway) a marathon campaign, and lots of extra missions to unlock(Including the excellent Zombie survival level) it's one of the best 3DS games out there!

runeacer74

#69

runeacer74 said:

I love this game! It kinda reminds me of future soldier with all the drones and what-not.

Koos

#70

Koos said:

This is what games should all be about. In my top games list of ALL times.

Multiboy2k

#74

Multiboy2k said:

I absolutely LOVE this game.
And, I have to agree with everyone who said that this is one the best game games in the 3DS library. It is well polished, at times intense, while still maintaining that pick-up-and-play appeal that works well on handhelds.

If you are a fan of the Advance Wars series, than this should be a no-brainer purchase for you.

Multiboy2k

#75

Multiboy2k said:

.....I really wish Ubisoft would release a game like this using the same polish and mechanics, but using a FANTASY based setting. An AD&D game that plays like this but with all of the different spells and such, would be simply be a license to print money.

Midnight3DS

#76

Midnight3DS said:

@ Multiboy2k

I agree 100%. The game is fantastic fun, and while I'd like to see more non-fantasy strategy games, a D n D setting would seem refreshing. A big epic turn based, flashy visual battle against Tiamat! More western flavor in the genre would be nice.

Giygas_95

#77

Giygas_95 said:

I was a bit bored with this game to begin with. I just got it because it was cheap, I like Ghost Recon, and I figured the gameplay would grow on me, and man did it! I love it now, and I think 9/10 is a very accurate score.

And personally, I'd give Splinter Cell 3D an 8/10. Much better than it gets credit for.

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