Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars may have bucked the third-person shooter trend in Ghost Recon games, but in doing so it gave gamers one of the best titles on 3DS in 2011. Instead of your typical shooter, handheld gamers got a turn-based strategy game that was more akin to Advance Wars. Shadow Wars shows off its worth in picturesque landscapes that are subtly enhanced in 3D. The meaty single-player campaign will give you more hours of gameplay than several console games on the market. The only downside to this awesome 3DS title is the lack of a true-handheld multiplayer experience. Handheld multiplayer was not meant to be restricted to one unit. Passing around your 3DS takes away from the experience. Regardless of the multiplayer foible, Shadow Wars is by far one of the must have games for 3DS owners.
Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars follows the prototype for a military soldier story. There is an evil threat lurking from amidst the former Soviet republic. You and your team of six soldiers must travel through Eastern Europe (primarily Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan) to figure out what the threat is and stop it.
Missions primarily consist of your complete six-person roster, but specific offshoot missions will involve fewer characters. The story doesn’t amount to much. Most of the time, you’ll click through dialogue filled with cliché evil dictators. However, you’ll want to take on as many missions as you can get because the level design and gameplay is just that good.
This is a tile-based game that you play from an overhead view. Bunkers, rivers, trees and cliffs are all broken up into movement squares. Gamers start out with a basic two-man team of a soldier (who may remind you of Duke from GI Joe) and a sniper. It gives you a chance to really learn the combat system. Later on, gamers also have access to a medic, an engineer, a gunner, and a recon soldier. The medic and the sniper were my two strongest characters to use. Sniper really helps to weaken enemies from long range, while the medic is just as invaluable as you would expect in any battle. The gunner carries heavy arms and can take out tougher soldiers but is limited in range. The engineer and the recon soldier are the only other characters that offer any nuance. The engineer can setup turrets and the recon soldier can move around invisibly.
The grid system lets you know how many spaces you can move as well as what distance you need to be at to fire. You also can view the breakdown of enemy movement stats as well. As the game progresses in difficulty, you will find yourself eyeing the enemy movement squares more than your own. Knowing where your enemies can move to will help you decide how best to move your players around. The grid also shows how much damage you can do to a given enemy depending on the distance. This is broken down in red, orange and yellow squares – red for the most damage.
Difficulty increases at a moderate pace allowing you to really get a feel for the battle system. I think one board took me nearly an hour or more to beat, without losing a player, on the most difficult level. You will play for several hours before you even have the chance to call in an air strike against a few moving tanks. But, what’s really great about this game is that each level feels really different. Although you’re basically out in the wilderness (except in underground facilities), different land formations and bunkers always keep the game fresh. There are also defensive and offensive bonuses for attacking when you attack from a building or tree square. However, this can also limit movement.
Between levels, gamers will have the chance to upgrade their team. You will able to give them additional weapons or stronger guns. Choosing your upgrades well translates into very noticeable results. You will have to choose wisely when upgrading your long-range sniper, heavy gunner or your medic (who of course dies quickly).
Unfortunately, where this game could have succeeded most it failed. The multiplayer is limited to one system. So you have to pass around your 3DS to your opponent to play. It’s such a strange thing to see in this day and age. I can understand no download play and requiring each player to have their own game, but pass-around competition on a 3DS is just wrong. With the diversity of maps, this would game would have ranked up with Advance Wars if not for that misstep.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is by far one of my favorite titles to hit the 3DS in 2011. Hopefully, Ubisoft turns this turn-based take on Ghost Recon into a franchise. Having said that, the developers had better not leave out a better multiplayer system if they do go franchise.