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Ghost Recon : Shadow Wars is one of the handful of games available for Nintendo’s brand new 3D handheld. If you’ve had a look at it may have noticed that it’s not the Ghost Recon you’d expect. It’s not a first person tactical quad-based shooter at all; but fans of the series shouldn’t let that put them off at all, because despite its tenuous use of the Ghost Recon name, it’s a game that’s worthy of your attention.

Shadow Wars retains the series established tactical squad based element, but this time in an isometric, turn-based format  There’s a plot, but like many of the licenced Tom Clancy stuff it’s woefully generic cold-warish stuff about instability in the Soviet bloc. The story is presented as an entirely skippable series of flat images and text, neither adding or detracting from the experience.

Squad

Your task, for most missions, is to void the map of militant enemies, using your assembled squad of specialised soldiers. You’ve got Duke, your team leader and standard assault soldier; Richter, your mini-gun toting tank; Haze your long range-sniper and Mint the engineer who can deploy turrets. Your squad is rounded out with Saffron, your medic and Banshee, a deadly rogue equipped with a stealthing cloak. Each character has unique attributes and movement. during your turn, you’re able to move your characters, one by one, to a displayed square within their movement range. Move to the limit of that range and that character will be unable to attack for that turn. Move to a green square and you can do so guns blazing.

squares

This is where the strategy starts coming in to play, because your enemies, when attacked and within range, can counter attack. Moving a character to a spot that’s covered by too many enemy units can result in a rather nasty death, so it’s best to keep your squad in formation so that when you’re attacked, your units can re-iterate with counter fire. Placing your soldiers inside buildings grants them armour bonuses, as do fences walls and trees – but they tend to come at a movement penalty. Units also power up during each game, and are awarded with special actions when they’re fully activated.

There are other circumstances to bear in mind, like the terrain you traverse though and the incline you’re on; water and marshes impede your movement, reducing the number of bocks you can move while inclined terrain like mountains and cliff-sides give a damage and range bonuses to those on higher ground. There’s a further strategy in that the map will have strategically placed radars, the capturing of which earns you a command point each per turn. These command points can be used to purchase special command powers, like re-activating a unit after its had its turn, or calling in an airstrike.

EndTurn

It all sounds rather complicated, but it actually isn’t. The game eases you in to the mechanics, giving you a brief round focused on each new squad member so that you can familiarise yourself with them before undertaking missions with a broader scope. It’s actually one of the most accommodating and easy to play turn-based strategy games I’ve had the pleasure of playing. Easy to play doesn’t mean easy though, and on the higher difficulty levels you’ll be constantly evaluating the playing field to make sure you don’t make any fatal mistakes.

Its great misstep though is in its multiplayer. The only multiplayer option available is a hotseat mode where you and a friend swop the handheld between turns. There’s no ad-hoc wi-fi, no online – hell, there isn’t even a mode where you can play delayed multiplayer through mail messages like chess players do.

Shadow Wars is by no means a showcase for the 3DS; it features high end DS graphics, and the 3D is of little consequence – but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s an excellent game, and one of the best available for the 3DS right now. If you’re bored of virtual dogs, had enough of LEGO and have hurled your last Hadouken – consider Ghost Recon : Shadow Wars

Scoring

Gameplay: 8.0
It’s a fiendishly addictive turn-based game with depth and strategy; be warned, it’s a massive time-sink and you’ll lose track of time without realising it. It’s the game that’s occupied my 3DS most since launch, and while it might not technically be the system’s best game, right now? It’s my favourite.

Presentation: 7.0
Menus do the job, the 3D is largely unnecessary and the cut-scenes are mostly static images.

Value: 9.0
There’s a ton of value here; beyond the standard campaign (with 3 difficulties) there is an array of unlockable skirmish missions…and that hotseat multiplayer.


 

Overall: 8.0

Last Updated: April 19, 2011

Ghost Recon : Shadow Wars
Summary
8.0

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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