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Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars (Nintendo 3DS) Review

Review for Tom Clancy

Nintendo 3DS launched with not one, but two Tom Clancy games, but the pair could not be more different. Splinter Cell 3D is a port that has done the rounds before; Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is an all-new, exclusive title. The former is a third person action game; the latter is a grid-based strategy RPG from a team creatively directed by X-Com supremo Julian Gollop - not a genre that you would typically expect to find at a system launch. Does Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars bring enough quality to the launch window to ensure that SRPG fans are kept happy way ahead of the inevitable Advance Wars and Fire Emblem releases from Nintendo?

Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars puts you in command of a group of elite soldiers, the Ghosts, who are charged with stopping a total world meltdown in the face of a warmongering Russian’s grasp for power. The specifics of the story are not all-too important - a number of the levels in the hefty campaign conclude with the bad guy bosses almost comically legging it away before you’ve even so much as aimed at them - and serves mainly to set up mission after mission of turn-based strategy RPG goodness.

Shadow Wars is more like a futuristic Fire Emblem than the Advance Wars you may expect from its title. There are six members in your core squad, who can be nurtured and levelled up throughout the course of the campaign by awarding them stars at the end of each mission, the amount you have to hand out dependent on how many of a mission’s objectives you fulfil. Each of these characters have their own classes and numerous combat advantages: your engineer can set up gun turrets, heavy gunners can force foes to miss a turn by suppressing them with heavy fire, and stealthy recon units can sneak around unnoticed unless they are right by an enemy. Your common-in-garden commando, medic and sniper round off the team.

Screenshot for Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

You don’t have to level your characters up, but it would be advised. Benefits include increased health, combat bonuses that give you easier access to different attack options, and extra or upgraded equipment. Before each mission you are invited to choose your squad’s equipment - their primary weapon, secondary weapon and armour - as you see fit. Each weapon has different damage and range of attack values, and equipment dictates how many squares you can move per turn, so all must be weighed up. Upgrading characters such as the engineer practically guarantee you an extra member of your team, as the ‘secondary weapons’ belonging to that class, such as the gun turret or, later, attack drones, act individually each round.

Rather than being mere replaceable unit types, however, all members of your squad are characters, and if any are to perish in combat the result is an instant mission failure. This means that you have to be cautious who you place in the firing line, as one wrong move can end your attempt prematurely. As you select your movements with the D-pad and face buttons - the touch-screen displays a clickable map and various statistics, but the action has naturally been placed on the 3D display, thus meaning you do not have direct touch control over your squad - you have to bear terrain and surrounding forces in mind. Lurking in the shade of trees or barriers, or entering a building, affords you more cover and thus means less damage is incurred, whereas taking higher ground is rewarded with increased attack power over those beneath you. Engaging an enemy should be carefully considered as they, plus any of their allies who have you in range, will return fire upon you, meaning that the character initiating the attack could meet their demise if they attack the wrong target. The mechanic works both ways, however; it’s often best to move your characters in groups so that they can cover each other.

Screenshot for Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

As your troops rack up the kills their power meters fill. Once maxed out, extra attack options become available to them, such as an extra powerful shot capable of taking out most enemies or the ability to act twice in one move. Coupled with command powers, these powers can prove fatal to enemy forces. Dotted around each stage are command flags to be captured, and for each of these held at the beginning of each turn you are awarded command points. Gather enough of these and you can take advantage of a command power: unleash an air strike, give characters a power meter boost, or allow a character to move more than once in a round.

These multiple powers can, if used correctly, make Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars’ campaign a little too easy, though this is opposed by its lengthy nature. There are taxing missions, but many can be torn through with efficient use of your squad and exploitation of the available powers. Take for example the recon unit. Wielding a knife, it can creep about completely unseen, then kill many enemies in just one hit. Combine this with its special power to act twice in one round (while boosting the power of its first attack), in addition to the upgrade that nets it half a power meter per close range kill, plus a decent surplus of command points to let it do it all over again, and suddenly one of your units has just killed three or more enemies in just a few swift motions. Is it fun? Extremely. Does it feels a bit like cheating? Yep.

Screenshot for Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The campaign is not all there is, though, as plenty of Skirmish missions are unlocked as you play, offering smaller, tougher challenges where you must make the most of pre-set squads to win under restrictions such as number of turns or only having a single unit type at your disposal. Multiplayer is included, but only in hot-seat style, with the same 3DS passed between players, and the way it is done is interesting - similar scenarios to the campaign and Skirmish missions are set, with each player taking a different side. It would have been excellent to have seen this available via local wireless too, or even the ability to have multiplayer missions waged over StreetPass with those you are in regular contact with. Online battles would have been a favourable addition also, either played in a single session or over longer periods of time with notifications letting players know when it is their turn.

Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars does not push the system visually, looking a notch above a well-crafted DS title. Despite this, and the overhead viewpoint, 3D definitely adds something, giving it the appealing look of a board game complete with toy models doing battle upon it. Pylons and powerlines stretch up, poking out from the rest of the action slightly, but the 3D effect is most explicit during story intermissions during missions. Character faces pop up in hi-tech videophone interfaces which are very cleanly separated, overlaying the main environments.

Thankfully the developers clearly understood the necessities of portable gaming while making Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars, as you are able to save at any time to pick up on later. The saves and loads are impressively snappy too given the amount of things going on. Other shortcuts, like pressing the L button to find any characters that still can move that round, or tapping the touch-screen map to hop to areas where characters or points of interest lie, highlighted with icons and neon dots, also help to make this a game that can easily be booted up for a quick go on your commute.

Screenshot for Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars on Nintendo 3DS- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review


An accomplished strategy RPG that is well-designed for portable play. The campaign can err on the side of easy once your characters begin to get upgraded, however.


Do not push 3DS, but 3D effect is used very subtly to create an appealing board game-like style, as well as putting certain story elements right above the action.


The music sets the pace well, grand and militaristic. Sound effects, from guns to screams, can sound a little low quality but get all the necessary information across.


The longest launch title on 3DS by a good margin, with a hefty campaign and plenty of challenge missions. Had extra, and more accessible, multiplayer options been integrated then this could have lasted forever.

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

About this score
Rated 8 out of 10

Ubisoft Sofia have gone in the face of what a launch title usually is with Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars. It’s a lengthy game that will absorb many hours, but at the same time it seems to have been carefully optimised for portable play. Further multiplayer options would have been advantageous, but as one of the best titles on Nintendo 3DS so far, offering the best value for money on the system outside of an infinitely replayable game like Street Fighter IV, Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars will keep fans of turn-based strategy RPGs busy for some time.

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C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (3 Votes)

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Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

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Staff Member

Haven't played much of this, but from what I have played, it's absolutely brilliant. Smilie Never really interested in RTS, but this is more.. RPG with a dash of strategy. Perfect combination.

I think im gonna have to make this one a purchase...I love RPGs and I adore strategy games.

3DS Code:4983--492-3-84-78
Gamertag: akumaki

This was the game I got for £15 with Amazons deal. Wasn't expecting much but got hooked on it. And to think I was going to trade this in on day one...

It has Xcom pedigree behind it, so Im not supprised its better they many expected.

Please give our little random review show a try;
We have special effects and umm...stuff...
prawnus (guest) 19.04.2011 08:55#5

have been playing this game for a few days now and love it. It's great to be able to play for five or ten minutes then just close the clam and put it on its dock until later. Great start Nintendo 3ds, awesome to have such an engrossing on a portable system. Shows much promise in the future! Makes me glad to have bought the 3ds so early.

Looks very good 8)

Eat & Play

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