The launch of the Nintendo 3DS was filled with titles from franchises that we've all come to know, but hardly any of those franchises offered a new experience on the console. The majority of them were ports of games that we've played in the past, but now with the addition of 3D, and it created a rather bleak outlook. Thankfully, there were a few games that went away from this annoying trend, and Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars was one such game.
Instead of focussing on what made the franchise successful, Ubisoft decided to focus on what would make the title work on the Nintendo 3DS. This means that it's no longer a first-person shooter, but instead, it's a turn-based strategy game. There's also no flimsy implementation of the 3D either. The gameplay is the core, the 3D just offers a nice touch if you want to use it.
One thing has remained constant though, and that's Ubisoft's ability to tell a story that's rather ridiculous and at the same time, rather boring. It's (again) about some ultranationalist Russians who want to seize power and create a new Russia that will rule the world. It's a plot we've seen countless times before, and this iteration does little to make you care about the plight of your Ghosts or the greedy Russians who want to destabilise the world.
Despite this, it's rather lengthy and it will enable you to venture into different locations and encounter many different objective types.
The game's opening chapters will be used to help explain how the game works, but it's fairly traditional for a turn-based strategy game. You control a finite amount of units, and each of them can perform one action per turn. The developers have attempted to add a lot more depth to the experience though, and it shows. For example, you really have to think about how far away from your target you are when you shoot - one square can make the difference between doing 11 damage, and doing 9 damage. The UI also helps here, as you can easily see where you need to stand to do the most damage, but also what peril moving there will place you in.
There are also many different elements in play, such as a multi-faceted terrain advantage system. If you're on higher ground, you automatically receive bonuses to your attack and defence, and if you're hiding behind a fence you will receive significant defence boosts. The game also utilises buildings to help shield you from enemy fire and provide you with a great "base" for countering the opposition.
Only six different Ghosts are available for selection throughout the campaign, although you will get to control different NPCs too, but every Ghost has something unique about them. Banshee, for example, has the ability to cloak. Enemies can see where she is on the map, but they can't fire at her unless one of them is standing directly next to her. Then there's Haze, your team's sniper and Saffron, your team's medic. Learning how to correctly use each character will be the difference between success and failure.
In each of the game's missions, you will be able to accrue Eagles. There is always a primary objective, but secondary objectives will also pop-up, allowing you the chance to get extra Eagles. These are then spent on improving the stats of your Ghosts (post-mission), but unfortunately you have no real involvement in this process. Aside from choosing which Ghost to upgrade, everything else follows a linear path of progression.
Graphically the game isn't that great. The character models are all rather low-resolution, but some of the levels do at least have a decent amount of depth. It's a bit disappointing that they couldn't have pushed the hardware a bit more, especially as the 3D is only in there for a bit of eye-candy. Still, it's at least very functional; there are no frame-rate issues.
Aside from the campaign, which will last a decent chunk of time, the game also offers Skirmish missions and multiplayer. By going through the campaign, you'll unlock Skirmish variants, which give you nameless Ghost agents to fight against a particular horde of enemies. You can earn extra Eagles for doing these though, which is nice. Multiplayer is also pretty competent, with the turn-based nature really suiting local play.
If nothing else, the developers of Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars should be commended for making a game which fits in with the IP, but also utilises the capabilities of the console it was made for. The turn-based strategy concept works well and although the storyline is instantly forgettable and the graphics aren't fantastic, the game at least feels it was designed for the 3DS. One of the better launch titles, that's for sure.