Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon (Nintendo 3DS) - Review by Chris
The Ghost Recon series is known for its highly tactical based shooting and team based mechanics. It therefore seems an odd choice to bring to the 3DS at launch but Ubisoft have brought in renowned tactical games developer Julian Gallop to take the series in a different direction for the console. Keeping the tactical side of things, Gallop and his team have opted for a drastically different game from that which anyone would expect from the series and created what is sure to be one of the biggest gems in the 3DS' library through this launch window.
Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars has one of the most convoluted plots seen in a game in a while, at times being incomprehensible. However, the gist of the story is that a Russian presidential candidate is spreading propaganda in a bid to oust his opponent and gain power over the country, all the while pulling strings behind the scenes with his mercenaries and allies to flex their Russian might and strategically attack positions in Russia's closest neighbouring countries. Taking control of 6 Ghost operatives working for the US, you start off having been shot down in one of those countries and slowly begin to unravel the sinister plans of the potential candidate elect. As stated, the story is rather convoluted and at times incomprehensible but you'll luckily phase it out thanks to the fantastic gameplay it bookends.
The Campaign mode is the foremost mode included here, which covers the aforementioned story, and will see you trekking across various countries and installations in a tactical strategy title akin to the likes of Advance Wars and Fire Emblem. Throughout, you'll be tasked with completing a main objective, be it eliminating a number of hostiles in a sector, capturing a number of points or destroying key mercenary equipment, as well as having secondary objectives appear after certain actions have been completed which contribute to the number of stars you'll receive at the end of the mission. As a tactical title, there's enough variety in the proceeding to keep things entertaining through the lengthy campaign.
As mentioned, the game is a tactical title and will see you taking turns to move your units across a gridded environment to either get them to objectives or get them close enough to take out enemy targets. On the face of it, it appears to be rather run of the mill but Gallop's pedigree in the genre quickly begins to rear its head as things definitely get more complicated and engrossing. Each of your units is specialised in a particular discipline, such as sniping or engineering or stealth, and making use of these abilities in tandem with one another can mean the difference between success or failure in missions. You'll even at times have a restricted number of slots to fill in a team selection screen for missions and so you'll have to quickly learn the ins and outs of each character's abilities and weaponry so as to pick the optimal team for attacking and providing supporting fire, which occurs when one from a group of closely placed allies attacks a target and the allies around provide supporting fire on attacks even if they haven't or have moved and acted already.
Other elements have been incorporated into the game to keep things entertaining as well, such as special abilities for each character which are activated once they gain 100 points for attacking enemies, capturing points or providing supporting fire. Similarly, there are further abilities which come into play when you capture points as your awarded command points which can be used to help in unlocking special abilities, reactivate already used characters for a second turn or even call in an airstrike when playing in outdoor locations. All these elements add together to provide a heavy amount of strategy where a single turn can really turn the tide of battle in the campaign and as such, even when objectives begin to seem recycled, things remain thoroughly entertaining.
Completion of missions in the Campaign grant you stars which can be used to upgrade your characters and their abilities, adding an light RPG system to the fold and encouraging your to complete secondary objectives to flesh out your characters. It also unlocks challenges and levels for play in the other main mode in the game, Skirmish mode, where you'll play more intense and specialised pieces of action with none of the exposition to fluff things it. These are a great aside to the main attraction with some interesting objectives and even the inclusion of zombies which should entice a few gamers. It helps to add to an already strong single player component, with the Campaign itself taking 20 plus hours to complete and offering up lots of replayability with higher difficulties. There is multiplayer included however it is only hot-seat multiplayer, having two gamers take turns to play on the same console. A disappointment indeed but it is still a fun inclusion which incorporates many of the more unique scenarios from the Skirmish mode.
Controlling your Ghosts on screen and moving them into position is done by way of the d-pad and the face buttons, with the circle pad relegated to altering the camera position. The camera is never really an issue, however, thanks largely to the fact that enemy characters can be seen through walls and objects anyway so you'll never really need to make use of it. The game starts out easy enough to control but it can become confusing trying to multitask strategising and working the face buttons for seeing line of sight data and other options, some of which aren't explained very well creating a learning curve to some of the inputs. You'll get used to it though and any little niggles quickly go away making for a very smooth experience.
It's clear that the game didn't start out its life as a 3DS title as the end result is one which isn't exactly pushing the visual capabilities of the hardware. Things do look like they could be run on the DS but a touch up in resolution has made things clearer than they would be. Locations are a little on the basic side as a result, with terrain and buildings sticking to a strictly squared grid look which is slightly disappointing but there's a high level of detail which makes up for this and gives each of the locations their distinct feel, although there is some melding of locations due to limited design choices. There's a distinct lack of variation in the colours used for both the environments and the character models, with plenty of browns and greys doing the rounds.
Character models are small but detailed and while they do look angular when the camera zooms, it is to be expected and really doesn't degrade the visual integrity. Each character has a cartoon-y portrait to accompany them in the menus and they look amicable but the FMV cutscenes incorporated look a little on the grainy side and could do with a slight bump in quality next time around. Slight flare comes through in the effects department with flames and dust filling the screen and looking great, although there can be the very, very occasional dip in frame rate.
Of the audio, the music is by far the best of this part of the package. It's tense when it needs to be and more epic when objectives get a little more heated and while it's not very pronounced on occasion, it lets the action and tactics do the talking for themselves rather than force itself upon the game. Sound effects, primarily gun shots and explosions, sound hollow and slightly echoic and are far from being high quality, becoming repetitive quickly.
The game only makes use of the 3D capabilities of the console, with no SpotPass or StreetPass connectivity integrated. The 3D effect is nice though, giving the impression you are looking down into a box as the action takes place. The most impressive use is when you'll occasionally see smoke, dust or flames moving across and billow out of the screen. It's a small touch but its adds significantly to the atmosphere when on the more stealth based missions. It's not an imperative feature that you'll need to use as it's not implemented into the actual gameplay and doesn't make it easier to see things but it is a nice effect.
In what is undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the 3DS' launch lineup, Ubisoft have created a fantastic tactical strategy title that can sit proudly amongst the best in the genre for handhelds. The gameplay remains engrossing throughout the extensive campaign mode, keeping you interested in developing the right strategies throughout the 20 hour plus excursion, and while it is disappointing that multiplayer options are limited to the one unit, what is here more than justifies the asking price in quality and content. If you're looking for something a little different from your 3DS, this excellent little gem easily satisfies those wants.
Pro: Extensive and enjoyable Campaign, gameplay is well designed and offers up lots of strategy, Skirmish mode is great fun
Con: Limited multiplayer options, graphics are a little on the brown side
Final score: 8
|Developer:||Ubisoft Sofia Games|