In Case You Missed… Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars
- Tom Clancy
- In Case You Missed
- Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
Gamers, as a collective, are a fairly elitist bunch. We’ve got discerning tastes, certainly, but we’re also incredibly impressionable. We can be very difficult to please, and even if a game ticks all the right boxes it might be overlooked because it finds itself hitting the shelves alongside the latest Rockstar title, or the new Call of Duty. As a result, some games suffer from low sales and critical ostracism through no fault of their own.
Some games just can’t catch a break.
But many titles relegated early to the bargain bin are actually worthy of a look-in. In defence of the titles that we feel deserve more love, Made2Game shines a beacon upon these unfairly-overlooked or unnecessarily-bullied titles, and champion them for no other reason than that we think they deserve a little love from the community. So read on, dear reader, in case you missed…
TOM CLANCY’S GHOST RECON: SHADOW WARS
Developer: Ubisoft Romania
Metacritic Score: 77/100
Do we agree? It’s a borderline 8/10 in our opinion
Why did no one play it? Released as a launch title for the 3DS, it wasn't not exactly the ‘killer app’ that would have convinced people to pick up a brand new console.
So what is it?
A top-down, grid-based, turned-based strategy game inspired by the Tom Clancy Ghost Recon series. Designed by X-Com creator Julian Gollop, Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars (or GR:SW as I will refer to it as from now on instead, of its pointlessly long title) sees you controlling a squad of six characters with the usual military skills from Medics to Engineers and so forth, through various locales around Eastern Europe in search of WMD’s and terrorists and the usual Tom Clancy nonsense.
Each character has a certain skill or talent that needs to be used correctly on the battlefield in order to outwit the enemy, meaning good strategic use of strengths and weaknesses is key to winning the war on terror and upholding freedom and whatnot. For example, Heavy Gunner Richter can soak up plenty of damage from enemies and has the ability to return fire at 100% damage. A good use for him then involves parking him at the forefront of the group, deflecting fire from weaker members of the team. However, his downside is that he can only move a very limited amount of tiles, meaning that to use him as a battering ram slows up the entire tactical operation; a problem if time is figuratively against you - as this is a turn-based game, the notion of time is somewhat flexible in comparison to the tick-tock-tick-tock monotony of our predictable reality.
Twinned with someone like sniping-extraordinaire Haze (that's sniping as in shooting, by the way; there’s no bitterness between the Ghost Recon guys and girls), who can fire from great distance but is defenceless when close up and cannot return fire, there are a number of tactical decisions to be made at any one time. With each level requiring you to either use all squad members or choose a four-person squad from six, GR:SW is a game that rewards forward planning and successfully balancing a number of problems at any one time.
Why do we like it?
With so many games now concentrating on cinematic action, huge explosions and thinly-veiled sexism, it’s a pleasant change to be able to play a game that allows you to take your time and think things through at your own pace. The presence of Julian Gollop is apparent too, with the basics of the game feeling very solid and well thought-out. GR:SW is clearly a well realised and well put together game.
Graphically, it’s perhaps not the greatest looker, but everything is functional and clear, which means a lot for this type of game and there are some nice touches in terms of how characters react and use the correct weapons when attacking. The characters are small on-screen, but nothing ever gets too muddled up, and the inability to stack characters on the same tile actually works in its favour as you can always clearly see where your team are; and indeed the positioning and amount of enemies you are up against.
The difficulty level is also decently balanced, slowly adding more and more tactical options to your armoury through experience stars dished out at the end of each mission for you to upgrade your teams’ skills. It’s fun to play about with the various guns and gadgets you can adorn your characters with, and it’s all presented in such a way that you never feel overwhelmed by your choices. The same goes for the actual missions – there’s a pleasantly demanding difficulty curve to proceedings, but it never feels that the odds are stacked too firmly against you.
So what’s the problem?
There’re quite a few little niggles with GR:SW, mostly to do with the setup of the controls – there’s a general whiff that it wasn’t originally designed for the 3DS. As mentioned previously, the graphics are pleasant but hardly the next generation of loveliness that everyone expected from the 3DS. The 3D effect is good, but does feel a little tacked-on and adds little to the experience. Similarly, GR:SW almost dismisses the circle pad completely, instead making you control all the action with the less comfortably-placed D-Pad. Whilst the view can be slightly shifted with the circle pad to get different angles of the battlefield (which admittedly can be quite useful), it seems like a peculiar omission that it can’t be used as the primary input.
Even stranger, the 3DS’ touch screen is almost completely unused, which struck me as odd – after all, what game could be better suited to a stylus-based touchscreen than a slow-paced, grid-based top-down strategy game? Although the controls generally work very well, I was initially taken aback by what appeared to be such an archaic control scheme.
There are a few more elements that could have benefitted from a bit more TLC, such as the rubbish storyline and somewhat repetitive sound effects, but that would be to ignore the huge elephant in room, which is simply that GR:SW is not a launch title for a new console. A new console needs its games to wow and astonish its audience with great graphics and fresh gameplay to show off the possibilities of what can be done; unfortunately, by being a solid and well made, but ultimately derivative, strategy game, GR:SW was never going to offer enough to convince people to fork out on what was a £230 luxury item at time of release.
Why should you bother?
Of course, with the 3DS now hovering around the £150 mark and with the ‘killer apps’ of various Mario and Zelda games, along with a new Kid Icarus game and 3rd party draws such as Resident Evil: Revelations now freely available, it is a much better time to be a 3DS gamer after the overpriced and largely game-free release.
Despite no fault of the actual game, GR:SW suffered from being released at completely the wrong time. With 2nd-hand copies of the game now floating about for around £10 though, it is an excellent time to pick up this seriously fun little strategy game. While it’s unlikely to blow your mind, GR:SW will easily suck up a fair few lunch breaks with its fun blend of strategy and tactics, and perhaps even remind you of the hardcore military origins of the series before it became tactics-lite and more action-focussed.
Words by David Harrison (Twitter: @sealofmadness)
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