Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars review: Shadow Wars is a turn-based tactical combat game that'll be instantly familiar to fans of Advance Wars.
The story is a surprising mix of Clancy-realism and Advance Wars-cute. An ultra-nationalist Russian political party is sabotaging the President's popularity. When oil interests are compromised, and mysterious attacks start happening, it's obvious they're the ones behind it.
There are some unexpectedly fun hero characters. Mint and Banshee have a strangely child-like relationship, with rookie engineer Mint constantly blurting over the radio, while Banshee, the camouflaged special ops character, tells him to shut up.
Although it plays very similarly to the games it stylishly apes, a few things set Shadow Wars apart. Maps are spread over three heights, and every level gives you a 10% damage bonus or penalty over the one below or above.
Line Of Fire
You'll also need to watch out for line of sight - most weapons can only be fired on a square with a clear view of the target. It sounds intuitive, but there are a couple of quirks - in some situations, you appear to be able to shoot through buildings.
You also need to be aware of return fire and support fire. Fire on a harmless unit with two gunners nearby and, even if you kill him, the gunners can fire back in retaliation. Your team has ways around that - Haze avoids retaliation because his long-range sniper rifle keeps him out of danger. Banshee's optical camouflage means she can't be shot unless an adjacent enemy has "revealed" her, and Mint can set up a turret to take the flak.
Both Richter and Duke can offer return and support fire themselves, so making them part of a spearhead with Saffron on healing duties means you get several devastating shots per turn. The different characters really gel together well, and the whole system keeps your brain on its, erm, toes - without ever being needlessly complicated.
Some maps have Command Flags. Take control of these to earn a point per flag per turn, and cash these in for Command Powers. Unlike Advance Wars' Command Powers, which activated without real cause, you have to earn Shadow Wars' Command Powers, and they're not so imbalancing. Add Power Points to your team refresh a unit and let it act again, or call in a massively damaging airstrike.
Other sub-mission maps make you select three or four characters to take into the map. It's a great bit of variety, not least because the turns can get fussy and overlong if you've picked up a collection of local rebels and weak police force.
The 3D effect is gentle and pretty understated. You'd think characters would take it in turns to hurl each other at the player, but it's all subtle.
While Shadow Wars is heavily inspired by similar games, it has its own personality and style, and counts as Ubisoft's strongest title in the rush to get 3D games out.
Want to see the game in action? Here's a Ghost Recon 3D trailer.