All of them can be upgraded throughout the course of the campaign as you award post-mission stars, boosting their health, or unlocking new perks, armour and weapons. They've all got names and very basic personalities, they do their best to banter, and if you lose any of them on a mission, it's back to the start.
The Ghosts may not have much in the way of character, but their abilities mesh well, and they're thrown into a game that has a range of clever systems in place to keep things interesting. Each unit can take a secondary weapon with them – one that comes with its own strengths and weaknesses – and you'll earn points through your battlefield duties that allow you to power up special attacks.
Shadow Wars just loves shoot-outs, and the design, as with X-Com, forces you to constantly evaluate terrain and vantage points. These elements, along with range, all have an effect on the impact of your weapons – and with houses to take cover in, lines of sight to exploit, and returning fire (certain units can shoot back after being attacked, and making the most of this system can often turn the tide of an encounter) you've got a pleasant number of variables to juggle as you head into battle.
On top of this, Shadow Wars' scenarios try their hardest to keep things fresh, sending you on simple seek-and-destroy missions one moment, letting you loose on more complex multi-stage objectives the next. Plenty of maps include capture points, which you must hold to unleash treats like air strikes, team power boosts, or the ability to give a selected unit two moves in any turn.
With a decent-sized campaign to slog through, there are one or two real tactical gems awaiting you, including a stand-out effort that sees you sweeping through a town and clearing out unseen hostiles while steadily eroding their ability to call in reinforcements. Indoor levels are not quite as good as outdoor stages – the terrain can lose its strategic richness as you're funnelled through corridors – but even then Shadow Wars will throw in a few optional objectives to stretch your squad. Along with sneaky AI (enemies will target weak team members and patch each other up) this is good, solid stuff.
Beyond the campaign, there are skirmish modes to unlock for some more puzzly standalone missions, and a hot-seat multiplayer mode that sees combatants passing a single 3DS back and forth. It's surprisingly enjoyable, but the 3DS' integrated Friends system calls out for something a little more ambitious. Maybe next time.
Shadow Wars makes for a relatively meaty handheld offering, then, but it's one that's slightly lacking in personality. Despite its tactical flourishes, the single-player runs out of most of its fresh ideas too early in the campaign, while the license, with its stoic US heroes and canny Russian baddies, means the developers (and this is hardly their fault) don't have too much leeway to add the kind of character, atmosphere or flair you could expect from an X-Com or an Advance Wars.
Despite that, Ghost Recon is undoubtedly a chunky, enjoyable addition to the 3DS line-up, and a slick if unspectacular strategy blast.
7 / 10