Story-wise Shadow Wars ploughs the familiar Tom Clancy furrow, pitting squeaky-clean Americans against a collection of sinister (and balding) Russian Ultranationalists. It's daft stuff, but at least the villains' cutscenes benefit from growly bear imagery and some pleasingly pompous music. The plot's primary purpose here is to drive your next assignment, and in this regard the game succeeds in throwing up a decent spread of scenarios. You'll start out in small-scale tussles against Kazakh bandits, but before long you'll be taking on grander tasks - protecting besieged gas pipelines, ambushing convoys and blowing up secret bases. There's a steady sense of progression, with missions swelling from 15-minute jaunts into sprawling escapades that take the best part of an hour.
As your duties grow in complexity, so too do the strategic demands placed upon you. It's easy to tear through the opening levels without much thought, but by the third chapter of the campaign you'll be dealing with a deep set of considerations, both on and off the battlefield. Cover and elevation both have a subtle but significant effect on battles, while capturing control points can unlock airstrikes and other support for your troops. At the end of each mission you'll also get the chance to upgrade your chosen specialists, adding a further level of tactical play into the mix. These features are hardly new, or even that unexpected, but their combined effect results in an engaging and moreish strategy game.
Shadow Wars' only major weakness is that it largely ignores the secondary functions of the 3DS. StreetPass goes unused, nor is there any fancy way of using the gyroscope to whirl about the map, or something equally silly. It's easier to criticise the lack of online options, although there's still a solid multiplayer option that allows two players to battle each other on one console, passing the machine back and forth. Given the game's turn-based nature, this is arguably a more efficient setup than Download Play - for local competition, at any rate. Even the use of 3D itself is relatively subtle, daubing the environment with an extra level of "ooh-look-you-can-see-right-down-that-air-vent". In short, it's fairly obvious that this was originally planned as a vanilla DS release.
All the same, a good game is a good game. If you've bought your 3DS to show off its new-fangled gadgetry, you might do better to pick up one of the other launch titles. But if, heaven forefend, you might actually want to actually play something fun, or something that requires a bit of thought, look no further. For all its lack of 3D showboating, Shadow Wars offers genuine depth.