Gears of War 3: RAAMs Shadow DLC Review

The first major DLC release for Gears of War 3 finally hit a few weeks ago (Yes, I’m ignoring the Horde Command Pack DLC), with RAAMs Shadow.  This campaign DLC takes players back to the point in time right after Emergence Day only instead of seeing the familiar faces of Marcus and Dom, you’ll be picking up the lancer rifles of Zeta Squad.  Gears of War villain, General RAAM, also returns and better yet, players finally get to take down COG soldiers as the big man. With a new campaign story lasting around 3 hours, more multiplayer skins, new achievements, and a new weapon skin, is RAAMs Shadow worth your time or should it be curbstomped?

Full review after the jump…

Serving as a prequel to the first Gears of War, RAAMs Shadow picks up not too long after Emergence Day, as General RAAM and the Locust Horde move to take over Illima City by blacking out the sky and unleashing a Kryllstorm to ravage the surviving humans.  Replacing Marcus, Dom and the rest of Delta is Zeta Squad made up of newcomer Alicia Valera, Gears of War vet Minh Young Kim, Gears of War 2’s Tai Kaliso, and comic book protagonist Michael Barrick.  You’ll also come across a young, pre-COG Jace Stratton along the journey as well.

This DLC is almost a throwback to the first game as you’ll be trying to close emergence holes as they open around you, searching buildings for survivors, and also hearing a woman over your earpiece like Anya used to do for Delta Squad.  It’s all serves as a great reminder to how things used to be.  Though things can get a little dicey when you don’t have any grenades to close those holes. The story is wonderful here as well, as Zeta Squad is constantly fighting the clock in rescuing who they can while trying to evac themselves before the building Kryllstorm hits the city.  It provides a tense atmosphere and it’s equally unnerving to see the sky become darker and darker as the DLC chugs on.

The real draw for the DLC is being able to play as the General in a couple of the chapters.  It’s a lot of fun inspiring fear and basically going on a power trip as you lay waste to pretty much everything around you.  RAAM has two attacks, one being a knife charge which is very similar to the retro bayonet charge, and the other is known as “Kryll Finger” which sees RAAM shoot a bunch (flock?) of Kryll at a target and is able to guide them around for a short time.  They make quick work of any enemies but will leave RAAM vulnerable as they also act as his bullet shield.  After a quick recharge, the Kryll return to you and can be sent out again.  While playing as RAAM does make you overpowered, I can honestly say, I had a ton of fun and didn’t mind that I was nearly unstoppable.  He also has one of the craziest executions of any character in the series.  Hold down the ‘Y’ button next to a downed enemy and you’ll see what I mean.

I will stay the story was very compelling and kept me wanting to continue on, but the biggest downside is the fact that it’s a prequel.  Being 3 games in at this point, we know what happens to some of these characters, especially General RAAM.  Being such, fighting him at the end, while extremely fun, kind of took the surprise out of it because we know he can’t die in this.  The same theory doesn’t apply to the other new characters here so there still manage to be some surprise and wonder at what (if anything) will happen to them.  Don’t expect any major story revelations either as you’ll be disappointed.  This DLC is pretty much a self contained story and won’t affect the exploits of Delta Squad in any way.

One thing that really surprised me was the lack of collectables.  Any veteran Gears player remembers hunting for those hidden COG tags and other pieces of memorabilia around levels.  None of that is here in RAAMs Shadow and I for one actually don’t mind that.  I found that instead of walking down every dead-end corridor and looking around every object, I was able to focus more on the story and gorgeous environment.  So even though it kills the replayability, I don’t actually mind it.  Also, there are some tedious sections of levels like dealing with waves of tickers in a congested room or fending off a frenzy of wretches.  Not as fun as fighting the actual locust drones in a more open area.

The overall DLC pacing is really well done, with three COG levels and 2 RAAM levels mixed in between each.  The dialogue is what you’d expect with Barrick having some cheesy macho man lines the series is known for balanced with Kim’s professionalism and Tai’s Zen like lines.  Valera isn’t really that memorable as the other three and I have to admit, it’s cool seeing Jace’s beginnings in here as well.  The pacing is handled with care as you race against the clock looking for survivors and trying to undermine RAAMs plans.  You’ll get a distinct Gears of War vibe as you move around different buildings in the city and the high school is a big standout for me as it’s extremely creepy and will have you on edge of your seat.  There are a few boss battles mixed in here that are well designed and fun including the last battle with RAAM himself. 

I’ll just mention this real quick as well.  From a continuity standpoint, it was kind of odd seeing the new weapons of Gears of War 3 littered around the battlefield.  You’ll be able to use Retro Lancers and Sawed Off Shotguns quite a bit in addition to fighting new enemies like Serapedes.  Honestly, it’s not a huge deal at all, just something interesting that I noticed considering this stuff didn’t get added in until Gears of War 3.

Overall, if you’re a Gears fan or love third person cover based action, RAAMs Shadow is worth a download.  It gives you some interesting back story to a different event in the Gears universe, adds cool moments like using the Hammer of Dawn command post, tense boss fights, and the ability to cause some destruction with General RAAM himself.  It’ll also allow you Gears vets to relive the old days with destroying e-holes and the building hoping nature of the first game.  Sure it does have a few quirks mentioned above like tedious enemy choke points, continuity/prequel issues, and no major story reveals, it’s still a ton of fun to play and that’s what’s important here.  It’ll also run you about 3 hours which for DLC isn’t bad at all.  Now that we got to play as RAAM, here’s to more alternate Gears events featuring General Skorge.  Ah, we can dream can’t we?

RAAMs Shadow gets 4 Krylls, out of 5

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