Gears of War 3 players, let’s go back. Way back. . .all the way back to just after E-day. That’s where you’ll find yourself in RAAM’s Shadow, DLC numero dos for Gears of War 3.
As someone who doesn’t really care about multiplayer enough in general to get jazzed for map packs or new character skins, RAAM’s Shadow is perfect for a guy like me. This DLC is a three-hour chunk of campaign set before the events in the original Gears of War.
You play as Zeta squad made up of a couple old favorites (Lt. Minh Young Kim and Tai, my favorite mysterious shaman and face tattoo enthusiast from Gears 2) and two new fish: Alicia Velera (yay! another female character to help me towards my lady medal in MP!) and Barrick, whom I just refer to as “mutton-chops.”
RAAM’s Shadow starts with a siege setpiece where Old Mutton Chops and the rest of Zeta hold off a crap-ton of locusts. Mowing down waves of locusts with a turret, mortar, and Hammer of Dawn is a great way to start a campaign if you want my attention. That’s not to say the DLC is wall-to-wall action. In between visceral battles, there’s kind of a lot of walking. The campaign doesn’t feel padded per se, but there were a few moments where I said “aww, you want me to walk all the way over there?”
RAAM’s Shadow is clearly made using Gears 3 tech and sensibilities, but Epic takes pains to evoke the original Gears of War. As a longtime franchise fan I appreciated defending a circular fountain without a Lambent in sight. What can I say? I love plugging grub holes.
Then there’s RAAM. (Apparently pronounced “Rahm” not “Ram,” who knew?)
The RAAM sequences are a power fantasy where a ridiculously over-powered General RAAM kills puny humans. I never felt threatened and only died once from a lucky sniper round, but it’s not about challenge, it’s about turning a little COG bitch into hamburger with your Kryll shield or stabbing a dude with your giant Crocodile Dundee knife.
Playing co-op in the RAAM portions also affords some new toys. Player 2 gets a retro sawed-off shotgun, that means bayonet charges! Players 3 and 4 are maulers with reflective shields that reflect COG bullets back on them. Even if you’re not top dog RAAM, there’s something for everyone.
As for story, it’s not groundbreaking, but it delivers a fun side-story with a few insights into the Gears-i-verse. You get the backstory for a character that I didn’t really care about in Gears 3, but by the end of RAAM’s Shadow, I was thinking to myself, “you know what, kid, you’re alright…” And we finally know why the locust use seeders (those big things that look like Audry II from Little Shop of Horrors.)
RAAM’s Shadow is a worthy addition to the Gears of War 3 experience. It’s not as polished or tightly-paced as any comparable section of the Gears 3 campaign, but if you’re itching for a fresh reason to head back to Sera it’s a fine way to spend your Microsoft Points. I’ll take it over paying $15 for three Call of Duty maps any day of the week.
Gears of War 3: RAAM's Shadow is available now on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace.