Gears of War 3: RAAM’s Shadow DLC Review
Chainsaws, exploding headshots, torque bow bolts that liquefy their targets — Gears of War has always been a bloody affair, and you might have felt like a bad-ass in the past as you sliced an enemy in half or snapped a grenade onto his back and watched him run screaming before everything above the knees disappeared in a fine red mist.
But those weapons are nothing compared to some of the power wielded by the franchise’s original Big Bad, a towering Locust monster-guy called General RAAM. And the main selling point of a big new chunk of Gears of War 3 campaign DLC, RAAM’s Shadow, is that you get to play as one of the franchise’s epic final bosses.
Gears of War 3: RAAM’s Shadow: Xbox 360 (reviewed)
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Epic Games
Released: Dec. 13, 2011
MSRP: $14.99 (1,200 MS Points)
RAAM’s Shadow is a pretty massive add-on to the single-player campaign of Gears of War 3, but really, it’s a new look at the entire franchise. It’s not all RAAM — you actually play mostly as a group of Coalition of Ordered Governments soldiers called Zeta Squad — but it is set waaay back before the beginning of everything we’ve ever seen in a Gears game. Gone are the most notable characters, like brooding Marcus Fenix, the immutable Augustus Cole and the loyal-but-a-bit-of-a-downer Dom Santiago. We’re thrown in with a new group and a new mission, back to the early days of the war with the Locust.
While the story takes place back before the veritable end of the world for the Gears’ franchise’s planet Sera, don’t expect to gain any real new insights or to recast the greater story with a new lens. You play as RAAM a few times, but you don’t learn anything about him. You see new COG characters, but beyond their brief interactions, you don’t get much else out of them. But the story of RAAM’s Shadow does pretty well as an encapsulated moment of trying to save civilians from certain destruction (and not necessarily succeeding too well). Better than that, it successfully brings us back to the mindset of Gears 1 and everything that that entailed — a war you were losing, the imminent destruction of a human city, and soldiers with a lot of emotional baggage in tow and monsters to shoot in hopes of saving whatever other people they can.
The primary main character in RAAM’s Shadow is Michael Barrick from the Gears of War comics, with the mission of effecting the evacuation of the capital, Ilima City. It’s about to be overrun with the Locust’s darkness-loving flying flesh-shredding monsters, the Kryll. The Locust are actually using this black ink stuff to block out the sun and bring about the city’s destruction even earlier, but for the time being, you get to play through an urban Gears environment before it is utterly destroyed. That gives us a look at Sera in a way we’ve never really gotten but which has always been implied — that the destruction wrought by war wasn’t from one side or the other, but from both. Sera’s cities were destroyed as much by the COG and its weapons as by the Locust, and Ilima City is beginning to burn around you even as you try to save its remaining inhabitants.
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