There’s really only one question you need to ask yourself when deciding whether or not to pick up Gears 3′s latest DLC… why wouldn’t you want to jump at the chance of playing as ol’ big bad scaly face himself, General RAAM, and use the awesome might of the Locust to help put an end to those COG do-gooders? Exactly.
Alternating control between RAAM and Zeta squad (a new Gears team made up of half new and half familiar characters), RAAM’s Shadow is a 2.5 hour mini-campaign that expands upon the devices found within Gears 3′s Beast mode, offering players the first opportunity to play as a team of Locust within a Gears campaign.
The story takes you back to the start of the series, pitting players in the role of Zeta squad as they evacuate civilians of Sera’s city of Ilima just prior to the events of the original Gears of War, before switching sides to play as RAAM and his legion of cronies ordered to stop them. We all know how it’s going to end, of course: RAAM can’t die. But it’s Epic’s well-executed structure which sees the two warring factions gradually come closer and closer together that makes RAAM’s Shadow a compelling campaign.
After three full campaigns playing as the Gears, controlling hulking great baddie RAAM and his squadron of Locust is obviously the more interesting of the two factions, with his abilities offering a great alternative to Gears’ standard cover shooting. Raam has two methods of attack: his Kryll Finger, which directs an army of the razor-winged bats towards whichever COG you’re pointing at, and a powerful knife charge identical to the Retro Lancer’s stab attack. Both are immensely satisfying to use (in our opinion, nothing beats turning the good guys into a puff of red mist using the Kryll), but their novelty can begin to wear off once you realise RAAM lacks the depth and control offered by Gears’ typical cover-based gunplay.
Even the Zeta sections can eventually begin to wane, mainly due to their overly repetitive design and dire dialogue. New mechanics like controlling the Hammer of Dawn using a new top-down ‘command centre’ view can help switch up the pace, but they’re criminally short-lived, taking up around two minutes of play time throughout the entire campaign.
Objectives outside of the final boss fight can often extend to nothing more than wave-based killing sprees, with the reuse of Gears 1′s emergence holes throughout gifting Epic the opportunity to be lazy in its mission design. By the time the credits roll you’ll definitely realise that the short length of the campaign is somewhat of a blessing in disguise.
Epic has more than enough mechanics to keep dragging you back in, though. Seeing the Gears 1 universe in a Gears 3 settings offers a superbly nostalgic backdrop to the fight, and it is an excellent premise thwarted by sub-standard mission design; an adventure that has thrilling highs, but too many dull and tedious low-points.
In addition to the campaign, RAAM’s Shadow includes six new characters for use within the game’s multiplayer, 10 new achievements worth 250 gamerscore and an exclusive ‘Chocolate’ weapon skin set.
It’s the structure and sheer premise of RAAM’s Shadow, then – the invitation to play as RAAM, and play what is effectively a Gears 1 sub-campaign within the Gears 3 engine – that makes this DLC one of the more interesting campaigns in Gears of War’s history. Epic’s reliance on lazy wave-based gameplay can eventually start to grate and you’ll have it finished within an evening’s worth of play, but if you’re desperate for more Gears, RAAM’s Shadow is a worthwhile expansion to one of the Xbox 360′s top shooters.
This article was originally published in Issue 62 of 360Zine.
Tags: Gears of War 3
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