When DLC was first introduced, I know that I wasn’t alone in being excited for the possibilities of extended single-player content. Most games take the easy route and add more online maps, skins and characters, but there are a few that dive into extending the story through this content. Gears of War 3 is the latest in this camp with their downloadable chapter, RAAM’s Shadow. Taking place before the events of the first game, this lengthy new chapter adds plenty more Gears action, and even a look into some events we never saw.
As the name implies, this DLC focuses on events before Emergence Day happened. There are five chapters, with three played as Zeta Squad, and the others allowing you to take control of RAAM. Zeta Squad is made up of a diverse group from several facets of the Gears franchise. You have Minh Kim from Gears 1, Tai from Gears 2 and a new character named Alicia Valera. The leader (and one you assume control of) is Michael Barrick, who is actually from one of the comic books. The dialogue between characters is typical Gears style, with cheesy one-liners and plenty of profanity.
While none of the characters stand well on their own, they do make a solid team. I wasn’t as attached as I was to say Dom or Marcus, but they do a nice job of fitting into the universe, and for the returning cast, a nice cameo. The story itself isn’t going to resolve any questions or concerns, but serves more as a catalyst to showcase some of the events that happen in the other games, including the origin of a certain character in the later games. It is a neat perspective, but the real treat is playing as RAAM himself.
As you can imagine, RAAM is massive in size. Once you take control, everyone else feels small by comparison. He also is a bullet sponge, taking tons of damage. This is likely to compensate for the fact that he cannot roll or take cover. Your weapons include a Kryll gun that fires a group of the creatures at enemies and obliterates them in seconds, and a knife that literally rips them in half. He is a beast to control and serves as more fan service than anything. Taking control of this massive enemy is tons of fun, even if you already know that he cannot die in this chapter.
This seems to be RAAM’s Shadow’s biggest setback. The story, while entertaining, never seems to get off the ground or offer up anything new. In fact, so much of the DLC is taken from what has been done before, just meshed in a different way. New enemies, such as Serapedes from Gears 3, show up here, as do weapons like the Retro Lancer. Combat harkens back to Gears 1, with Emergence Holes littering the fights. None of it is boring or lacking in action, it just feels like a rehash of all the ideas from the series without serving up one of its own; outside of RAAM, of course.
RAAM’s Shadow is a solid 3-4 hour romp that Gears fans will definitely enjoy. Whether you simply cannot get enough cover-based action, or you want a small piece of the story that was never told, you cannot go wrong with this content. The price is right for the amount of content, and Season Pass owners can download it for free. I am glad to see Epic creating content not just for online users, as I truly enjoyed tearing through this extension of the single player campaign.
Review copy of the game provided by publisher.