RAAM’s Shadow, the second piece of DLC for Gears of War 3, dropped on December 13 featuring a single-player/co-op campaign set just after Emergence Day. Starring Zeta Squad, composed of Lieutenant Kim from Gears 1 and Tai Kaliso from Gears 2 with two newcomers, RAAM’s Shadow offers a three-ish hour adventure with the opportunity to play as the titular Locust general, complete with Kryll shield and giant machete. Purchasers of the Season Pass may have gotten it as part of the deal, but what about those of us who didn’t go for the package offering?
It’s been a while since the DLC has dropped, so you’ll have to forgive me for that, but the experience I’ve had with it has made me realize that I wasn’t really missing much. Since the DLC is set years before Gears of War 1, you play on a Sera that has yet to be destroyed by the Hammer of Dawn and seeing a city in this world complete and intact is something unique, but the outdoor environments feel very sterile and “fake”, for lack of a better word. Gears of War has always nailed the “Destroyed Beauty” motif, so simply cleaning up all the rubble in the decor doesn’t make the world believable, it does the exact opposite. There are a few cool areas to fight through, like the bank vault which has stacks of money that catch fire and the school that really does look like a deserted evacuation center, but that’s about the extent of it.
There are no Lambent in RAAM’s Shadow, just you and hundreds of Locust to gun down. The difficulty in the DLC seems tweaked higher because on Hardcore the game throws the higher-tier Locust units at you without mercy, starting off with Reavers and Boomers and keeping that trend going throughout. Unfortunately, the protagonists of RAAM’s Shadow, Zeta Squad, aren’t nearly as endearing as Delta Squad. Even though two of the Gears in the squad are old hands to fans of the series, the DLC is so poorly written in comparison to the main game (Karen Traviss clearly didn’t have a hand in this) that even the classically macho dialogue is kind of embarrassing. Cigar-chomping Barrick spouts off terrible one-liners at every opportunity and the lone female in the squad, Alicia Valera, might as well be an Anya palette swap but with even less personality.
Even though Zeta Squad is not up to snuff, playing as General RAAM almost makes this DLC worth it. If you remember the General from Gears 1, he was a hulking brute of a Locust, bigger than even Boomers, carried a large black machete and commanded the airborne Kryll, tiny vermin with razor wings. Stomping around and destroying the city as RAAM doesn’t last very long, but there’s something cathartic about ramming his sword through a succession of faceless Gears and sending your Kryll swarm to shred people manning turrets. As short as his segments are, they are nice cleansers before getting back in the boots of Zeta.
RAAM’s Shadow is also fairly buggy, which surprised me given how consistently rock-solid the Gears games have been in campaign. Several cut-scenes just went black for me and one part of the game refused to load, meaning that I had to start the chapter over again, much to my chagrin. The whole DLC felt like it was running on a wing and a prayer, which added to the already apathetic feeling I had toward it.
If you got RAAM’s Shadow as part of the Season Pass, I hope you enjoyed it, but my recommendation for people looking for a little extra Gears campaigning is to steer clear. Multiplayer DLC is where the Gears series has always been the best, and RAAM’s Shadow did nothing to reverse that trend.
Has anyone else played RAAM’s Shadow? Did my experience match yours?