The Price of Entry
Following the acclaimed success of Gears of War 3, Epic Games has made good on its promise to continue supporting the game by making plans to release a guaranteed four major DLC updates. The second of these four, titled RAAM’s Shadow, officially went live on December 13th and with it Epic hopes to appease fans of both the Gears story and campaign as well as its various multiplayer modes. So is the newest Gears 3 DLC worth your time and money?
When the first Gears 3 DLC, the Horde Command Pack, went live in early November, it was met with a mostly positive reception but one critique fans had was the amount of content it contained when balanced against its $10 cost. Naturally this raised further concern when RAAM’s Shadow was set at nearly double that price but Epic strove to ensure that the second DLC would be worth every penny. Featuring an all new five-chapter story campaign, several new single-player and multiplayer achievements, six new multiplayer characters, and an exclusive weapon-skin pack, it is hard to argue that Epic has made up for whatever was lacking in the first DLC and then some.
A Blast from the Past
The story campaign of RAAM’s Shadow takes players back in time to events prior to Gears of War 1 and introduces them to a variety of both new and familiar faces as they step into the shoes of C.O.G.’s Zeta Squad during the evacuation of Ilima City. The most recognizable of these faces will no doubt be Lieutenant Minh Young Kim of Gears 1 fame and Tai Kaliso, the spiritual warrior who briefly hooked up with Marcus Fenix and crew in Gears 2. Rounding out Zeta squad are Alicia Valera, a female C.O.G. with a personal stake in the war against the Locust, and Michael Barrick, a former Stranded who was first introduced in the various Gears graphic novels but whose presence in Zeta Squad marks his first appearance in the Gears games.
Kim and Tai aren’t the only characters fans will recognize either. For the first time in Gears history, RAAM’s Shadow makes good on its name by allowing players to experience sections of the story through the eyes of a Locust; or to be more specific, the eyes of the terrifying General RAAM as he sows destruction in the name of Queen Myrrah. These brief segments, in which players get to decimate C.O.G. soldiers and barricades using directed Kryll swarms and powerful melee attacks, are certainly some of the most memorable and fun of the entire campaign and they offer a nice contrast to the struggles of Zeta Squad.
Setting the Stage
While it isn’t nearly as long as the main Gears 3 campaign, the story of RAAM’s Shadow does offer a few interesting insights into the war between the C.O.G. and the Locust as well as plenty of fierce firefights and a few memorable set-pieces. From a tense battle up multiple levels of a partially collapsed parking garage, being stalked by an unknown threat through the halls of an abandoned high-school, and even having to stave off a siege against city hall, RAAM’s Shadow has plenty of action to get a player’s blood pumping.
The story campaign also strives to elicit a strong sense of nostalgia for fans of earlier Gears games not just with the return of past characters but also with smaller nuances such as the dreaded “E-Holes” from Gears 1 (make sure to stock up on grenades) and the return of old foes like Nemecyst, Kryll, and Seeders. These elements, when juxtaposed against the mostly intact city and buildings, manage to really drive home just how far the series, as both a game and a story, has come. While the time players spend with Zeta Squad is brief, it still manages to conjure up the same feelings of loss, pride, and camaraderie that made the series’ standard campaigns such a hit.
A Perfect Union
While RAAM’s Shadow may not be as expansive or epic in scope as the trials and tribulations of Marcus Fenix and co., it is still a rather well-done narrative that fans of the Gears fiction won’t want to miss. Even better, once the campaign has been finished, players can take many of the main characters from the story, including the entirety of Zeta Squad as well as RAAM, into the Gears 3 multiplayer modes to wreak havoc on (or with) fellow players. Once again Epic has proven that it can craft a rather well-done story and put it in a package that allows players to find their inner C.O.G. soldier whether it’s against the Locust or against each other.
The game has something for everyone with an expansive story campaign, new multiplayer features, and several new achievements.
Players hoping for a lengthy story might be disappointed as the entire campaign can be finished in a sitting or two.