Gears of War 3: RAAM’s Shadow Review
Game: Gears of War 3: RAAM’s Shadow
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Available on: Xbox 360 only
The first bit of campaign DLC for Epic’s epic Gears of War 3 is titled RAAM’s Shadow. Of course, the Gears diehards will remember General RAAM as the big, ugly guy from the very first game who was Queen Myrrah’s (the head of the locusts) right-hand man; her go-to-guy if you will.
In RAAM’s Shadow, you take on the role of Michael Barrick in Zeta squad, Emergence Day has just happened and you and your merry bunch of COGs must evacuate the city known as Ilima before the eventual kryllstorm from the locusts. On top of that, players get to take control of the uber-locust, RAAM, himself. A prequel to the events of Gears of War 1 and something that all lancer-loving, Cliffy B enthusiasts would enjoy I’m sure, but it’s not all plain sailing.
Firstly, there are 4 characters within Zeta squad, as per the normal Gears squad rules, and most have been seen before in some shape or form. The main protagonist Michael Barrick was in the Gears comics, Tai Kaliso was in Gears of War 2, Lieutenant Minh Young Kim was in the original game and Alicia Valera is a new addition to the Gears of War mythology. It’s safe to say that over 3 entire games we grew close to Delta and the personalities within it, so it’s hard for the player to have that same emotional attachment with the soldiers in Zeta. At the beginning of the game there is no real introduction as to who these people are, nor is there any reference to their past, you’re simply expected to know them. Now, if you’ve played the other Gears games, which, if you’re playing this, Epic assume you have, you’ll know Tai and Kim, but the others will go over your head and with Barrick being the one you control, that connection is lost unless you’ve read the comics. He does smoke a cigar while on the battlefield though, that does give him some points. Barrick plays the Marcus Fenix role pretty well, but there is always the feeling that you’re in control of Fenix-Light. Tai is the same spiritual being as he was in the second instalment and Kim upholds his straight-laced, by-the-book demeanour. Valera however is a very interchangeable female that seemed like an opportunity for Epic to just include a lady COG. All in all, the characters are nothing to shout from the rooftops about.
However, the main reason people come to this party is to get down with the big, burly kryll-master; General RAAM. It’s just a pity that this party is rather bland. RAAM was the ultimate badass from the original Gears of War and arguably the second most memorable villain in the Gears mythology. But playing as the general is terribly boring, and that goes for all of the elite locusts you can play as in those segments in co-op. At first, it’s cool, just going through the streets and becoming the powerhouse is a joy as you blow through barricades, COGs and whatever else comes your way. After a while though, it all becomes a bit too easy. RAAM is more or less indestructible, there is no challenge when playing through his sections and it becomes more like a chore to repeat certain patterns in those bits. RAAM is also limited in what he can do. He can’t sprint (aside from this charge attack), can’t go into cover and only has a few moves; he can attack with his knife and can command kryll to tear COG soldiers up. That’s probably his only redeeming feature, the kryll. The kryll act as your weapon as you direct them to fly toward a soldier and tear them to pieces, but, similar to the initial reaction of just being RAAM, this wears thin as it becomes a fool-proof method for destruction. It’s a shame that those sections of the gameplay aren’t much fun as this is the main selling point for the entire DLC.
Certain inconsistencies are annoying too. As this is a prequel to the first game, you would be expecting either the same arsenal from Gears of War or maybe even slightly older, more antiquated weaponry which would give the experience that more realistic feel, chronologically. Sadly, it’s not the case as firearms such as the sawed-off shotgun, one-shot and retro lancer (which were first seen in Gears of War 3) show up. Going by Gears’ own lore, the retro lancer wasn’t used post Emergence Day. This goes with some enemies that didn’t appear until later games in the series too.
The gameplay is still right on the money though, when you assume the lancer of Michael Barrick. It is just more Gears and that isn’t a bad thing at all. The traditional gameplay sections of the game still feel as tight as ever and are reassuring, as Gears of War 3 is probably the best third person shooter out there. The environments are a throwback to Gears 1 with the more industrial looking aesthetic in the city of Ilima. The score also remains one of the best out there with its tension building pieces and the voice acting is pretty on point too; look, it isn’t Delta, but I’ve already told you about Zeta.
Not only do you get the campaign, which is meaty enough in its (approximately) 3 hour playtime, but there are a few other nice little additions in the RAAM’s Shadow package. There are six additional multiplayer skins, one new weapon skin and (for all the achievement fans out there) 250G worth of points for you to add to your Gamerscore. Four player co-op also returns, thankfully, and you can play the content in arcade mode.
VERDICT: Gears of War 3 was one of the best games of 2011, no doubt, and Gears of War is one of the best gaming series of all time, I also think it’s safe to say, but, at the end of the day, RAAM’s Shadow doesn’t pack the punch that it promises. The characters of Zeta squad are, for the most part, bland and playing as RAAM gets pretty boring quickly. However, Gears fans will enjoy it because, as I said, it is still Gears of War!