After three installments and throwing countless hours into the superbly old school multiplayer, I’ve got to admit, I was more than a little psyched for this release of downloadable content for Gears of War 3. The three hour long mini-campaign Raam’s Shadow takes you right back to the beginning, before the Lambent, before E-Day; back to when Dom had a wife, Marcus had… well… less of a scowl and before the real Locust /COG brouhaha erupted and ripped Sera apart.
You’ll play through as a member of Zeta Squad, a ragtag group of misfits comprised of something old, something new, something borrowed and… well, you get the gist. The squad is led by Minh Young Kim (from the original Gears of War) who is backed up by Michael Barrick (from the Gears comic books), Tai Kaliso (from Gears of War 2) and Alicia Valera an all-new character.
As things start to heat up between the Locust and the COG an incoming Krill Storm threatens to decimate the local populace and you’re part of a militarised evacuation operation. With four hours on the clock you’ll need to clear out survivors before the Krill wipe out anything with a heartbeat, and that’s not all you’ll have to contend with. There’s also the walking juggernaut General Raam to deal with, with a twist.
You see, not only will you have to incapacitate the monolithic monstrosity but also you actually get to play him. For the first time outside of multiplayer, Epic Games has flipped the script giving you the chance to wipe out scores of COG elite and Silverback riders as he clears a path for the Locust Queen and her hordes.
Raam (we’re on a first name basis now) plays more like a tank or steamroller. He’s not very agile, but ridiculously overpowered and can absorb a ton of damage. He has no need of wimpy little guns, preferring to impale foolish Gears on his massive dagger, grab and decapitate, or let loose his awesome Finger of Doom. Pointing at anything unfortunate enough to be in his way, Ramm can unleash a localised batch of Krill to tear enemies asunder.
His sections are incredibly fun to work through and give you an entirely different perspective on the conflict. If you’re hitting up four player co-op, you can also play as a Mauler backing up the general using your mighty shield to redirect incoming fire directly back to sender. On your travels you’ll also hook up with a young Jace Stratton and discover where the animosity between Minh and Raam all began.
The rest of the time you’ll be back battling a mish-mash of Locust from all three Gears of War releases. Emergence holes make a return bringing with them a significantly lower grenade count to balance out the lack of Lambent. Berserkers get a look in, as do Seeders, Tickers, Wretches, Elite Theron Guards and even Serapedes. The balance is just right, though non-Lambent Wretches fall in droves before the might of a readied chainsaw Lancer.
The pacing of this three-hour long mini-campaign is just right with an epic last stand against General Raam which is an interesting battle as you know he’s not going to die. The newish characters are great fun to play and offer a different pespective from the grief ridden Dom or gruff Marcus. Centering the plot around a young Jace and a local orphanage humanises the conflict and is more than a little confronting, especially when you witness the aftermath of a Locust ravaged school.
Grabbing Raam’s Shadow will set you back 1200 MS Points (AU$20-odd) unless you grabbed the Season Pass and is well worth the price of admission. There are also a bunch of Zeta Squad multiplayer skins and weapon skins to sweeten the deal. If you’ve been searching for a Gears of War fix, this DLC has got you covered, taking you back to before E-Day when humanity still had a chance and giving you a look through your enemy’s eyes.