Published By: Microsoft Game Studios, Developed By: Epic Games, Genre: Action, Release Date: December 13, 2011, Rating: M, Systems: Xbox 360, Price: $15.00.
Presentation – Now this is how DLC should be done. Instead of making a few new maps or side mission DLC Epic Games decided to give us (me in this case) something that is actually worth playing. RAAM’s Shadow DLC is an action packed three hour single player story campaign that is a prequel to Emergence Day via from Gears of War lore. If you ever wanted to see what Sera was like before E-Day you can now. If you always wanted to play as the badass Kryll manipulating General RAAM you can now. If you wanted to see why Jace Strattin became a Gear you can with RAAM’s Shadow DLC. If you always wanted to see what it looked like from the satellite’s perspective regarding the Hammer of Dawn you can now. Asides from the great story campaign you automatically unlock Zeta squad members for multiplayer and Beast Mode.
Amongst the characters you get are the balding cigar smoking roughneck protagonist of RAAM’s Shadow, Michael Barrick along with Minh Young Kim (remember him?) and Alicia Valera. The presentation of RAAM’s Shadow is about as good as it gets for DLC. I would’ve liked the campaign to have been much more longer then three hours but that ain’t gonna happen. I can’t complain too much regarding the presentation since i got it for cheap with my Gears of War 3 Season Pass. To sum up the presentation for RAAM’s Shadow i would have to just say it was an interesting thrill ride and made me go “hmm” quite a bit. Not many DLC’s are truely interesting regarding backstory and lore. This one really was.
Story – *Spoilers* RAAM’s Shadow starts four hours prior to the Kryll Storm taking over Lima city. The story revolves around Zeta squad and the opening moments of Emergence Day. The start of the story is about evacuating Lima due to the Kryll Storm. General RAAM led an offensive attack to create a Kryll Storm over the city to speed up the process. To do this RAAM used a Tremer to bring up Seeders around/ underneath Lima. When the Kryll blots out the sun it will mean the deaths of all living beings in Lima. Zeta squad consists of Michael Barrick, Tai, Minh Young Kim and Alicia Valera. Jace Stratton does join by the end of the campaign. Early into the campaign you use the Hammer of Dawn Command Center to take out emerging Locusts and Reavers.
Zeta squad also runs into a Brumak early that i had to help take out. Later into the campaign the story transitions into trying to track down Dr. Wisen who apparently is Jace’s father figure and principal of the Lima Highschool. As Zeta makes their way through Lima’s streets, buildings, high schools and construction sites they make there way towards the orphanage where Dr. Wiser along with a group of kids are stranded. Boss fight during the trek include an Elite Theron Guard who harnesses Kryll powers like RAAM. You do end up fighting RAAM at the end of the game as expected. He rides a special Reaver that spits ink and throws Kryll at Zeta squad. You hit him enough he falls to the ground where he is vulnerable. RAAM ends up killing Valera who tries to save Jace Stratton from the clutches of General RAAM. It ended up getting her killed and Jace joins Zeta squad because of Alicia’s sacrifice.
As the evac chopper lands near the orphanage and people were leaving Kim stayed behind andwas about to kill RAAM who was trapped and in a weakened state. As Kim approached RAAM Barrick dragged Kim to the chopper for evac. Yep Kim actually could have killed RAAM but listened to Barrick instead which ultimately ends up sealing Kim’s fate. I really did enjoy the story for this DLC because it all made sense. The characters were good as well led by Michael Barrick who actually hates the COG. He mentions Operation Lifeboat to Kim and how the COG left him to die only to end up being forced to join them.
Visuals – The visuals look pretty much like Gears of War 3′s campaign (not a bad thing right)? What impressed me the most was the transformation Lima went through from the beginning to the end of the game. The beginning of RAAM’s Shadow the sky was clear and buildings looked in pristine condition. It was nice to actually see what Sera was like before E-Day. You ever wanted to see what clean non rusted out cars looked like in Gears of War? They were everywhere in the opening moments of this DLC.
However, that all changed once the Locust started emerging all over the city. Throughout the campaign huge buildings were destroyed and fires raged throughout Lima. The sky darkened with Kryll over time as the inevitable was approaching. The lighting in the Highschool was particularly good. I also liked how the fire looked blazing throughout Lima Savings and Trust during the bank sequences. The bank vault is where you find Jace Stratton for the first time. Graphically its solid and for the most part it ran good also.
Sound – Not really much to add here. The sound is all vintage Gears of War. The voice actors for Barrick, Kim, Tai, Valera and Jace Stratton were good. There were times when chemistry between them was shown as Barrick would crack a joke and Tai and Valera would start laughing. Its all during E-Day which makes it more memorable. The music during the credits was exactly the same from Gears of War 3′s ending with the orchestra tune followed by Ice T and Bodycount.
Gameplay – The newest gameplay addition starts during the opening moments of the game. You man the Hammer of Dawn Command Center. The view is the only thing different featuring a top down view like something you see from Call of Duty sequences. There were a few instances where you use the Command Centers to reign down destruction on Locusts and Reavers. The last being the Capital Building of Lima. There is an achievement for kiling a certain number of locust with the Hammer of Dawn Command Center. I would have to say the biggest draw for me atleast to play Gears of War 3: RAAM’s Shadow was to play as RAAM himself.
It was awesome if i can be frank! Playing as RAAM made me feel like the ultimate badass killing machine. Using the LT + RT-(leave down) and LS (to aim) you can send Kryll to annihilate multiple Gears at once. Its called Kryll Finger. The Kryll have an energy bar like the Hammer of Dawn. Sending out Kryll to kill leaves RAAM vulnerable. You can only use them for so long till the gauge depletes. The Kryll also have the ability to protect RAAM at all times except during explosions. RAAM also uses a huge blade you can cut down Gears with one hit by using the B button. You do get to play multiple sequences as RAAM throughout the campaign and everytime it was a blast.
The last time you play as RAAM you actually take on a group of the fabled Onyx Guards. There is full four player co-op during RAAM’s Shadow. I actually created an open lobby on Xbox Live and had people dropping in and out all game. As far as shooting and the few set pieces go it was all good. You get to use all of the new guns from Gears of war 3′s campaign. I would say the best set piece moment came when Zeta squad had to shoot down pillars of a huge building to kill Seeders blocking a Gears caravan. The entire building came crashing down it looked wild. The most memorable mini boss fights included a Berzerker that you had to light on fire (then shoot) to kill. A Giant Serapede in the men’s locker room at Lima Highschool.
Replayability – RAAM’s Shadow lasted me just over 3 hours on normal difficulty. There isn’t any real collecting to be done in this DLC. There are achievements of course. I earned just two, “Finger of Doom” and “Welcome to Zeta”. Asides from the normal campaign that can be played with 4 players you also have the Arcade version of RAAM’s Shadow as well. There are five chapters in the game: 1. Evacuation, 2. Darkness Spreads, 3. Hide and Seek, 4. under the Shadow, 5. Kryll Storm. Don’t forget you also get the three Zeta squad members for multiplayer and Beast Mode usage. For $15.00 i still would have liked to see more content thrown in. The great story campaign in my opinion makes up for alote.
Final Verdict – RAAM’s Shadow is special DLC in my opinion for the fact its not another map pack or a tacked on single player side mission DLC. Its actually something that is not only pertinent to Gears of War lore but also a blast to play. Thanks for reading.