Review: Gears Of War 3: RAAM’s Shadow
RAAM decends on Llima in this fantastic prequel to Epic's phenominal shooter.
- Worth The Time?Certainly. Taking on the locust horde never gets old.
- Things LovedThe prequel gives a good sense of what the initial Locus attack was like, varied and new environments, a new squad of characters to bond with, lengthy and exciting campaign, tension and fear filled atmosphere returns, RAAM is just badass, chocolate carnage.
- Things HatedThe dialouge is not always strong, some logical issues, RAAM sections are way too easy, it's over before you want it to be.
- RecommendationAnyone who owns Gears of War 3 should pick up this expansion. Not only does a much loved comic Gear get his videogame debut, the campaign also serves a fantastic look at what the initial Locust attacks were like. Though there may be some logical issues when it comes to weapon and enemy appearances, these can easily be overlooked when Beserkers are popping out of nowhere, Wretches are stalking you and RAAM is just around the corner. If you haven't yet, buy this today. It's more Gears, so what could possibly go wrong?
- Name: Gears of War 3: RAAM's Shadow
- Genre: Third-Person Shooter
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: Splitscreen, Online Multiplayer
- Platforms: Xbox 360
- Developer: Epic Games
- Publisher: Microsoft Studios
- Price: 1200 MSP, Free with Season Pass
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Yes, this review is quite late, but I have an explanation. As many of you may know, I took a trip around China in December and discovered something unbelievable. Internet is even harder to come by there than it is here. It’s a true story, as well as having no Facebook or YouTube while abroad. Gaming news flew over my head, and so did a number of other important things. One of those things was in fact a code for RAAM’s Shadow, the latest expansion for Gears of War 3 that adds some more multiplayer characters, weapons, and, above all, a campaign which serves as a prequel to the entire series. While RAAM’s Shadow doesn’t put you in control of Delta squad once again, there are still more Locust to shoot, more Hammer strikes to rain down and…chocolate guns?
It’s just days after Emergence Day, also known as E-Day, has shocked and ravaged the world of Sera, as thousand of Locust rose from underground and began the mindless slaughter of all humans nearby. Evacuations have begun, and the city of Llima is next on the Locust hit list. Luckily, Zeta squad is present, overseeing the last of the evacuation transports leave and ensuring the safety of as many survivors as possible. You take control of Michael Barrick, a former Stranded with oppressive views on the COG and their governing body, who none the less fights alongside them for survival alone. Those of you who read the Gears of War comics should immediately recognise him, as well as Lt. Minh Young Kim from Gears of War 1, who appears way before General RAAM stuck his massive sword into his squishy bits. Along for the ride as well are Tai Kaliso, who made a short but meaningful appearance in Gears of War 2, and Alicia Valera, a newcomer to the series. The main, and biggest flaw with this entire DLC starts right here with Zeta squad unfortunately.
Unlike Delta squad, Zeta just doesn’t have the same type of chemistry. Granted, they only have around fours hours to show off their relationship as opposed to three whole games, but their dialouge and conversations often feel repetitive and generic, and occasionally bordering on bizarre. Kim and Barrick argue back and forth about the values of the COG, with Barrick taking the usual tone of “The COG just hurt their own”, and Kim coming back with “All for the greater good” type banter. Barrick does occasionally has some shinning moments, especially near the end where certain characters make return appearances. Tai is by far the most annoying of the lot, spitting out philosophical riddles one after another, often prompting Kim to translate it for the rest of the squad. It’s annoying, and really doesn’t add to anything that is going on. Thankfully, that’s mostly what’s wrong with RAAM’S Shadow, meaning that there’s still tons that’s done right.
The action begins almost immediately, and you’re quickly thrust into an explosive set piece that has you fighting on the back foot straight away. Set pieces and executed just as meticulously as every other entry, meaning that the memorable fire fights you’ve come to love get brand new additions. E-Holes make a prominent resurgence, bringing back a nostalgic feeling from the first game. Grenades hold more importance, and the feeling when you realise that you have none left with still three emergence holes left is a real rush. With no Lambent in sight, you’re back to fighting the classic, and better, Locust horde. What is quite surprising, and definitely welcomed, is the addition of more slower paced, tension filled sections that play more on anxiety and fear, just as the first game did with Wretches. These portions are some of the best the series has to offer, and having countless Wretches storm is truly terrifying, as it should be.
Across the long five chapters, Zeta will make it’s way through the progressively worsening Llima City, which is a nice change of scenery from what you’ve come to expect from Gears of War. Many building are still standing and mostly untouched, giving you the chance to explore and marvel at some of Sera’s greatest architecture. From a bank vault to a deserted high school, each of RAAM’s Shadow’s environments feel fresh and real, and not simply a copy/ paste effort with different encounters. The Kryll storm that takes place above is also dynamic, as darkness creeps closer and closer with each chapter, adding to the tension and giving a real glimpse into the final days of Llima.
Speaking of Kryll, they finally make a return in RAAM’s Shadow, along with the fearless Locust General RAAM. Probably the biggest selling point of this DLC was the ability to play as the feared General, and slaughtering COG soldiers is a real change of pace, and a hell of a lot of fun. While playing as RAAM, you’ll rarely have to worry about anything. A shield of living, moving Kryll will swarm around you, protecting you from everything expect explosions and fire. Point your finger at a poor, helpless COG, and your Kryll swarm will attack, devouring anything you wish. Along with that, RAAM also wields a massive blade, which you are able to swipe or rush with. Oh, and don’t forget about executions, especially RAAM’s. It’s brutal, gory and exactly what you’d expect from the most feared Locust ever. They only real disappointment with these sections is that they’re way too easy. Granted, the whole purpose of controlling RAAM was to experience just how powerful the General really was, but moving slowly from section to section, slaughtering waves of COG just feels like a short dose of horde mode rather than a campaign segment. Regardless, the sequences are fun, but don’t be to surprised if the novelty wears thin quickly.
Coupled with this are some odd logical issues that present themselves constantly throughout the campaign. While these little oddities won’t really bother most people, real Gears fans will surely pick up on them, and certainly raise an eyebrow while thinking, “Wait, wasn’t that only afterwards”. For instance, the Locust are all equipped with Hammerburst rifles, which only made their appearance in Gears of War 2. RAAM has to dodge COG armed with Oneshot’s, which only debuted in Gears of War 3. How do RAAM’s Kryll not die in the sunlight, especially after using a spotlight was the only way to disperse them at the end of Gears of War. These examples and a few more did catch my attention, but they never wrecked the experience for me, though those looking for an authentic Gears of War 1 type feel will be disappointed. It’s understandable that Epic Games chose to include all the weapons, because taking down a Kantus would not be the same with a Oneshot.
On top of all this single-player goodness, you are also able to tackle the entire campaign with friends in 4-player co-op. Chocolate gun skins now infiltrate your armory, as well as six additional characters for you to lay siege with, including RAAM, the Elite Kantus and Kim. There is really no excuse for any Gears fan to miss out on this package. Priced at 1200 MSP, you’ll feel that you’re money has been well spent, with an explosive campaign that is essentially more Gears of War time. And there is nothing wrong with that at all.