Gears of War 3: RAAM's Shadow DLC Review

Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox 360

Gears of War 3 (or simply Gears 3) was arguably one of the standout titles of 2011, epic in scale, gorgeous to look at and with enough balls to actually conclude the trilogy with answers - it will no doubt be battling its way onto many a ‘Top 10 Games of the Year’ list. We sure liked it (a lot) and the prospect of new single player campaign DLC action set before the original Gears of War provides the perfect reason to put Gears 3 back in the 360. If you remember General RAAM from the original Gears you are in for a bit of a treat here, the clue was in the title!

The potential is there for all to see but single player DLC is rarely anywhere near as good as the original game it is attached to and of course whilst this is a generalisation it is something of a reality in the world of Gears - see the rather lame single player DLC for Gears 2.

So does RAAM's Shadow live up to the obvious potential or does it fail to justify its 1200msp price tag? Bit of both really...

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RAAM's Shadow sees you join up with Zeta squad shortly after Emergence Day, set just before the events of the first Gears title and from the off you are in familiar territory. As the locust horde rip through Ilima you are primarily charged with scouring the city for survivors, moving from location to location in the vain hope that they can get a few people out before the sky turns black and all certain death is upon them. The sky is turning black of course as seeders are filling the sky with krill (obviously) and once the sky is black everything on the surface of the planet will be ripped apart by the menacing bat-like Krill.

As you work your way from location to location, desperately trying to find survivors (think of the children!) you find yourself in street fights will some old favourites. Grub holes make a comeback so keep an eye on the ground for grenades and destroy those holes quickly! Aside from this gameplay element there is nothing new in the DLC, well, from the COG’s perspective anyway.

The majority of this DLC package is played in a very similar fashion to the rest of Gears 3; there is full 4 player co-op, a lot of over the top action, some cheesy one liners and a couple of bonkers boss fights. There are some really nice story elements here and any Gears fan will pretty much have to purchase this at some point. We get to see how one of the main COG’s from Gears 3 becomes a COG for example, along with the setup for a pivotal moment in the Gears series, story wise there is a lot to be thankful for in this package.

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Aside from the story elements there is the added bonus of stepping into the shoes of General RAAM himself. There are two opportunities within the five chapters to become this big bad so & so and for the most part it’s entertaining, a bit different and provides a nice break from the standard run and gun Gears play. You are ridiculously over powered throughout (not necessarily a bad thing), completely immune to bullets, knifing any-one that comes close with ease and sending Krill to turn COGS into mince meat as you go - it's easy but isn't half fun while it lasts. This leaves you with a feeling of invincibility and if you have played the first game (which most people who pick this up would have), you know this guy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. This does remove any form of tension from proceedings and you pretty much just guide the big guy from point A to point B to progress the story - a fun detour while lasts but sadly it’s all over too soon.

Gameplay wise after about ten minutes you will have experienced some cut scenes, maybe a handful of small battles and then it hits you “oh...right...so it’s just more Gears 3 then but not as spectacular?”

Sadly for your money you don’t really get a great deal of game - some of the combat areas seem to lack any real thought and have zero innovation, add to this the completely forgettable set of COG’s you inhabit it really does take the shine off the package. The story is worth telling and Gears fans will lap it up but it’s told through some of the dullest characters ever seen in the franchise. Cheesy, generally poor one liners begin to grate after a while and if you can remember the names of the entire Zeta squad when you are finished you are indeed a better man than I.

This aside probably the most disappointing thing about this DLC is the fact that when you reach the final showdown you will have worked your way through a handful of bland environments, put up with some dull characters and you come to realise that there is nothing in here anywhere near as special or standout as some of the moments experienced in the full game. That feeling of disappointment will stay with you for a while as you look at your XBL balance which is now up to 1200msp light and you start to feel a tad short changed. It's an odd disappointment granted, mainly due to the fact that the main campaign was so damn good and while the DLC does provide some good moments, it just doesn't leaving with the same feeling as the main campaign.

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Clocking in at five chapters with a total game time of 2.5-3hrs it’s OK if not amazing value for money but hell it’s more Gears 3 and if that floats your boat then the price tag will not stop you (chances are you have a season pass and therefore it’s cheaper anyway). Add to that the fact that it’s set before the original game, has some really nice story links to the overall tale and you get to kick some behind as General RAAM, Gears fans will lap this up.

It’s not really worth the full retail asking price (1200msp) but for season pass holders and Gears nuts alike it’s a sound purchase (there is an extra 250g in it for you!). If you have a season pass it's all good, if you don’t, wait for it to go on sale in the DOTW.

Overall

7

out of 10

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