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It took nearly a year for Gears of War 2 to receive its first single player, campaign DLC, in the form of Dark Corners – a section that was actually cut out of the main game. RAAM’s Shadow is different; not just because it’s out less than 3 months after the game’s release, but because it’s set all the way back before the events of the first  Gears of War.

It’s included as part of the Gears of War 3 Season Pass – so all you rabid Gearsheads will be getting this as part of that package. Is it worth the 1200 MSP asking price for the rest of you?

*Minor Gears of War 1 spoiler ahead*

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Set in the doomed city of Ilima, RAAM’s Shadow follows the exploits of Zeta Squad shortly after emergence; day a group of COG’s lead by the bald, and ill-fated Lt Minh Kim – who you’ll all remember as having fallen to RAAM’s blade in the first game. Rounding out his squad is Michael Barrick from the Gears of War: Hollow comic books, the coarse and salty former stranded turned soldier who, cut from the same cloth as Marcus Fenix, serves as your primary character; Gears of War 2’s Zen-spouting meditative Tai Kaliso and newcomer to the series Alicia Valera.

Their task? To evacuate the city of Ilima, a city under siege by the Locust Queen’s favoured General Raam the big, nasty bastard with a living Kryll shield to protect him. It kicks off rather explosively – and you’re thrown in to your first large-scale battle almost immediately. It, and the many similarly fantastic battles that follow in the 3 hour campaign are excting, reminding you why you love Gears of War in the first place. You’ll be swarmed with Locust enemies; from foot soldiers, grenadiers and Theron Guards  emerging from grub holes to Wretches, Boomers, Bloodmounts, Reavers and Brumaks. That your enemies are plain locust – with nary a lambent creature in sight – the whole thing has that Gears of War 1 feeling – with the third game’s polish. It seems like it could be a letter to fans of the first game – with many locations and settings featuring some sly and subtle  references that long-time players will appreciate. There’s also a new way of using the hammer of dawn that’ll make Modern Warfare players smile.

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There is however a strange disconnect in that though its set before the first game, you’ll be fighting enemies from the second using weapons from the third. Weird.

The DLC’s big selling point, however is that not only do you get to see Raam again – you actually get to play as him. At key moments in the 5 chapter campaign, you’ll shift from being a locust hating COG to the meanest Locust of them all. RAAM and his team of Locust are strategically planting seeders to darken the sky – allowing the Kryll to swarm in and kill all the humans! Playing as Raam is slow and brutal. His shield of perpetually moving Kryll – razor sharp, tough as nails bat-like creatures – makes him invulnerable to all but explosive or incendiary weapons. The Kryll that afford him his durability also function as his primary weapon; holding the left trigger zooms in, allowing you to unleash the targetable Kryll using the right trigger- turning any soft, fleshy humans in your way in to mincemeat and a fine red mist. There’s a certain delight in finally getting the chance to obliterate hordes of nameless, faceless COGs in a campaign setting. RAAM also has some particularly blood, messy and completely awesome executions using that nasty blade of his. It must be said, however, that as much as it is playing as RAAM initially, the novelty does wear thin.

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The whole thing can be played through in a single sitting (once again with up to 4 co-op players) and the while there may be a surprise or two, the story isn’t particularly hard-hitting, emotive or high-brow – but those aren’t the sort of things you play Gears of War for. If want you want is more machismo, perfectly polished third person shooter mechanics and a little more narrative to flesh out the Gears of War story – then RAAM’s shadow is a bit of a no brainer. As a bonus, you’ll also get skins of the whole of Zeta squad for use in multiplayer.

There are certainly worse ways to spend $15.

It’s Epic’s biggest single player DLC to date, and the ability to play as the hulking badass General RAAM is pretty neat. None of the guys making up Zeta Squad have any of the personality of Delta, particularly Cole and Baird, but it’s still nice to take a look at things from another perspective. I’d certainly be happy to get more DLC like this; single chunks of narrative largely unconnected to the main game but that help flesh out Gear’s loosely connected narrative. Besides – if there’s one thing Gears of War 3’s been missing is Kryll – and now they’re back in swarms.

Last Updated: December 8, 2011

Gears of War 3: RAAM's Shadow
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Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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