RAAM's Shadow is the second piece of downloadable content for Epic's terrific action game Gears of War 3. It drops on December 13th, and is much more substantive than the last DLC, mainly in that it's a prequel-style three-chapter adventure starring Michael Barrick (of the Gears comics) and Zeta team in place of series protagonist Marcus Fenix and his Delta squadmates.
The untold story of the events of Emergence Day is certainly one that Gears fans will be interested in, and the DLC's promise to let players step into the boots of the fearsome Locust General RAAM (the final boss from the first game) sounds fun, too. Does the DLC live up to that promise, or is another piece of tacked-on nickel-and-dime extraneousness? It's gut-check time.
Kirk Hamilton, who reviewed Gears 3 for Kotaku and spent like forever defeating RAAM in the first game:
RAAM's Shadow has a lot going for it—it's the best kind of narrative downloadable content in that it doesn't try to tack on extra chapters to the end or middle of the existing game's story. Rather, it spins an entirely new tale that fleshes out the universe and gives some background on characters we didn't know much about. It takes place over three chapters, offering a new perspective on the frantic events of Emergence Day, when human strongholds fell to the Locust's surprise attack. There's a twist, too—in addition to fighting as the gears soldiers of Zeta squad, you also have a few opportunities to take control of General RAAM himself, and to experience Emergence Day as one of the Locust aggressors.
One of Gears of War 3's most fun, fresh features was "Beast Mode," which allowed players to finally control the various soldiers of the Locust Horde, and RAAM's Shadow leverages that to great effect. The RAAM sections are fun and allow the use of a satisfying new method of enemy dispatchment (those who fought against RAAM in the first Gears of War can probably imagine what it is).
All three chapters are playable in co-op and arcade mode just like the main campaign, and right from the start, it throws a ton of enemies your way. There are some new playable characters and skins for multiplayer as well, so while the $15 price tag is a little stiff, there is just enough quality content here to warrant it. In fact, while the last Horde mode download pack was maybe not worth a purchase on its own, RAAM's Shadow is good enough that Gears fans should consider just plonking down for the $30 season pass, which will net you RAAM's Shadow, the $10 Horde Command map pack, and two as-yet unannounced DLC packs.
So: It's fun, it's different, and it lets you play as the Gears universe's A-number-one badass. Yes.
You need to get Raam's Shadow for a few different reasons, all pertaining to narrative. First, and most obvious, is that it fleshes out the timeline and mythos of the Gears universe. That's a good move for a franchise where storytelling has been criticized as it shows that Epic's trying to improve their shops in that area. Secondly, we're getting new characters.
If that doesn't seem like a big deal, remember that we all too often think of this fictional universe through Marcus Fenix's experiences. Sera's big world and the chance to see how Emergence Day changed the lives of some new characters is welcome one. Thirdly, the lead character of the Gears of War comic plays a prominent role in Raam's Shadow, and it's nice to have a spin-off loop back into the roots whence it came. DLC's a great way for a series like Gears to grow its fiction and this add-on represents a nice supplement the Xbox 360's signature cover shooter.
RAAM's Shadow gives players three hours of campaign gameplay that should fill in story gaps. For someone who actually plays games for the single player campaign (hello!), that's attractive. And I like the notion of being able to play as RAAM. Stuff like the the multiplayer character skins and weapons are icing, and not a deal break.
I'm on the fence as to whether the fifteen bucks is a fair price or not. I'd lean towards "yes", seeing as the main campaign takes anywhere between 8 to 12 hours, depending how much you spend going through it. I reckon if you break down the price in comparison to Gears of War 3, it works out—or nearly does.
Considering how soon this was announced right after the game was released, I do wonder why Epic Games couldn't wait a tad longer to tease out RAAM's Shadow. It reminds me of when movies appear in rental shops right after playing in theaters. All of these are minor quibbles, I guess, so my answer is: