Raam’s Shadow is the latest piece of DLC released for Gears of War 3 and is a mini-campaign featuring General Raam who you may remember as the main antagonist from the first Gears of War. Set before the events of the first game, Raam’s Shadow tells the story of Zeta squad as they aid in the evacuation of Ilima city before a massive kryll swarm arrives and the locust take over completely. Along the way General Raam makes several appearances, not just as an enemy but also as a playable character for the first time.
For the majority of the five chapter campaign you play as Barrick of zeta squad, yet another manly slab of muscle from the Gears of War expanded universe (a universe that I hope will eventually explain what happened to everybody’s sleeves after Gears of War 2). Rocking the sleeveless look before it was cool and always smoking a cigar, Barrick is a somewhat jaded and cynical mo fo who doesn’t screw around. He is humanized by the other members of zeta such as the compassionate Valera (a new character from what I can tell), the calm and collected Kim (from the original Gears of War) and the philosophical and superstitious Tai (from Gears of War 2).
These sections are more or less your standard Gears of War experience and occupy the majority of your time in the five chapters on offer. Gameplay reminds me more of the original Gears formula, with a focus on small tight encounters in city streets and an emphasis on closing emergence holes. It also seems to inherit annoying difficulty spikes at some points – particularly near the end where my AI teammates refused to be useful. Beyond that it’s the usual smooth gears gameplay that we know and love.
As advertised, at certain points you will get to control General Raam (co-op partners will be Mauler Elites) and go about massacring COG soldiers. As Raam you cannot take cover, but that’s okay because you’re 10ft tall and damn near invincible thanks to the swarm of kryll that protect you from bullets. You can stroll around the battlefield happily removing heads from shoulders with your melee attack, or – if you want to be extra villainous – you can point dramatically at enemies and your kryll shield will abandon you and go reduce them to gruesome explosions in a mad feeding orgy. This leaves you wide open to damage but is quite a lot of fun, as well as your only ranged attack. I challenge you not to laugh maniacally while doing this.
If there’s a drawback to Raam’s sections it’s that not a lot was done with them. You just stomp forward pressing B and occasionally sending a swarm of kryll in some unlucky sods direction. Then, just as you’re getting used to the shift from cover based gameplay the game switches back to zeta squad. I understand that pacing will always be an issue when dealing with a mini-campaign that lasts only two or three hours, but every time Raam takes the spotlight, all you do is go forward for a little bit.
At the end of it all, Raam’s Shadow offers a solid, self-contained campaign that lasts a respectable amount of time and presents something a little different. Its biggest flaw is that it tries to cram too much into too little and as a result, the sections where you get to play as Raam feel a little under developed and end too quickly. What’s presented is still a lot of fun however, and for someone who just wants a bite sized chunk of Gears of War action, Raam’s Shadow is an excellent way to spend a rainy afternoon.