RAAM’s Shadow – 1200 MSP ($15)
New Maps: None
New Characters: Tai Kaliso, Minh Young Kim, Alicia Valera, Michael Barrick,
General Raam, Theron Elite
Other: A fully-realized five-chapter backstory campaign complete with
walking-death-machine sequences as RAAM himself
This whopping 2GB package is the bulkiest and most expensive of the SP components, and for good reason: it’s also the fullest. Boasting six playable characters (all, mercifully, with actual personalities), the real selling point for RAAM’s Shadow is its story.
In a move rarely made with console shooters, Epic decided to use DLC to deliver an extended campaign instead of just another handful of shooting galleries. Using characters from the extended Gears universe (specifically the comics) and introducing a new female lead, RAAM’s Shadow functions as a prequel to the trilogy. As such it channels the darker, more horrific tones of the first game while providing players with a look at a still beautiful, less ruined Sera.
So-called Zeta Team sequences provide a good mix of old-school Gears feel and freshness, feeling just different enough from the standard campaign as to avoid the easy more-of-the-same pitfall such content risks. But the star of RAAM’s Shadow is RAAM — a hulking, evil brute who commands death with the point of a finger — and in a Beast-esque twist several chapters afford you the chance of pointing that finger yourself. No, you won’t be killing your own COG heroes, but there are plenty of faceless lookalikes to mow down with Kryll. Intriguingly RAAM’s main offensive capacity is also his only defense, so releasing Kryll on higher difficulties comes with a risk of getting gunned down.
RAAM is the center of his chapters, but as the whole campaign features four-player co-op he’s not alone. His right-hand man is a really cool Elite Theron (with a bayonet-charging sawed-off), and the two are assisted by Mauler brutes which have bullet-reflecting shields. Ostensibly the second, third, and fourth members of your team will fill those three Locust boots. And herein lies my only real complaint with RAAM’s Shadow: there’s no way to choose which character you are.
In standard campaign, that caveat didn’t really matter because (arcade weapon selections aside) character choice didn’t alter gameplay. But in the Locust parts of RAAM’s Shadow, each character plays entirely differently. Moreover, there are achievements tied to each character, meaning that players without several friends with which to play will find themselves out of luck when it comes to getting, say, ricochet kills as a Mauler.
Nevertheless, RAAM’s Shadow provides a satisfying and entertaining three-hour experience which is a must-have for anyone who liked the main campaign or cares about the Gears universe in general.
On to DLC 3: Fenix Rising