Unfortunately, RAAM's Shadow elicits some different adjectives: "sloppy," and "underdeveloped."
It's frustrating, because RAAM's Shadow is predicated on good ideas that should get even the passing fan of the Gears of War games interested. Set just after Emergence Day, RAAM's Shadow sees the final moments of Ilima city prior to a Kryll storm. Starring a combination of previously seen characters from Gears and Gears 2 and one entirely new squadmate, your objective starts with evacuation and deteriorates from there.
But that doesn't cover the "Shadow" part of the title, of course, as Gears of War 3's first piece of campaign DLC includes a pair of interludes allowing players to assume control of Gears of War (the first) heavy General RAAM as he leads Locust forces and summons Seeders to poison the sky and destroy the city.
So, yes. RAAM's Shadow is, uh, geared toward fiction nerds for the series. It's a chance to see the doomed Lt. Kim in action again, and shines new light on Tai, the ill-fated but under-developed friend to Marcus and Dom in Gears 2. It's a chance to understand just why RAAM's was such a terrifying presence in the original game, and also develops the complicated relationship the COG and Gears have with the civilians of Sera a little more. In these regards, RAAM's Shadow is successful-ish. The story and content are there, but the execution is somewhat lacking.
That isn't as distracting as watching a Locust Grenadier run into a wall and stare at it until you blast him into bloody pieces, or seeing a Wretch more or less run in circles. The smooth transitions from cutscenes and setpieces to combat arenas and vice versa are also gone. RAAM's Shadow stumbles from section to section in a haze of stuttering fade-ins and outs as jarring loading screens pop up unexpectedly.
For Gears nerds looking for a closer look at some of the fiction outside of the games, RAAM's Shadow is relatively interesting. But as a major piece of campaign content, it trips over itself at every possible opportunity, making it hard to recommend. Here's hoping the rest of the Season Pass can make up the difference.
This review is based on the Xbox Live Marketplace release, using a redemption code provided by Microsoft. Gears of War 3: RAAM's Shadow is currently available on the Xbox 360 for 1200 MSP ($15 USD), and is also the second piece of content included in the Gears of War 3 Season Pass.
Note: Joystiq does not provide star ratings for downloadable content reviews with the understanding that the quality of the core game's experience is unchanged from the retail release to DLC add-ons; see:Gears of War 3 review.