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Wretches are small four-legged monkey like creatures with razor-sharp teeth and claws. They would hunt down their prey by climbing walls, ceilings and obstacles to get an element of surprise. They are given a minimal amount of armour to further act as cannon fodder, distracting humans and wasting their ammo. Wretches generally stay in groups so if there is one wretch, there are going to be a lot more. There are also special kinds of wretches in chapters 3 and 5 in the first Gears of War. These Wretches act completely normal, they will still claw you to pieces, but they explode on death due to large amounts of exposure to Imulsion. These are Lambent Wretches, and only appear again in Gears of War 3. They are very weak enemies that can be killed with a single shot from the Gnasher shotgun, but if underestimated, they can be very deadly, especially if they explode. Chainsawing them is another good tactic as you can hold down B to keep the chainsaw revved constantly and you are almost immune to damage while chainsawing your enemy.
In Gears of War 2 they still act as cannon fodder, and none of them are Lambent.
In Gears of War 3, nearly all of the Wretches encountered are Lambent. They still act as cannon fodder for the Lambent but act an extra punch when killed. This explosion can down you on Insanity and even kill you if you're already hurt.