Gears of War 2's Horde Mode was hugely popular and influential, with many shooters following suit and adding their own modes where players had to defend against waves of increasingly powerful enemies. The mode's popularity has seen it appear in every main series Gears of War game yet, and Gears 5 is no different. However, Gears 5's version of Horde is a step above the previous iterations of the mode, and it's really the best Horde has ever been.
Gears 5's Horde is very similar to Horde 3.0 introduced in Gears of War 4. Horde 3.0, for the uninitiated, added a class system and had players move the special Fabricator box around the map so that they could pick exactly where they would be defending from in any given game. These features return for Gears 5, but the class system is expanded on to be more meaningful, and there are other changes as well to ensure that Gears 5's Horde is the definitive way to experience the wave-based game mode.
Here is why Gears 5's Horde represents the best that Horde has ever been.
Something that makes a huge difference in Gears 5's Horde Mode is bots. In the past, Gears of War players either had to get five people together to have a full squad or rely on the ability of randoms online if they hoped to make it through all 50 waves of Horde. Gears 5 adds bots to the mix that will take up any spots that aren't currently occupied by a human player. If someone happens to disconnect in the middle of Horde, a bot will fill in the spot so players aren't at a complete disadvantage.
The bots in Gears 5's Horde prioritize picking the player up when they're down and tend to stick near whoever the host is. Players won't find them making any strategic moves or building things from the Fabricator, but they are still helpful and it's far better to have them to help out than no one at all. The only downside is that the bots take on the form of generic soldiers, meaning players miss out on the perks afforded by the actual characters in the game and their classes.
Classes Matter More
Gears of War 4's Horde had a class system, but it felt like an afterthought. Gears 5 really expands on the classes so that they matter a lot more. This is partly achieved by restricting certain actions to classes that were once universal - like making it so the Engineer can only build certain Fabrication fortifications, for instance. But the changes made in Gears 5 actually make players think about their team composition before starting a game.
Each individual character also matters more in Gears 5's Horde, as everyone has their own unique passive abilities, traits, and Ultimate attacks that can all be huge difference makers. Again, this will make players really think about which characters they need before they pick them, and adds a hero-shooter element to the proceedings.
Fun Guest Characters
Now that Gears 5's Horde Mode has more hero-shooter elements to it, it's only fitting that The Coalition has added guest characters to really mix things up. It's unfortunate that most of these guest characters are relegated to pre-order bonuses or ask players get a specific version of the game, but their inclusion is still appreciated. At launch, Gears 5's roster of guest characters includes Sarah Connor and a T-800 Terminator as part of a crossover with the upcoming Terminator: Dark Fate film. Players can also play as a pair of Halo: Reach Spartans, which hopefully means the door is open for even more Microsoft series crossovers in the future.
Right now, it's unclear who may join Gears 5's roster of playable characters down the road. At the time of this writing, the only post-launch character we do know about is Dave Bautista, who will be appearing in the game as his wrestling persona "Batista" as a way to promote the WWE Clash of Champions pay-per-view event. Batista is an especially exciting guest character in Gears 5 because he will be pretty much available to everyone who plays the game after Clash of Champions wraps up on September 15, as long they do so by October 28.
Like the other characters available in Horde, these guest characters all have their own unique abilities and Ultimate attacks. They're not just throwaway characters like they may be in other games. Plus, these guest characters can also be used in Versus as well as the new Escape Mode, so there's even more value to them.
Power Taps Encourage Players to Expand Their Base
Horde Mode is inherently a defensive kind of game mode, but Gears 5 switches things up by encouraging players to be more aggressive. The main way this is accomplished is through the introduction of Power Taps. Power Taps spawn in various places on the map, with more materializing as the game goes on. Power Taps give players benefits like having more power to spend in the Fabricator, and so it's in their interest to protect them. This in turn encourages players to expand their base of operations, and eventually the maps turn into death zones of barricades and turrets everywhere.
Horde Mode is a commitment. It will usually take a minimum of two hours, likely more, to get through all 50 waves of enemies in any given Gears of War game, and Gears 5's Horde Mode is just as long. But something that makes it a bit more interesting than Horde Modes of the past is the enemy variety. Whereas past iterations of Horde Mode would just recycle the same enemies every 10 waves, with some twists here and there, Gears 5 consistently throws new enemies into the mix. The game even reaches back to Gears of War 4 and takes some enemies from that game and adds them to Horde, even though they aren't really seen at all elsewhere in the game. Combine this with a rotation of interesting bosses that all pose their own unique threats and challenges, and Gears 5's Horde manages to stay a lot more consistently entertaining and surprising than past versions of the mode.
Play Your Way
Something else that we really appreciated about Gears 5's Horde Mode is the way that players can tailor the experience to their liking. Instead of simply choosing from a pre-set difficulty mode, players can tweak specific aspects of Gears 5's Horde, and the game's difficulty level will adjust automatically to give them an idea of how tough it will be. For example, players can choose to respawn even if everyone their squad dies in a round, or they can make it like classic Horde where they have to start all over if this happens. More modifiers are available later on and they all give players the power to play Horde Mode how they want to play.
There's a lot to like about Gears 5's Horde Mode, and as we pointed out in our Gears 5 review, there's a lot to like about the game in general. It will be interesting to see how Gears 5 and Horde evolves in the future, and if The Coalition can keep the momentum going with the free DLC and updates it has in the pipeline.
Gears 5 launches on September 10 for PC and Xbox One.