Just days after The Coalition revealed the return of Horde Mode in Gears of War 4, I was able to try it out at Microsoft’s booth at PAX West. This is the third time that the popular co-op mode is in a Gears title. As expected, the new Horde is just as exciting and intense as its predecessors. However, the developers added some new features that make teamwork even more crucial.
Lock And Load
Prior to starting the game, my four teammates and I had to choose from one of five classes: Soldier, Scout, Sniper, Heavy and Engineer. Each class has its own unique weapon as well as an assortment of Gear Cards. These cards provide multiple boosts to your character such as a damage upgrade or a reload bonus. At the beginning, I could choose only three Gear Cards. As my character progressed with each session, I could utilize more cards in subsequent matches (a fourth and fifth Gear Card slot unlocks at levels seven and 10, respectively).
It took some time for everyone in the group to figure out which class and cards they wanted to use for the game. It's important to note that you can double-down on the same class as other players. At one point, my team had two Snipers, two Heavies and a Soldier. However, two people switched to a Scout and an Engineer class so that we had every role represented (for the record, I played as a Heavy).
Prepare The Defenses
The most highlighted addition to Horde 3.0 is the Fabricator, a large, portable box that provides you with different defensive items to place on the map. At the beginning of the game, one of the players grabbed the Fabricator and placed it on another area of the map that was easier to defend from attacks. Every item from the Fabricator has an Energy cost. You can obtain additional Energy points from each enemy killed. An Energy icon appears on a dead enemy, and you have to get it and bring it back to the Fabricator to store it as currency for defenses.
For our match, our makeshift base was located in a slightly elevated area that gave us a few vantage points to take out enemies from afar. At the beginning, we had barely enough points to purchase a small spiked barrier. If we wanted access to better defenses, such as an automatic gun turret, we needed to save up Energy points.
This demo of Horde featured the first 10 waves. The difficulty of the first four waves seemed to just be about increasing the number of spawned enemies. Despite the growing numbers, my team easily defeated every single foe. At the end of each wave, we would run around to gather Energy and improve our defenses. Wave Five, however, was when our troubles began.
At that point, the enemies got stronger. It took more ammunition to take them down, and they started to flank our position. They even had a Kestrel helicopter swoop down with its devastating arsenal. This wave was also our team’s first glimpse at the Pouncer, a creature that shoots piercing quills from its tail.
As the Heavy, I focused my fire on these tougher enemies in order to eliminate them as quickly as possible. In later waves, we gathered enough Energy to create two gun turrets. Our Engineer stayed close so he could easily repair them when they were damaged. I provided backup for him, as he was easily vulnerable during the repair state. When one of my comrades was killed, a blue icon spawned at their location. By grabbing it and returning to the Fabricator, I was able to bring them back to life just in time for a final push to end the wave.
Our best efforts weren't enough, though. We barely survived Wave Nine, and within the first two minutes of the tenth and final wave, we were all dead. In addition to tougher enemies, every tenth wave also includes an even tougher boss. I briefly shot at it before I was flanked by two of its minions. Still, I was impressed that we managed to survive for most of the game.
Back And Better Than Ever
I left the booth excited for Horde. There wasn’t a single moment in the demo where I could relax. If we weren’t fighting the enemy, we were building defenses or finding more ammo because it would be extremely difficult to scavenge during the chaotic firefights. The addition of classes was a wise choice, as players can now think strategically about their role in the game instead of grabbing any available weapon from a dead enemy.
It’s been a long five years since a new Horde Mode, and The Coalition’s take on it doesn’t disappoint. Its foundation is the classic Horde gameplay that fans have praised since its debut in Gears of War 2, and the new additions make it an even more enjoyable (and intense) mode.