Skip to main content

Mastering the gauntlet of gore in Gears 5: A Horde mode guide

As with every numbered game in the series since Gears of War 2, Gears 5 includes Horde mode. Tasking you and your cooperative partners with defending against waves of increasingly difficult enemies, this test of survival has been made even more complex this time around with a few new mechanics. In our Horde mode guide, we’ll give you the tips you need to survive the Swarm, DeeBees, and everything in between.

Further reading

The Basics of Horde mode

The Premise

The most basic premise of Horde mode from past games remains unchanged in Gears 5. On one of the game’s many multiplayer maps, you and a group of four players place a Fabricator box down at a spot of your choosing and must defend yourself from enemies. Get knocked down, and one of your teammates will have to revive you. If you all happen to die, you lose. On harder difficulties, you can’t retry the wave you lost on, either.

As you defeat enemies, they will drop Power on the ground, which is the currency you need for upgrades and purchasing items from the Fabricator. Spike-covered barriers and machine gun turrets are both available for purchase once you have enough Power, and can supplement your own weapons when facing a barrage of enemies. The Fabricator also sells weapons and grenades.

Beginning with the tenth wave, you will intermittently fight bosses, which take the form of some of the toughest enemies from the Gears 5 campaign. This includes the mobile Flock, which requires the full attention of your team in order to eliminate it quickly. Your ultimate goal is to survive until you complete the game’s 50th wave, at which point you will have to overcome tremendous odds.

The Power Tap system and sharing Power

Gears 5 Power Tap
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Alongside the bosses you’ll be fighting, you also need to keep an eye out for a new Gears 5 mechanic: the Power Tap. Beginning and Wave 11, a Power Tap will spawn somewhere on the map. This location must be captured or defended, if you are able to do this successfully, it will provide your team with additional power each subsequent round.

The Power Tap will often be located somewhere far away from your Fabricator, and this means at least a few members of your squad will need to displace and defend it. Every 10 rounds, the Power Tap will change location, requiring them to once again displace it.

If you are not playing with a full squad, we don’t suggest attempting to keep control of the Power Taps. The computer-controlled teammates you have are not capable of holding their position and not letting it fall into enemy hands, so you should keep your focus on the Fabricator.

One major change to Horde mode is how Power is distributed. Now, when you pick up Power off the ground, it is shared with your teammates equally. This allows you to purchase upgrades by the Fabricator even if the teammate collecting Power is on the other side of the map. Since you only get 30 seconds between rounds, this is extremely important.

Choosing a character

Gears 5 JD
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Your abilities and traits in Horde mode are directly tied to the character you choose. In the standard version of the game, there are six available to choose from. We’ve outlined them and their key differences and special abilities below.

  • JD Fenix: An offensive character who receives extra ammunition for every sixth headshot. Ultimate ability is an artillery strike on a targeted enemy.
  • Marcus Fenix: A tank character who can charge his Ultimate ability by taking damage. Ultimate ability makes every hit an automatic headshot.
  • Kait Diaz: A scout character who receives additional Power from nearby kills. Ultimate ability turns her invisible for a brief time.
  • Del Walker: Engineer character who can build fortifications for cheaper and move the Fabricator more quickly. Ultimate ability summons DeeBee Trackers to target enemies.
  • Fahz Chutani: Offensive character who gets more pickups after every sixth critical kill. Ultimate ability allows him to see and shoot through walls.
  • Jack: A robotic support character. Kills on marked enemies reduce Ultimate cooldown time. Ultimate ability allows you to hijack enemies and control them directly.

There are also three additional DLC characters borrowed from other franchises you can take into battle as well.

  • Sarah Connor: As part of the Terminator: Dark Fate crossover DLC, the iconic survivor from the film series can lend her combat skills to your team in Horde mode, complete with audio lines from Linda Hamilton herself. She is another tank-style character like Marcus, but has a unique Ultimate ability called Heavy Hitter. This move has her unload shotgun rounds into enemies, stunning and knocking them back just like at the end of Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
  • Emile-A239: Ripped right out of Halo: Reach, the first of two Spartans wields a shotgun and knife, so is meant to be another highly aggressive character. His Ultimate is the Dropshield, which creates a protective dome that blocks all damage coming in or out.
  • Kat-B320: The second Spartan to join the fight, Kat works similar to Del and should be kept at range. Her Ultimate deploys a hologram that runs in a straight line away from her, drawing the attention and fire of all enemies that see it.

Ultimate abilities are new to Horde mode, but you can think of them as being the Gears of War take on Overwatch’s Ultimate abilities. They charge up over time and give your character a significant boost or a powerful attack.

Creating a balanced team is important. We suggest having one person on your team choosing either JD Fenix or Marcus. Both of them have powerful offensive abilities that can deal extreme damage on boss enemies. Since boss waves also have other enemies alongside them, it’s imperative that you take the boss down as quickly as possible.

We also heavily suggest that someone plays as Jack. He is incredibly fast and assists other players in need. His Ultimate ability can be hugely helpful as well. Drawing fire away from your teammates and destroying several Swarm in the process is a pretty good strategy.

Perks and Skill Cards

Gears 5 Perks
Image used with permission by copyright holder

There are two different ways you can boost your performance in Gears 5 Horde mode: Perks and Skill Cards. The two variables sound similar, but they actually differ considerably in practice.

Perks are set potential boosts you can receive for individual characters as you play individual Horde mode games. You can spend your Power on one of four perks during the match, such as increased health or damage with assault rifles – the perks are different for each character and increase in cost with each subsequent upgrade.

Your perks are often a better way to spend your Power than on barricades or turrets because you’ll be able to keep using them throughout the entire match. Especially when you’re nearing a boss wave, start focusing on extra damage.

Skill Cards, meanwhile, are tied to your individual character’s overall levels between matches. As you unlock more levels, you will gain additional Skill Card slots. The cards themselves take the form of rewards for playing as a particular character.

Some of them increase things like melee damage with a knife, while others improve your overall team score. As you get duplicate Skill Card rewards, you can “feed” them to existing cards to upgrade them.

It’s with Skill Cards that you can most personalize and customize your Horde mode experience. Character level also carries between Horde and Escape, so you can play in Escape and then enjoy the fruits of your labor in Horde mode.

Surviving Horde mode

Don’t kill the last enemyGears 5 Horde Tips

Just like in Gears of War 4, it’s beneficial to leave one enemy alive at the end of each round because the countdown timer begins after they have been killed. If you leave one lone baddie running around the map, you are free to pick up all the Power on the ground, as well as do any upgrades you want without racing against the clock. Just make sure that the last enemy isn’t a Scion or Sire, as you could accidentally get yourself killed.

Embrace other weapons

Especially when you are pinned down in your encampment, you are going to be shooting a lot, and this can mean running out of ammunition for your weapon of choice. We all have a gun we’re most comfortable with in Gears 5, but don’t be afraid to grab enemies’ guns and use them, instead.

You’ll see a lot of Hammerburst rifles and Enforcer submachine guns, both of which are efficient ways to take out enemies. You’ll be able to keep them refilled with other enemies’ dropped ammunition, too.

Keep an accurate rifle around

Weapons like the Enforcer and Lancer are great for dealing with smaller, weaker enemies, but when you start going up against larger enemies like the club-wielding Wardens, you will need to focus your fire.

For this, we recommend keeping a high-powered and accurate weapon like the Longshot or Markza around, because you can easily land several headshots and knock down their health.

Watch out for Sires

As mentioned earlier, you need to be careful when dealing with one particular enemy: the Sire. This Swarm creature resembles a Flood form from the Halo games, but it functions much differently. After reaching your position, it will grab you and start dragging you away from your teammates.

If they shoot it quickly, you will survive, but a timer symbol will begin counting down. If that reaches 0, you will be completely dead, and cannot be revived. Communicate with your team and make sure you drop whatever you are doing to shoot at a Sire that has captured your friend. Only a few shots will set them free.

Editors' Recommendations

Gabe Gurwin
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Gabe Gurwin has been playing games since 1997, beginning with the N64 and the Super Nintendo. He began his journalism career…
Horizon Forbidden West beginners guide: 6 tips and tricks to get started
Aloy looks at the horizon.

Sequels tend to make the assumption that at least most of the people picking up the game have played, if not beaten, the prior entry in the series. With Horizon Forbidden West, that mostly rings true. Sure, the game does give you a nice recap of the first game's important story beats, but some of the more technical parts of the game's combat in particular are glazed over in favor of introducing new and exciting mechanics. Even if you played Horizon Zero Dawn, it could easily be years since you last touched it before you crack open Horizon Forbidden West.

This is one of the biggest games seen yet on PS5 -- and PS4 for that matter -- and hitting the ground running is the best way to experience this adventure with Aloy. However, unlike Aloy, you may have lost some of your edge in surviving the harsh world full of robot dinosaurs. Or this could even be your first encounter with this world. The West is an entirely new beast for you and Aloy alike, so getting a head start on what you need to know right off the bat will make your quest go that much smoother. Here's our full beginners guide to Horizon Forbidden West.
Customize your experience

Read more
Fortnite chapter 3 guide: Season 1, week 5 quests and how to complete them
Jill Valentine running in Fortnite.

As the first season of Fortnite chapter 3 chugs along, more quests are added weekly. For week five, we've got a brand-new set of challenges -- many of which will send you across the map to collect items or destroy objects around you. While most of this week's objectives aren't necessarily skill-based, you will need to be familiar with the map, as well as with the most efficient way to complete the challenges. That's where we come in.

Here are all the season 1, week 5 challenges and how to complete them in Fortnite.

Read more
Forza Horizon 5 Beginner’s Guide: 11 Tips To Get You Started
A sports car at dusk in Forza Horizon 5.

Forza Horizon 5 is a stunning game. With its brilliant gameplay and detailed visuals, we called Forza Horizon 5 “the definitive racing game of the new console cycle” in our review. There is a lot you can do, and it can seem intimidating at first. That’s why we’ve put together this beginner’s guide to Forza Horizon 5.

Further reading

Read more