Hands on: Gears of War 4 Horde Mode

Can you survive ‘Gears of War 4’s punishing new Horde mode?

In Gears of War 4, Horde, the cooperative survival multiplayer in the Gears of War series, will enter its third iteration. It’s packed with new class-building features, harder enemies, and a new level of character diversity designed to let people play how they want.

But with a daunting 50 waves and four difficulty options, there are going to be a lot of DB and Swarm who want to see you fail. Does Horde 3.0 bring something new to the table, or will it always live in the shadow of the over-the-top Gears campaign?

What is “Horde Mode?”

Of the three game modes in Gears of War 4, Horde is the trickiest to define. While the campaign can be played cooperatively with friends, it’s still a linear story with chapters and cutscenes. Horde mode strips away the narrative pretense of campaign and leaves you with nothing but running, shooting, and chainsawing. If you don’t want the story and just want to kill tons of enemies with your friends, this is your best bet.

In this version of Horde, you and four friends (or match-made partners) defend the Fabricator, a device magically spawns equipment like a Star Trek replicator, from up to 50 increasingly difficult waves of enemies. During matches, you can use the fabricator to build barricades, turrets, and weapon racks, all by collecting energy dropped by your enemies.

As you work with your teammates, everyone will begin to find their groove.

At the start of each match, players choose one of five character classes, such as the sharpshooting sniper and the turret-repairing engineer, which have their own set of abilities and long-term progression. Players also choose a set of skill cards, which are all pulled from packs bought with currency earned in campaign, multiplayer, and horde mode. Generally class-based, the skills convey bonuses that enhance each team-member’s strengths. For example, one sniper card made it so landing a headshot would make the enemy’s head explode, damaging of its nearby friends.

Both the cards and classes are upgradable. You can combine multiple copies of the same card to rank them up, thus improving their power. Similarly, as you play more and more with a single class, you’ll level up, allowing you to bring more cards into each match.

Meanwhile, the game uses that progression system to adjust your difficulty match by match. Rather than choosing a skill setting beforehand, the game will make the game more difficult as your characters and cards grow stronger.

Stand together

In a game defined largely by co-op, it should come as no surprise that Horde asks you to work together to achieve victory. Of the five classes, it’s definitely necessary to have at least one scout, who receives double energy for each pickup, and an engineer, who can repair your fortifications. The other three classes, soldier, heavy, and sniper, can mostly focus on dealing damage and occasionally reviving teammates.

Gears of War 4: Horde Mode

But there’s a bit more to it than that. As you work with your teammates, everyone will begin to find their groove, choosing areas to cover and timing strategies for taking out enemies. Once you find that rhythm, the game will find ways to challenge it, with enemies spawning in odd locations and configurations.

Die together

Horde’s new class system adds some much needed variation to the repetitive wave-based gameplay of Horde modes of Gears of War 2 and 3. As the team’s engineer, there was plenty of time to decide where to lay down fortifications, strategies for dealing with huge bosses, and kept all of our defenses up and running. In a subsequent round as sniper, the strategy was totally different, pushing us to hang back, revive teammates, and apply fire at key targets.

Our high ground, an advantage throughout the entire match, was also our undoing.

At the same time, the card system may feel restrictive to serial Horde players, who will likely be forced to choose one or two classes that fit their playstyle and use those exclusively. You’ll have a friend who always runs around with the shotgun picking up energy, and the other friend who stays at the back and repairs the turrets.

After playing for over three hours in a single run, our team managed to reach wave 50. The final boss, a large Swarm creature called the carrier that spews heat-seeking explosives, leveled our entire crew. Our high ground, an advantage throughout the entire match, was also our undoing. Resources depleted, spirits broken, we retired from Horde mode in the least satisfying way possible. But it wasn’t all a loss.

Horde 3.0 is a nice change of pace from competitive online multiplayer, but ultimately seems like a feature most players will eventually grow out of.


  • High skill cap
  • Rewarding progression system


  • Grows repetitive
  • Encourages players to stick with one class

Castlevania Anniversary Collection offers some of the series’ rarest games

Konami is celebrating 50 years of games with collections like the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, which now includes Kid Dracula, Castlevania II, Bloodlines, and Castlevania the Adventure. Which of these are must-play titles?

Here are the best games to play with your friends on the Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch's hybrid design adds convenience to your gaming time, allowing you to play Switch games both at home and on the go. The design also benefits multiplayer experiences, from co-op to competitive and online to offline.

The best of the last generation: Our 50 favorite Xbox 360 games

The Xbox 360 thrived during a generation where games were plentiful. Here's our list of the best Xbox 360 games of all time, including all game genres and even a few special indie hits.

If we get a Nintendo 64 Classic, it needs to have these games

The Nintendo 64 introduced a long list of top-tier games, but which were the iconic platform's best? From Mario Party to Ocarina of Time to NFL Blitz, check out our picks for the best N64 games.

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.

Call up Durr Burger and grab some lunch with our Fortnite weekly challenge guide

The Fortnite week 8 challenges are now available in season 8. One of the big challenges this week has players dial the Durr Burger number on the big telephone. We've got everything you need to complete this weekly challenge.

Streaming data reveals Ninja isn’t Twitch king, Fortnite still reigns supreme

Stream Elements and Stream Hatchet teamed up to produce the State of the Stream Q1 2019, a report that reveals a multitude of data. A few takeaways include Ninja not producing the best month of views, and Apex Legends' performance diving.

Get Kingdom Hearts 3 at its lowest price yet during Walmart’s Xbox One sale

Walmart reduced the prices on some new and popular Xbox One games. Kingdom Hearts 3 is at its lowest price yet, while Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Red Dead Redemption 2 get some stout discounts as well.

Get jiggy with it and find the jigsaw pieces with our Fortnite challenge guide

For this Fortnite weekly challenge, players must search for jigsaw puzzle pieces under bridges and in caves. We've got the best locations for finding these pieces so you can complete this challenge fast.

Gaming on a laptop has never been better. These are your best options

Gaming desktops are powerful, but they tie you down to your desk. For those of us who prefer a more mobile experience, here are the best gaming laptops on the market, ranging from budget machines to maxed-out, wallet-emptying PCs.

The best zombie games of all time, from Resident Evil to The Last of Us

Zombies are a longtime media staple, from movies to literature to TV to video games. Plenty of zombie games are bland and boring, but a good number offer tangible reasons to care about the undead. These are the best zombie games.

Ditch the discs: The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is available for pre-order

Like it or not, discs seem to be going the way of the VHS tape. Digital gaming is quickly becoming the new norm even for consoles, and Microsoft’s new Xbox One S All-Digital Edition is now available for pre-order with three free games…

The Last of Us Part 2 finishes capturing its main characters’ performances

Calling it the most "ambitious cinematic shoot" the team has ever done, Naughty Dog revealed that the motion-capture performances for the main characters in The Last of Us Part II are finished.

Transform into the ultimate leader with our tips and tricks for Civilization 6

Civilization VI offers both series veterans and total newcomers a lot to chew on from the get-go. Here are some essential starting tips to help you master the game's many intricacies.