What started as a relatively simple “stand your ground” mode way back in the original Gears of War has, over the years, morphed into an intense point-defense mode complete with purchasable fortifications and extensive team tactics. The latest iteration–dubbed Horde Mode 3.0 despite appearing in the upcoming Gears of War 4–retains much of the straightforward but deeply engaging craziness of Gears 2 and (to a slightly lesser extent) 3, but adds many of its own twists.
For example, players can now select clearly defined classes and equip passive buffs associated directly with those roles. There’s also the Fabricator, a semi-mobile device that serves as a one-stop-shop for weapons, turrets, ally revives, and more. Of course, our team knew very little about these changes going into our first hands-on session with Horde Mode 3.0, which is why Gears of War 4 director Rod Fergusson offered us some helpful advice that, incidentally, outlined much of what makes 3.0 a whole new ball game. Here’s what he told us:
Know Your Role, Play Your Role
Unlike previous takes on the mode, Horde 3.0 features five distinct classes: soldier, sniper, scout, heavy, and engineer. Since teams support up to five players, it’s smart to ensure every class is covered since each one serves a specific purpose on the battlefield. Scouts, for example, get double the amount of currency for every power icon they pick up. Engineers, on the other hand, receive a discount on every base fortification they purchase. Basically, sticking with your role is more efficient and more rewarding than simply running around shooting stuff.
Opt For Class-Specific Skills Over General Abilities
Players can use Gear Cards to create their own custom loadouts of passive buffs. Cards range from simple to “epic,” and while some can be applied to any class, the most powerful options are generally specific to a single character type. The catch? Though class-specific cards tend to be more powerful, they’re also more demanding. Snipers, for example, can pick a card that allows them to execute exploding headshots. That’s great if you’re super confident in your accuracy, but less useful if you can’t consistently headshot angry robots under pressure. Consider it a risk/reward proposition with potentially explosive results.
Save Your Best Weapons Until You Really Need Them
Horde 3.0 adds yet another new mechanic: Gun Lockers. Gun Lockers–which you can purchase from your Fabricator–allow you to bank weapons. As long as there’s some ammo left in it, the locker will both hold and gradually reload the weapon over time, allowing you to get more mileage out of those rare, powerful guns like rocket launchers. This becomes especially useful when you start getting airdrops: If you beat a bonus wave, you’ll receive an airdrop, which could contain any number of rocket launchers or other special weapons. Grab them and store them until you hit a boss wave, and you’ll always be prepared.
Place Your Fabricator Strategically (And Move It If You Have To)
Unlike Gears 3, base defenses are not preset. Instead, it’s up to you to pick an area and gradually fortify it to your liking. When a match first starts, a Fabricator appears in the middle of the map. You and your teammates can then drag it to any location you choose. No enemies spawn until you put it down, but as soon as you do, the clocks starts. Then you start building, and shortly after that, the monsters start coming. You can move the Fabricator in the middle of a match if your initial spot isn’t working out; however, the clock won’t stop when you pick it back up, so make sure you place it judiciously the first time.
Remember: It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
As with past games, you’ll face 50 waves of increasingly tenacious enemies, and every tenth wave will be a Boss Wave. On normal difficulty, there are no bonuses for the enemies for the first 10 rounds. From 11 to 20, they receive double health. Then they get double damage. Then they get double accuracy, and then from waves 40 to 50, enemies get two-and-a-half times health, accuracy, and damage at the same time. The only way to survive those final rounds? Use fortifications and sentries to create what Fergusson describes as “death hallways.” Think of it this way: you’re not just trying to survive the first 40 waves; you’re trying to prepare for the final 10.