The original Horde Mode changed the world of cooperative shooters when it was introduced in Gears of War 2, but it has only been expanded since. Now with Gears 5 the player classes, progression, abilities, and need for teamwork is more customizable and open-ended than ever before. But to know which classes and heroes are best for which strategies or gameplay styles, players may need a little guidance.
The developers have brought a mixture of returning and crossover heroes into Gears 5’s Horde, with the goal of creating the deepest, richest Horde that’s ever been made. Aiming to bring the original vision of Gears of War 2’s invention to players, the gameplay has been altered to encourage teamwork and specialization across the board. For seasoned fans, that means more reason than ever to diversify and concentrate on different parts of the battle. For newcomers, it means more than just ‘base-building’ will need to be mastered. So, which classes are most welcoming to new players? Which ones will reward risk-taking, as opposed to hanging back and coordinating the battlefield? We’re breaking down each hero and their initial specializations and abilities, to guarantee players are making the most of Gears 5’s Horde from the very first match.
Kait Diaz: The Scout
Kait may be the star of the main game’s campaign, but she is also a major players in Horde with a unique Ultimate ability, her own Passive ability, and a full range of upgradable Skill Cards and Perks to specialize within a game. As Horde’s most explicit Scout, her gameplay is all about breaking into the field, breaching enemy territory, and relaying information back to the team, while scavenging Power dropped by fallen enemies. If the front lines are where a player feels most at home, then Kait is the obvious choice. But to be successful in such a dangerous area, Kait’s upgrades are largely focused on survivability. Pair that with her Ultimate, launching a Camouflage ability that lets her retreat or regroup when a firefight gets a little too hot, and Kait belongs in the action.
Teamwork is still key, since Kait’s Passive ability makes her even more effective when teammates have her back, as every enemy killed in proximity to her results in extra Power dropped. Through Skill Cards, players are able to upgrade the duration of her cloak, and extend the distance at which she is able to pick up Power, or she can earn 15% Stim (overhealth) when executing enemies.
Del Walker: The Engineer
Delmont Walker has been cast in the role of an Engineer this time around, which will be familiar if players have some experience with the class in Gears of War 4’s Horde. But don’t assume that a mind for fabrication means less lethal offensive power. Del is blessed with the Reinforce ability, which will instantly summon two friendly Trackers to attack the enemy in a nice boost to crowd control. They’re Frag Trackers, which means if Del is repairing a fortification and spots enemies incoming, he can remain focused on his work while deploying friendly Trackers to make sure he won’t be downed in the process.
As opposed to Gears of War 4 where every player could fabricate whatever they wished, the developers have made Del the true master of manufacturing--both to emphasize his class’s purpose, and encourage other players to focus on their own unique abilities. For the Engineer, that means Del is the only one who can build every single fortification using the Fabricator. Every other character can only build one or two items, but the fact that Del can both fabricate and repair with his default loadout makes him powerful for an Engineer. Paired with the new method of spreading recovered Power across the entire team (as opposed to relying on players to funnel their currency to the Engineer), the developers hope it’s a seamless system for both keeping Del effective and supplying individual players with the means to upgrade their own Perks.
JD: The Commander
Fans of Gears of War 4 may wish to dive into the front lines with JD Fenix, channeling the fighting spirit and death wish of his father, Marcus. But in reality, that’s the opposite of how JD should be used to the best of his abilities. He’s defined in the new Horde as an explicitly offensive character, along the lines of a Mage or Glass Cannon in other class-based games. Able to deal extremely high damage, but nowhere near as durable as other fighters built for the heat of the action. Thankfully, the fact that he’s best when placed back from the front lines means he’s also equipped with the new Lancer GL by default, which is probably one of the most powerful weapons in the entire game.
Using the GLto deal damage with with both standard fire and its under-slung mortar to fire skyward, JD’s Ultimate ability gives him the chance to call in an Artillery Strike to decimate the incoming enemies. Again, it relies on JD to be played by someone thinking a step or two ahead, picking their shots and surveying the battlefield. In other words, acting as the officer targeting high-priority enemies, and dropping air strikes deep into enemy lines. That also means most of his Perks and upgradable abilities are focused on DPS (Damage per Second) as opposed to survivability like Kait.
Marcus: The Living Legend
It just wouldn’t be the same Gears if Marcus Fenix wasn’t on hand to raise some Hell, and Gears 5’s Horde doesn’t even’t try to downplay the fighting spirit and reputation of the original Gears star. In terms of the game’s fiction, Marcus is a living legend. But the developers have tried to translate that legacy into gameplay terms, as well. The first chance is to give Marcus the obvious role of a true Tank, able to both deal out and survive a massive amount of damage. But adding in his legendary fighting record, Marcus is also the one class capable of turning an entire wave or game in an instant.
With the Ultimate ability to inspire other fighters on the front lines around him, activating at the perfect moment is crucial. Practically, Marcus flips the switch that grants any players around him to start racking up automatic headshots when firing at enemies from cover. Crowd control to finish a troublesome wave, or a trick up his sleeve to save for one more round? Players will have to make the call themselves.
Jack: The Secret Weapon
Jack is new to Gears 5’s Horde, but don’t assume that the fan-favorite robot sidekick is merely for back-up. Officially, Jack qualifies as a flying Support character. But in practice, he represents an entirely new way to play Horde. Seasoned multiplayer fans know that Support players tend to sound less than exciting, and can either make or break a match based on how effectively the player follows the rules of the class. But with Gears 5’s Horde, the developers took a slightly different approach. Taking each character, they asked what abilities would make Jack “the buddy you always wished you had playing Horde.”
With Kait, Jack is able to accompany her out into the extreme front of the battle, keeping her alive to push her limits of survivability even higher. He’s able to revive players, repair fortifications, pick up and retrieve weapons, and do it all while cloaked as he traverses the battlefield. Trying the class out for ourselves, it seems a great choice for players on your team who may be new to shooters, the Gears series in general, or Horde specifically (and never has freezing an enemy in place to allow teammates to obliterate them felt so good). On the flipside, Jack also represents a new opportunity for seasoned Gears players to play a more supportive role for their entire team. Jack might just be the most valuable class possible, since his presence amplifies the effectiveness of every other player on the field. Add in his Hijack Ultimate ability allowing him to take control of enemy units for a short time, and use them against the rest of their own forces, and he’s highly recommended.
Fahz Chutani: The Sniper
Fahz Chutani is yet another offensive weapon, to be used with precision by someone who favors patient, long range kills. Designated as an offensive class in Horde, his best placement will be farther back from the front lines of the battlefield--possibly even without a clear line of sight to every engagement. As a sniper, Fahz has an Ultimate ability that throws logic to the wind. Activating his X-Ray ability allows him to see through walls, delivering headshots and critical damage to enemies that can’t actually be seen by other fighters.
Sarah Connor: The Terminator
Fans have the upcoming release of Terminator: Dark Fate to thank for the introduction of actress Linda Hamilton into the Gears of War universe, but let's be honest: it isn't like Sarah Connor doesn't fit in alongside the other heroes of the franchise. In fact, there may be no equivalent survivor to Marcus Fenix than Sarah, which explains why the Terminator: Dark Fate DLC character pack makes her a Tank, just like Fenix. Without the need for all that oversized armor, obviously.
The developers rely on real voice recordings from Hamilton, but have also invented a new Ultimate ability called the Heavy Hitter. The attack is inspired by her famous scene in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, where she uses a shotgun to repeatedly knock back the T-1000 into a vat of molten metal in the film’s finale. When activated, ballistic hits will knock back and stun enemies, meaning she's just as good as Marcus at becoming a one-person army.
Emile & Kat: The Spartans
Keeping the action within the Microsoft family, players can also try their luck at Gears 5's versions of Emile-A239 and Kat-B320, famous members of the Noble Team Spartans of Halo: Reach. Fictionally, they should be the most un-killable fighters in any Horde battle... but in the interest of keeping things even and honoring their backstory, it's their specializations that make them unique.
For Emile, he's an offensive and opportunistic weapon, relying on his shotgun and knife to strike hard and fast--even if it means using his Dropshield Ultimate, deploying a globe of impenetrable energy. Just be careful when launching, since it can prove deadly to friendlies if they're not prepared. Kat functions best as a longer range Engineer, who has received a Passive ability to fabricate defenses at a lower rate than any other fighter.
We hope this helps new players find their way on the Horde mode battlefield, but the Gears 5 meta-game s guaranteed to evolve just as quickly as the developers can work to improve it. For now, players are best to try each hero to see which of the above classes fits best. Not to mention trying out Gears 5's version of Dave Bautista--at least until he can finally talk a studio into making that Gears of War movie.