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Gears 5 Horde mode guide: Start making waves

Here is everything you need to know about Gears 5's Horde mode that will help you clear waves like a pro.


Microsoft and the Coalition have just released Gears 5, the biggest and most ambitious title in the Gears of War franchise yet. Along with its sprawling campaign, revamped versus modes, and all-new Escape mode, the game offers the best version of the popular Horde mode to date. Bring along four of your friends, random pubbies, or A.I. companions and get ready to dominate the assorted waves of Swarm, Locust, and corrupted robots.

Once you get a handle on the basics of Horde mode and implement the tips and knowledge in this guide, you’ll be able to easily work your way up the wave ladder (and hopefully make the mode less stressful).

Introduction to Horde mode

Fabricator placement in Gears 5 Horde mode is very important.
Fabricator placement in Gears 5 Horde mode is very important.

The premise of Gears 5's Horde mode is easy to understand - A team of five players or A.I. must defend a map from increasingly more difficult waves of hostiles. From the outset of any Horde mode session, the team will be given a Fabricator box that can be placed just about anywhere on the map prior to the enemy waves starting up. Because the Fabricator serves as a hub for the building of all structures and the easiest way to replenish ammunition, careful placement on the maps is crucial to making sustained runs deep into the mode.

As the waves of enemies start to pour into the level, they will drop currency known as Power. This currency is represented by faded yellow beams with diamonds floating above. A lightning bolt is cut out of the diamond shapes to indicate these pickups are Power. It does not matter which players on the team collect the Power, as the totals will be distributed evenly amongst the team. During less hectic moments or between rounds, players can deposit the Power collected into the fabricator. Defensive structures and ammunition can be purchased at the Fabricator using Power currency. Lastly, prepare to battle a boss every ten waves, starting with Wave 10. These encounters can be particularly challenging, so plan ahead.

Characters and Ultimate Abilities

There are up to ten different characters available to select for play in Horde mode. Most characters have their own unique powers that can help with dispatching hostiles during the waves. These powers are known as Unique Abilities and have cooldowns that must pass after activation before they can be used again. Each character also has a passive ability. The available Horde hero roster (with Unique Abilities and passives) is as follows:

  • JD Fenix: Earns extra ammunition for every sixth headshot - Ultimate offers an artillery strike on a targeted enemy
  • Kait Diaz: Generates extra Power from nearby kills - Ultimate allows for a brief period of invisibility (handy for melee takedowns)
  • Del Walker: Can build fortifications at a discount and is able to carry the Fabricator more quickly - Ultimate allows for deployment of DeeBee trackers
  • Marcus Fenix: Can have his Ultimate recharged more quickly by taking damage - Ultimate converts all his bullets into headshots
  • Fahz Chutani: Granted additional pickups after every sixth crit kill - Ultimate grants the ability to see through walls as well as fire through them
  • Jack: Can place a mark on enemies that recharge Ultimate abilities quicker upon killing them - Ultimate allows Jack to MindJack enemies and control them for a short period
  • Emile A239: Passive is identical to JD - Ultimate allows the deployment of Drop Shield that blocks incoming fire
  • Kat 8320: Passive is identical to Del - Ultimate allows deployment of a holographic decoy
  • Sarah Connor: Incoming damage recharges Ultimate ability - Ultimate allows all ballistic weapons to cause knockback and stun
  • Dave Bautista: Character release September 15, 2019

Skill Cards and Perks

Skill Cards and Perks can make taking down the toughest enemies much easier.
Skill Cards and Perks can make taking down the toughest enemies much easier.

Gears 5 offers you a couple of different ways to boost your character's effectiveness during a session of Horde mode: Skill Cards and Perks. Skill cards are unique to each character and are earned by playing Horde mode and leveling said characters. You will begin to earn these cards once you fail or complete a Horde mode session and they offer various passive buffs like increased ammo capacity, increased damage, and increased team points. As you level up following rounds, you may receive duplicate cards. You can combine lower-level cards to upgrade them and make them more effective. You choose which cards to play in the Horde mode lobby prior to the session start. You can activate up to five cards (once you reach character level 9) prior to the round.

Perks are passive character boosts that are purchased during the Horde mode session. You can spend Power currency on up to four Perks, with each subsequent upgrade increasing in cost. It is usually a better strategy to spend your Power on these perks versus going too heavy on defensive fortifications. Unlike the fortifications, Perks stay active for the duration of any Horde mode run.

Controlling the Power Tap

Capturing and defending Power Taps can ensure your team earns extra Power between waves.
Capturing and defending Power Taps can ensure your team earns extra Power between waves.

Power Taps are a mechanic that is new to the Gears 5 version of Horde Mode. These devices can spawn on your map and must be captured during a round to be useful. If you capture them successfully, you can use them to receive extra power between rounds. Hostiles will try and ruin this helpful buff, so make sure that you and your team work to defend it during waves. If you find that the Power Tap is too far from your fabricator and is making survival too difficult, you may opt to let the enemies have it so you can ensure you survive until the end of the wave. Should you manage to successfully hold a Power Tap for ten waves, it will move to a different spot on the map.

Generic tips of the helpful variety

Try to not get hugged by the Sire.
Try to not get hugged by the Sire.

Once you start working your way into the later waves of Horde mode, communication can become the difference between winning and having yourself pulled apart by a giant Locust. Use voice comms with your teammates when possible. Also, make sure to keep an eye on your teammates to see when they are being overwhelmed or have been downed. Reviving each other is pretty important. Surviving the waves is much easier with a full group than trying to lone-wolf it.

The Sire enemies can be really tough to deal with when things get hectic. They can reach out and grab you and pull you away from the action and make it tougher on the team in general. Left 4 Dead veterans can liken these creatures to Smokers or Hunters. Also, be sure to familiarize yourself with the various firearms that mobs drop in early rounds. You will often find yourself short on ammo and being able to pick up a randomly dropped weapon can be the difference between life or death. Each gun has its strengths and weaknesses. If you know their limits before you are forced to use them in a high-stress situation, you’ll be much better off. Lastly, try leaving the last enemy of a wave standing for a short period so the team can grab all the Power pickups on the map without having to make a mad dash for them during the between-wave downtime.

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Contributing Tech Editor

Chris Jarrard likes playing games, crankin' tunes, and looking for fights on obscure online message boards. He understands that breakfast food is the only true food. Don't @ him.

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