For the last decade, Gears of War has captivated fans with its genre defining Horde mode. First included in Gears of War 2, Horde mode pits you against wave after wave of enemies at an increasing difficulty. It was soon discovered by many avid gamers that this was the perfect recipe for split-screen fun. A few mates, some beers and a copy of Gears was all you needed for an evening’s entertainment.
But how has Horde changed over the years? Has the demand for new features broken or perfected the winning formula?
The original Horde mode set you against wave after wave of enemies with nothing to protect you but the guns on your back. Every tenth wave, beginning at wave 11, the locust horde gets stronger and players were forced to take a more defensive approach. You were forced to hide in structures or behind whatever wall you could find to defeat the encroaching locust. This soon meant that gamers would discover their perfect spots on each map to create bottlenecks and slaughter the grubs. It is also worth noting that Boom shields became everyone’s best friend as you could block off corridors by putting them the wrong way round. Unless the enemy stood there unharmed long enough to pick it up the shield became an unbreakable barrier, unable to be kicked down like it would positioned normally. (Unfortunately, this was patched shortly before Gears of War 3 was released.)
With Gears 3 came fortifications such as barbed wire and turrets or static Mulchers. this added a tactical element to slow the onslaught. Currency was added to buy these defenses from command posts positioned in certain areas of the map. The players would choose one of these bases to defend and hunker down behind their barricades. Another addition to Horde 2.0 in Gears 3 were the boss waves, these threw some of the larger enemies from the main game at the players such as Brumak, Savage Corpsers or Reavers. These obviously took more to kill than the usual infantry and normally came after a large onslaught so the player had spent most of their money on repairs.
Gear 3 also saw the tables turn on COG with the addition of Beast mode, putting players in the shoes of the Locust themselves tasked with killing all of the humans in the wave before the timer runs out and the hammer of dawn is called in. Despite only having 12 waves of increasing difficulty, Beast mode was a reasonable distraction as you could play with the differing Locust play styles.
There was no Horde mode in Gears of War Judgement, instead it was replaced by OverRun which focused more on opposing teams trying to destroy or defend a generator, or the covers on 2 emergence holes. This was a low point in the series for Horde fans as they were forced to choose from pre-set classes and complete limited objectives rather than simply surviving the beloved Horde.
After Gears Judgement, fans of the series were eager to see what would become of their favourite past-time in Gears 4. They weren’t disappointed either; returning to the simpler kill-everything Horde template, players are given a fabricator and can choose where to place it. Fortifications built at the fabricator can be placed anywhere on the map as long as the player can be bothered to slowly traipse to the desired location. This allows you to build your own fortress wherever you desire and adds variety to the constant onslaught.
Gears of War 4 has a solid single-player campaign (covered in our Gears of War 4 Review) and Horde mode will take up a huge chunk of your life if you want to master each of its maps. So grab some friends and maybe a crate or two and wade in, lancer at the ready!