Gears of War 4 is set to arrive on October 11, and that means a brand new version of the game’s iconic Horde Mode, which pits you and your teammates against wave after wave of increasingly terrifying monsters in brutal combat. I had a chance to try out the new Horde Mode (version 3.0 to be exact) in an early demo and I’m impressed. The new game changes a lot—mostly for the better—but it still feels like classic Gears of War at its core.
You’ll notice the changes before you even start playing. Gears of War 4 adds a new class system, offering five different characters with varying abilities to choose from. Scouts move quickly so they can run around the map at the end of each wave and collect dropped items. Heavy fighters are best at using large weapons, while Snipers get extra perks for head shots and the Soldier is an overall well-rounded option. There’s also the Engineer, who gets bonuses for repairing fortifications and building new ones with the fabricator.
That’s another big change. Instead of building fortifications in pre-set spots on the map, you’ll use a special fabricator (kind of like a big 3D printer) to generate turrets, decoys and other defenses. That means you can place them anywhere you want. You can even move the fabricator around, though you’ll generally want to keep it in one space spot.
Gears of War 4 also introduces skill cards. These are class-based capabilities that you pick before the game starts. They can give you anything from extra health to special bonuses to new types of attacks. You’ll start with three slots, and unlock two more as you level up. There are lots of different skills to try out, adding an extra layer of depth to the game.
Okay, so on to the actual fighting. For the most part, it felt like classic Horde Mode. That might be because I played as the Soldier instead of one of the more specialized characters, but at the end of the day you’re still taking down enemies in extremely gory detail. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as shooting an ugly monster point blank and watching it explode, especially when you’re using a rocket launcher to do the shooting.
Beyond the usual enemies, there’s also a new class of robots called DeeBees, which come in a few different flavors. There’s a flying Guardian drone equipped with either a minigun or rocket launcher that you can salvage once you shoot it down. There’s also a fast-moving Tracker, which rolls across the ground and attempts to explode and your feet, adding a bit of intensity to the fight. The rest of the DeeBees are humanoid gun-carrying robots, which are fun to fight but not really as satisfying to kill.
The 10-wave demo I played wasn’t particularly difficult, though I did die once after venturing too far out into enemy territory alone. We were playing on the easiest setting, though, and the full Horde Mode for Gears of War 3 includes 50 waves with a boss battle every 10 waves.
As we reached the end of the demo an enemy helicopter flew over the old farmhouse that had served as our base and started firing down on us. I grabbed a minigun and emptied it into the helicopter, as we quickly worked together to take down the boss. It’s safe to assume that Gears of War 4 Horde Mode gets a lot harder than that, but it still felt pretty satisfying.