Gears 5 brings back the series' popular Horde mode but shakes things up with what developer The Coalition calls "Hero characters." Gears of War 4 had character classes in its Horde mode, but they didn't feel distinct from one another. This time, however, The Coalition has given characters their own unique ability cards and Ultimate to make them stand apart from each other. Some of these simply act as a great way to deal a bunch of damage, while others work in conjunction with each other to each become more effective--like Marcus's instant headshots (and AOE buff that spreads to nearby allies) paired with Fahz's ability to see and shoot through walls.
Despite these distinguishing traits, the vast majority of characters are still going to play like a Gears of War character. This isn't a bad thing because playing Horde mode as Marcus Fenix, The Terminator's Sarah Connor, or any other gun-toting character, is a ton of fun in Gears 5. And with the new adjustable difficulty, which increases your rewards for every modifier you flip on, there's plenty to challenge yourself with. That said, The Coalition created a brand new type of character for Gears 5, repurposing the campaign's drone assistant Jack as a support character in the same vein as Mercy from Overwatch.
I recently played as Jack for nearly 30 rounds of Horde mode, and in that time I got the hang of what a good Jack player is responsible for and should focus on. Healing your teammates and making sure they're safe is the obvious priority, and with the various turrets, decoys, and traps that players can construct, keeping these contraptions repaired and full of ammo is also paramount to success. However, I wasn't just babysitting my team the entire time. Jack can be impactful individually and is often the most important character on the battlefield, able to turn the tides of defeat and get his team back in the fight.
A great example of Jack's importance came up when I spoke to lead multiplayer producer Otto Ottosson. We spoke about Jack and his different utilities in Horde mode, when Ottosson, who told me he'll take any chance to play a good support class, mentioned that he mains Jack.
"I've had moments where the team is all down, and they've even been killed," Ottosson recalled. "Jack has this cloak ability … but if he gets too close to the enemy he de-cloaks. They become aware of him. So I was going around, picking up their COG tags, and trying to find my way around as the enemy can't see me to get to the fabricator and spawn them back in. It's very different from any other character you play in Gears."
And it's true. Playing Jack in Horde mode almost turns it into a stealth game. Whenever you're not performing an action or speedboosting, you're cloaked. This lets you do things like sneak up on a particularly bothersome baddie and shock them with your zapper, freezing them in place and dealing a small amount of damage. You're not going to take on an entire army by yourself, but utilizing Jack's zapper and communicating with your team can mean the difference between success and defeat. Shocking an enemy to prevent them from destroying your team's meticulously placed turrets and then calling over a teammate to help you defeat them is one facet of Jack that makes for a satisfying new way to experience Horde mode.
Jack's innate stealth abilities also help in support situations. At one point in our match, one of our teammates was grabbed by a Snatcher and pulled away from us. A group of Swarm soldiers stood between us and the Snatcher, but as Jack, I was able to sneak my way up to the Snatcher and shock him until he let go of our teammate. It's moments like this that made me feel like the MVP of our match, and I never fired a gun… at least, not as Jack himself.
Jack's Ultimate is carried over from one of his abilities in the campaign. In Gears 5's story, you can send Jack to use Highjack on an enemy, which turns them against their Spawn brethren to help you for a short period of time. This works similarly in Horde mode, except when you actually trigger the ability on a specific monster, you take control of them yourself. The enemies aren't particularly interesting to control, as they're mostly all just big, lumbering creatures, but if you hijack the right one at the right time, you can devastate the current enemy wave. I was able to hijack a rocket salvo-carrying DeeBee and completely obliterate the Swarm soldiers running ahead of me. It was extremely satisfying. You aren't able to pull this off every wave, but when you can, it's an incredible change of pace.
The focus on Hero characters with unique abilities and Ultimates is an interesting direction to take Gears' Horde mode. The abilities and Ultimates seem to deliver another layer of teamwork that incentivizes working together and coordinating your attack. Jack is the cherry on top, serving as Gears' first true support character, a stark contrast to the guns-blazing action that the series is so well known for. I think Jack could be a great way to bring new types of players into Horde mode. It'll be interesting to see how players take to him and how he evolves as you level up and get new ability cards.
Thankfully, Gears 5 is expected to receive quite a bit of support for its multiplayer modes, Horde included. Multiplayer design director Ryan Cleven told me that Gears' map builder is coming to Horde, in addition to new characters. There are also plans for big multiplayer expansions every three months, including a completely free progression system called Tour of Duty, which works similarly to a battle pass.
To learn more about Gears 5, how it handles microtransactions, and more, check out our articles below:
- Gears 5: Huge, Open Levels And Creative Combat Deliver Big Changes
- Gears 5's Campaign Is Inspired By Open World Games And RPGs
- How Gears 5's Microtransactions And Multiplayer Progression Work