Gears of War 4‘s horde mode leans heavily on iteration over innovation, which is fine when you have such a solid base to build off of. Gears of War 2 started the horde mode craze, and the series continued to refine it over the years. With Gears of War 4 the enemies are swapped out for new skins, and while players are now given roles to help focus their strategy, it is all very familiar ground.
The biggest differences are the fabricator, which is basically a storefront from which you can purchase and then build defensive structures. Each kill made, by any player, will cause points to be dropped. Each player is free to grab the drops, whether from their own kill or not, and then deposit them at the fabricator. It acts as a bank of sorts for all of your team’s points, and each defensive item you get eats into that.
However, if you happen to be a specific class, these aspects can be adjusted to your specific character. As the engineer the cost for items is lessened, and as the scout the pick ups you obtain are increased. This gives each player a focus to their actions. Some will be better damage dealers, like the soldier or sniper, who can take out enemies faster than myself as the scout. Once they’re done mowing down enemies I can sprint in and pick up the cash to deposit to a waiting engineer who sets up better defenses for the next round. Some of the customization is also determined before your match, as you can choose some skill cards that amplify aspects of your class, whether it be increased health or damage or modifies grenades.
In theory it all sounds great, but everyone can play armchair commander. Once in the heat of battle, things never go according to plan. Players greedily run towards every shiny drop, and people spend our hard earned points towards awfully placed razor wire. Maybe you’ll find a good group of randoms on Xbox Live, or maybe you’ll get people with no mics and muted volume, barely making it wave after wave.
There are some other interesting changes, such as a weapons locker that allows you to store and resupply any weapon placed inside for later use. The weapons have changed since everything in horde mode is pulling from the single and multiplayer of Gears of War 4. At the very foundation, its still the same survival mode against AI controlled enemies.
Sure they look different, but most of the roles found in the Locust horde can be found in the Swarm. Robotic grunts, beefier bullet sponges, smaller enemies that blitz, it can all feel pretty familiar to anyone who has played horde mode before. There are some new enemies, such as a flying robotic sentry with a hard light shield.
This does not mean by any means that Gears of War 4 horde mode is not fun. I still have a blast blitzing the enemy at the beginning of a wave with my Gnasher and taking out three enemies in quick succession. Gears still has some of the absolute best third person cover shooting of modern games. It just isn’t going to radically change anyone’s mind among those who has already played horde mode. You will absolutely know what you are getting, it is just more polished and has a few extra features added on top of an already excellent cooperative multiplayer mode.