Gears of War 4 is coming, and earlier this week, Microsoft unveiled the latest version of Horde Mode, the game's multiplayer PvE component.

Gears of War is set in a violent world where humanity fights tooth and nail for its survival. A brand new threat, known only as The Swarm has emerged, and they look set to finish off humanity for good.

Gears of War 4 will feature a fully co-operative campaign following JD Fenix and his squad. Gears of War 4 also sees the return of PvP multiplayer, which is gearing up to be even more brutal than previous installments. For those of us who enjoy co-operative PvE however, The Coalition has revived Horde mode once again for Gears of War 4, and it looks like it could be better than ever.

Here are the five most important things you need to know about Gears of War 4's Horde mode, ahead of the game's release on October 11th, 2016.

1. What *is* Horde Mode exactly?

Horde Mode is Gears of War's co-operative player vs. environment mode, which allows groups of up to five gamers to work together to defend a position from increasingly difficult waves of enemies and bosses.

With each wave, you'll be able to gain access to increasingly powerful defensive fortifications from barriers, to rocket turrets and more. After each match, you'll unlock permanent progression upgrades that advance your character and build your roster of skills and unlocks.

Historically, Horde has been an incredibly fun mode that added heaps of value to the core Gears package. Horde Mode 3.0 looks to build on that immeasurably in a similar way Warzone has for Halo 5. In our interview with Ryan Cleven, he stated that the mode was built with longevity in mind.

2. Buy once, play anywhere

Gears of War 4 is among the first batch of Play Anywhere titles. Microsoft announced the Play Anywhere program at E3 to show their commitment to gaming mobility. Whether you're on a Windows 10 PC or an Xbox One, purchasing the digital version of Gears of War 4 will net you a copy for both the Windows 10 PC Store and Xbox One.

Gears of War 4 Horde Mode

Gears of War 4's co-operative modes, including co-op campaign, co-op versus, and the 5-player Horde mode will also feature cross play between Xbox One and Windows 10.

Not only will you be able to play Gears of War 4 across devices, but your save data, achievements, in-game purchases and progression will also travel with you via your Microsoft Account.

Beyond the synchronizing of data and purchases, as a Play Anywhere title, Gears of War 4's co-operative modes, including co-op campaign, co-op versus, and the 5-player Horde mode will also feature cross play between Xbox One and Windows 10. This means that you can play with friends using the UWP Windows 10 version, even if you're playing on the Xbox One version.

Using the Windows 10 Xbox app, you'll also be able to jump into parties with Xbox gamers, join lobbies, and enjoy all the same features as your console gaming buddies. Awesome.

3. Horde Mode 3.0 has a card-based skill unlock system

After each match, you will gain access to Horde Packs that contain a random set of cards. Unlike Halo's REQ system, Gear Cards are permanent unlocks, which can then be selected and taken into battle at the beginning of the match.

There are multiple tiers of ability card. The lowest cards are passive upgrades, improving damage or speed. More powerful cards will feature more active skills, such as siphoning health while using shotguns as a Scout. At the highest level, you will unlock Strike cards, which allow you to call in a Mortar Strike, or a satellite Hammer of Dawn bombardment.

Each classes' level determines the amount of cards they can bring into battle. Initially, you will only be able to select one card from a deck of around 11 total. As you level up, you will be able to select up to five cards from your deck to improve and customize your classes' experience.

Gears of War 4

4. Horde Mode 3.0 is class-based

Speaking of which, unlike previous versions of Horde, Gears of War 4's edition will feature a class-based system. Teams of five players will be able to choose between the Engineer, Scout, Heavy, Sniper and Soldier classes to promote team-play and multiple layers of progression.

"What are the best builds? We're not sure. We're hoping players will mix and match, and experiment with different things to find the best class load outs."
Lead Multiplayer Designer, Ryan Cleven

In our interview with The Coalition's Ryan Cleven, he stated that the developer "wanted to encourage players to take on different roles to bring out more co-op gameplay." He also noted that Horde Mode 3.0 won't lockout weapons to certain classes, as seen in Gears of War Judgement. Instead, each class will have a designated loadout that can be modified through the game's progression systems, adding new weapons into the mix.

That's not to say each class doesn't have a signature playstyle, and even then, you don't have to select a class if you don't want to. You can play a standard Gears of War character without any skill cards, but I imagine it would be sub-optimal to do so. You can also customize your classes with any cosmetic skin you have unlocked.

Gears of War 4 Engineer

The Horde class roles break down a little something like this:

  • Sniper: Starts with a Longshot and Markza sniper rifle and a Snub pistol. They focus on marksman weapons and long distance support. Snipers can use skills that improve headshots, precision damage, improved ammunition capacity, explosive rounds and faster reloads.
  • Heavy: Heavies come equipped with a Retro Lancer, Boomshot, and Boltok pistol, and are designed to deal large amounts of damage across an area of effect. Heavies gain an advantage over larger enemies as a result, and can pick up abilities that increase various types of weapon damage.
  • Scout: Scouts start with a Retro Lancer, a Gnasher shotgun, and a Snub pistol. Scouts are designed to roadie run around the map and collect power, which drops from defeated enemies. Power is spent on fortifications, which we'll get to in a minute. Some of the Scout's abilities include speed increases, extended capabilities in close range combat and improvements to power collecting.
  • Soldier: Soldiers start with a Lancer, Gnasher, Snub pistol and grenades, and play like the classic Gears of War archetype. As an all-purpose class, Soldiers focus on killing enemies wherever they're found. Soldiers can improve things like explosive damage, ammo capacity, durability and reload speeds.
  • Engineer: Engineers start with a sub-machine gun Enforcer, a Gnasher, and a Snub pistol. The Engineer is a little special, though, as they also come equipped with a repair tool. Engineers gain access to abilities that help them set up defensive fortifications such as barriers, turrets, and decoys. Some of the skills include increasing the damage of fortifications, their speed, durability, in addition to decreasing construction costs.

In our interview with Ryan Cleven, I asked if Horde mode would see similar longevity to Halo's Warzone, with new content drops, new classes and so on. Cleven said that they aren't ready to comment on future plans, but they did build Horde mode with expandability in mind. There is a lot of potential for future content here.

5. Learn to love The Fabricator

The Fabricator is a device that can be moved around by two players. It's also how you generate fortifications to defend your squad. Unlike previous versions of Horde, fortifications in Gears of War 4 can be placed anywhere. Cleven noted that you could stack barriers on top of each other multiple times to exaggerate their effects.

The Fabricator requires Power to generate fortifications. Scouts are supposed to collect Power from fallen enemies so that players can build different types of structures. Structures can be damaged, and even destroyed by encroaching DeeBees and Swarm mobs, so it's up to the Engineer to repair the fortifications, and up to the Sniper to make sure enemies are weakened enough to be finished off before they can damage your equipment.

"You can even stack barriers on barriers on barriers on barriers and try to grease the A.I. in whatever clever ways you can come up with. It's a game changer." — Lead Multiplayer Designer, Ryan Cleven

The Fabricator can also construct a weapon locker that allows you to carry weapons between rounds. The locker even regenerates ammo over time, and allows you to retain the most potent heavy weapons for deployment in more challenging waves, should you choose to.

Just like fortifications, the Fabricator can level up, providing access to more robust structures. Selecting a good spot for the Fabricator will form part of the strategic play inside Horde Mode after it has dropped into the middle of the map at the beginning of a round. Making good use of it will be critical to victory.

Early signs are very positive

From Gears of War 4's recent multiplayer beta and from going hands-on myself with the campaign at Gamescom, I'm pretty happy to speculate that Microsoft could be on to a winner with Gears of War 4. Horde, rather than a tacked-on side feature, seems just as fleshed out and beefy as previous installments, elevating the gameplay to levels we haven't seen before.

Gears of War 4 Horde

The fact you can place fortifications, turrets and decoys anywhere opens up all sorts of exciting possibilities for emergent gameplay, something Ryan Cleven was keen to emphasize in our recent interview. Make sure you check it out in the link below for more detail!

We'll update this article in the future with more detail when it becomes available, including skill cards, classes, enemy types and more. Be sure to bookmark it for when the game launches on October 11th, 2016, exclusively for Xbox One and Windows 10.

Oh, and get those chainsaws polished.