Gears of War 4 Horde Mode beginner's guide: class list, skill cards, and more!

Gears of War 4 Monster

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 features 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's better than ever.

Here are the most important things you need to know about Gears of War 4's Horde Mode.

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. Gears of War 4's Horde mode was built with longevity in mind, and I can confirm that The Coalition have a long, long roadmap of content updates planned for Horde.

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'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.

Horde Mode 3.0 has a card-based skill unlock system

After every ten waves, you will receive credits to spend on Horde Packs that contain a random set of cards. Unlike Halo's REQ system, Horde Skill Cards are permanent unlocks, which can then be selected and taken into battle at the beginning of the match. There are multiple tiers of each Skill 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. You will also be able to unlock Strike cards, which allow you to call in a Mortar Strike, or a satellite Hammer of Dawn bombardment, and more.

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 by participating in Horde, you will be able to select up to five cards from your deck to improve and customize your classes' experience.

While the Gear Packs are randomized, you can destroy cards you don't want to create scrap, which can then be spent on Skill Cards you do want. Additionally, duplicate Skill Cards can be used to upgrade existing ones, and this type of progression will be essential if you want to take on the Insane difficulty mode. Consult the guide below for more information.

How to buy, craft and destroy cards in Gears of War 4

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.

I'm all over dat Fabricator. #GearsOfWar4 Horde Mode's gonna be a blast.— Jez Corden (@JezCorden) 5 September 2016

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, Soldier and Heavy make certain enemies are destroyed before they waste your equipment.

The Fabricator can also construct a Weapons Locker that allows you to retain 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. You can also upgrade existing structures by lifting them off the ground, then pressing the upgrade key as long as you have enough resources.

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. Allowing your Engineer to utilize the Fabricator is always a good strategy, but nothing beats co-ordinated building efforts over voice communication. Playing with randoms often results in tons of wasted power.

Horde Mode 3.0 is class-based

Unlike earlier versions of Horde, Gears of War 4's edition features 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 with multiple layers of progression.

Horde Mode 3.0 does not 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 using general Skill Cards, but it's probably sub-optimal to do so. You can also customize your classes with cosmetic skins you have unlocked.

Here's a general overview of Horde 3.0's classes and Skill Cards.


Snipers start 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. Players who pick Sniper should have confidence in their aim and spend most of their time providing cover fire and weakening more powerful enemies with headshots.

Skill Cards:

  • Explosive Headshot - Your headshot kills cause enemies to explode.
  • Headshot Damage - Increases headshot damage.
  • Mark Boost - Increases amount of enemies you can mark for your team.
  • Precision Rifle Capacity - Increases ammo capacity for rifles.
  • Precision Rifle Damage - Increases rifle damage.
  • Precision Rifle Reload - Increases reload speed with rifles.
  • Radar Ping - Allows you to spend Fabricator power to mark all nearby enemies.
  • Sniper Strike - Spend Fabricator power to hit several enemies instantly.


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.

Skill Cards:

  • Explosive Launcher Capacity - Increases ammo capacity for explosive weapons.
  • Explosive Launcher Damage - Increases damage with explosive weapons.
  • Explosive Launcher Reload - Increases reload speed with explosive weapons.
  • Heavy Weapon Damage - Increases damage with heavy weapons.
  • Marked Damage - Increases damage to targets that have been marked, useful in combination with a sniper.
  • Turret Capacity - Increases ammo capacity for turrets built by the Heavy.
  • Turret Damage - Increases damage while using turrets.
  • Pistol expert - Massively increases damage with pistols.
  • Mortar Strike - Calls in an explosive mortar attack in exchange for Fabricator power.


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 doubled up power collection in combat.

Skill Cards:

  • Brawler - Increased melee damage and increased resistance to melee damage.
  • Deposit Bonus - Bonus to Fabricator power deposits.
  • Energize - Power pickups heal the Scout.
  • Health Boost - Increases the Scout's base health.
  • Health Regeneration Boost - Increases the Scout's health regeneration speed.
  • Pickup Distance - Increases the radius of power pickups.
  • Rage - Melee and shotgun damage now heals the Scout.
  • Shotgun Capacity - Increases ammo capacity with shotguns.
  • Shotgun Damage - Increases damage dealt with shotguns.
  • Shotgun Magazine - Increases the amount of ammo shotguns have before needing to be reloaded.
  • Speed Boost - Increases the Scout's movement speed.
  • X-Ray - Allows the Scout to see enemies through walls by holding down the Tac-Com key.


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.

Skill Cards:

  • Active Reload Boost - Increases damage bonus when performing an active reload.
  • Assault Rifle Capacity - Increases ammo capacity with assault rifles, such as the Lancer.
  • Assault Rifle Damage - Increases damage with assault rifles.
  • Assault Rifle Magazine - Increases the amount of ammo assault rifles have before needing to be reloaded.
  • Cover Boost - Provides damage reduction while in cover.
  • Grenade Capacity - Increases the amount of grenades the Soldier can carry.
  • Grenade Damage - Increases the damage of grenades.
  • Grenade Plants - Increases the amount of grenades that can be planted as mines by the Soldier.
  • Hammer of Dawn Strike - Allows the Soldier to call in a devastating orbital laser strike by spending power at the Fabricator.


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, which is otherwise very expensive to purchase. 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.

Skill Cards:

  • Barrier Cost - Barriers are now cheaper to build at the Fabricator.
  • Barrier Health - Barriers now have more health when built by the Engineer.
  • Decoy Cost - Decoys are now cheaper to build at the Fabricator.
  • Decoy Health - Decoys now have more health when built by the Engineer.
  • Repair Boost - The repair tool is now cheaper to use and repairs more quickly.
  • Sentry Capacity - Sentry turrets built by the Engineer now have more ammo.
  • Sentry Cost - Sentry turrets are now cheaper to build.
  • Sentry Speed - Sentry turrets now have an increased rate of fire.
  • Turret Cost - Turrets are now cheaper to build at the Fabricator.
  • Turret Health - Turrets now have more health when built by the Engineer.
  • Weapons Locker Cost - Weapons Lockers have a reduced cost to build at the Fabricator.


Some Skill Cards are accessible by all classes, and these are as follows.

Skill Cards:

  • Build Cost - Reduces the amount of power required to build things at the Fabricator.
  • Carry Speed - Your movement speed while carrying fortifications or heavy weapons is increased.
  • Execution Bonus - Executed enemies drop way more power.
  • Fortification Health - All Fabricator constructions now have increased health, stacking with other health buffs.
  • Team Revive - You can spend power at the Fabricator to instantly revive fallen teammates.

Note: On casual difficulty, it's easy to go through all of Horde's 50 waves using virtually any composition, but in higher difficulties, Scouts and Engineers become almost mandatory for their ability to streamline fortification production.

Horde Mode is awesome

Far from being a tacked-on side feature, Horde 3.0 is a fleshed out and engaging way to play Gears of War 4, elevating the mode to levels we haven't seen before.

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 on the development of Horde mode.

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 the future! Oh, and get those chainsaws polished.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!