Gears 5: Horde Mode Character And Strategy Guide

I’ve been playing Gears 5’s horde mode pretty extensively since its release. A lot more than I’d like to admit, honestly. So, at this point, I’d like to share my thoughts on how the mode feels along with strategies and tips I’ve picked up on to best survive the brutal 50 wave co-op mode, in my best opinion. Please keep in mind that this is only my opinion based on my experience with the mode, so feel free to leave your own tips and info. in the comments below. More knowledge spread around the community leads to more competent players.

So, right from the jump, Gears 5’s horde mode feels a lot more difficult, even on lower difficulties, than Gears 4, at least based on my experience with both games. This is good, although the way the game handles difficulty levels is a little suspect. Instead of just standard titles to describe each difficulty, specific modifiers now affect it. There are seven modifiers in total with each active one knocking the challenge up a notch from beginner (no modifiers) all the way up to master (all seven).

While I’m not opposed to difficulty modifiers, I do think that the enemy AI behavior takes a hit for it. It feels as though enemy units are now more aware of the fact that they’re bullet sponges than ever before. Shootouts feel like more of a game of cat-and-mouse on who can fire off a shot quicker from cover and duck their head back down before the other. On higher difficulties, enemies are all too comfortable to blatantly rise from cover to take shots, fully running the risk of being pelted with bullets simply because they can withstand the beating.

Marcus

Photo Credit: James Robinson

Over the years, I’ve come to grips with bullet sponges in video games. Now, it’s how the bullet sponges behave that really irks me. There’s just something about Gears 5’s horde AI that feels off. The challenge doesn’t feel like it comes from the Swarm outmaneuvering you, but from them just being able to take more punishment than you when they make stupid moves. Or throw flashbangs from the most unlikely places on the map that still manage to hit you somehow. Or a Sentinel shows up and promptly wipes your team. Drones also rarely roadie run anymore or switch from cover to cover in an organic manner. It’s just a little irksome but tolerable, more or less.

I also have reason to believe the difficulty dictates more parameters than just what modifiers are active. There’s a distinct difference between beginner and intermediate. The active modifier between those two difficulties is usually the one that prevents you from restarting the last wave. Ostensibly, a modifier like that doesn’t really make the game harder, just more tedious. I can’t exactly prove this, but it does feel like the game’s difficulties aren’t as transparent as the modifiers might lead you to believe.

But enough about the Swarm, let’s talk about the COG. Gears 5 brings back class roles. This time around though, they’re character locked. This is bothersome considering that’s there’s a total of 6 playable characters in horde mode. 9 if you count the guest characters you receive through special means. There are 5 roles in total: Scout, Offense, Engineer, Tank, and Support. While you can play characters who fill the same role in one game, you can’t play duplicate characters. For example, you can run a JD and a Fahz who both fill the offense role. But you can’t run two JD’s. The game will auto-select an unselected character for one of the players trying to run the same character. Usually the lower level character. Oh yeah, there’s also character grinding…

I won’t get into that though. Right now, I want to talk about what each character brings to the table based on my experience playing as and with them and how they feel. I haven’t played as every character, and I don’t really plan to. So, some of these studies will be shorter than others. Again, feel free to leave more detail on characters in the comments should your knowledge on some exceed mine.

Characters

Marcus

So up first is the legend himself, Marcus Fenix. My time spent with Marcus was… disappointing to be honest. His role is tank. He’s the only character out of the launch roster that fills that role if you don’t count the guest characters. Contrary to the name of his role though, Marcus doesn’t feel any more durable than anyone else on the roster. This isn’t to say that the word ‘tank’ in video games has an absolute definition. It’s just when you hear the word in that context, you usually think of someone who can take a lot of punishment.

As such, I’m honestly not sure what significance Marcus has on the roster at this stage. And that’s kind of sad to say given how important he is to the Gears franchise. Even his in-game description for horde mode seems to be at a loss for what he’s for. It’s very generalized/vague and doesn’t feel all that unique for a character of his magnitude.

Marcus’s ultimate is ‘Living Legend’. It turns every shot he fires from his weapons into automatic headshots. Allies within the area of effect for the ultimate also benefit from this buff. Experimenting with the ultimate didn’t exactly lead to fruitful or satisfying results. Getting auto-headshots is cool but doesn’t really amount to much outside of just helping to take down a focused target. It’s also not guaranteed that you or anyone else will even benefit from the buff, especially in later waves and higher difficulties, given the ultimate’s rather small base AOE and enemies being able to flush you out of cover or cause you to keep your head down for its entire duration sometimes.

I imagine some of his skill cards might offset this, though I haven’t been able to try them all. He has several cards that give bonuses to his ultimate like giving him stim or increasing the time it’s active. I imagine this might make it a lot more useful. I’ve never seen a Marcus walking around with stim active though. Of course, this might have to do with how fast enemies can remove stim. The aspect that feels most awkward to me about Marcus comes back around to his role.

Gears Horde 5

Photo Credit: James Robinson

As I mentioned, when you think of a tank, you think of a big bruiser who can take a lot of damage. Marcus does have some cards that give him damage resistance and even give him a damage buff when on low health. None of them seem to synergize well, at least with how you’d imagine playing him as a tank. A lot of his damage resistance buffs come from him being in cover, at least to maximize their efficiency. I think it’d be a lot more practical if Marcus had abilities that benefit him for being out of cover.

One thing I noticed about Marcus while playing as him and seeing others play him is that it’s hard to get anything going. His damage output is kind of low overall. This makes sense for a tank more or less, but currently, Gears 5‘s horde mode feels like if you aren’t putting down damage, or playing as Jack, it doesn’t feel like you’re contributing much. Marcus doesn’t feel like he has any other real redeeming qualities that make him more useful.

So, here’s my suggestion. Give Marcus more utility that rewards players for playing out of cover and being more aggressive. Perhaps using heavy weapons out of cover gives him a damage reduction instead. Living Legend gets a larger base radius and isn’t exclusive to just helping people in cover. He doesn’t get staggered as much as other characters would when using the chainsaw bayonet while getting shot at. Maybe he could kite enemies like bosses better than other characters. These are just some I thought of off the top of my head. I think changes like these will help Marcus fulfill that tank role and allow teams to play the more aggressive playstyle that Gears 5 wants them to play with Marcus out in the front.

JD

Up next is the prodigal son, JD. Now, I haven’t really played JD all that much in Gears 5. His utility seems to be off the charts compared to other characters. The biggest defining trait of JD is the bleed damage he does with explosives. I’ve seen games where JD’s literally just stock up on Lancer GL’s in weapons lockers and continuously rain down hell upon the enemy, turning a Master difficulty game into a cakewalk. Bleed damage is no joke in this mode, but I’ll get to that later on.

JD’s ultimate is an artillery strike. To be honest, I have yet to be able to tell the difference between that and the Lancer GL’s grenade fire but I have a feeling that it really doesn’t make that much of a difference as long as that bleed damage goes through. He also has a lot of cards that synergize well with his penchant for explosions. The majority of them give considerable buffs to his artillery strike and Lancer GL. He also gets a Custom Boomshot card, which gives the Boomshot, one of the better explosive weapons in the game, a small buff as well if he happens to come across one.

It’s obvious that JD is where most of your significant damage is going to be coming from in any given horde match. The guy’s explosive options can blow whole waves away in the blink of an eye if you get the right set-up, and I’m sure his card options are pretty fun to mix and match to try and find that perfect set. I see so many games in the game browser hollering for JD’s on higher difficulties because he can be straight-up cheese when you keep feeding him. He kind of kills the fun for anyone else that way, but I don’t blame people for doing whatever they can figure out to win Gears 5‘s horde mode.

Fahz

Ughh… If this guy didn’t automatically start out with the loadout I wanted, there’s no way I would’ve ever touched him. Fahz fills the offensive role like JD, but his offense is much more precision-based. Out of the two characters, Fahz is much less popular in terms of demand, at least from what I’ve noticed. That doesn’t make him any less fun to play though.

While I could deal without his accent, his attitude and just his overall dickishness as a character, he’s still the only pure sniper in Gears 5 right now. Playing as him doesn’t really feel all that different from playing the sniper role in Gears 4. I just miss being able to mark multiple targets at once. That said, Fahz does come with a few fun perks of his own.

Fahz’s ultimate is probably one of the most satisfying to use out of the character’s that I’ve played. While it isn’t exactly as powerful as JD’s I imagine, it is a blast to use if you get rolling with it. When active, Fahz can see and shoot enemies through walls. Pick your targets correctly during this time and you can put a lot of damage down while totally uncontested. It’s a good way to heat up or help clear out those pesky Swarm hunters.

Del

Photo Credit: James Robinson

His cards also aren’t too bad. He gets damage boosts and benefits to precision weapons and resistance to incoming precision damage, making it a bit safer to take those one-on-one sniper duels, though not incredibly safe. He also probably has one of the silliest cards in Gears 5 as well: Explosive headshots. Critical kills during his X-ray ultimate does splash damage with this card. It’s a fun card, but I wouldn’t say it has the most utility considering enemies don’t usually group up close enough in large numbers to get a lot of value out of the card consistently.

Fun character, a little underrated in my opinion, but I suppose it’s understandable when you have JD to contest with. The fact that Fahz himself is also just an asshole character probably doesn’t help him in that department either. That’s what you get when you lock roles to characters in a game like this.

Jack

If you’re unhappy with the state of horde mode or the campaign of Gears 5, you have this little robot to blame for it. It’s overwhelmingly obvious that the campaign and horde mode was heavily built around the mechanics of this little tin can.

So, I’m just gonna say it right now, I haven’t nor will I ever play as Jack in Gears 5. Ever. I don’t care how fun he might be. Hell, I’ve even heard some people call him absolutely boring to play. But you will never break my grudge against this bot because he’s the biggest reason why the game is how it is. And that bothers me because of how dependent horde matches are on him.

Certain options become almost unavailable if you aren’t running a Jack. And other options become much safer with him. Forges feel like it’s practically a Jack exclusive resource. He’s the only character who can use it efficiently during and between waves. If you get bad power tap spawns, Jack makes securing them and babysitting them a bit safer. That’s only if you actually want to bother with them though. More on that later.

This little toaster can navigate himself through a bevy of wildfire to pick up teammates half the time. I imagine most Jack players feel like a god when 3 teammates go down and they’re the only one that can get to each of them safely. He can pick up resources during waves that any other character will surely get punished for. His little zapper stuns enemies and his ultimate can take control of one.

My three biggest issues with Jack, from what I’ve seen, are as follows. The dependence on the forge, a carry mentality and the deflection of blame.

I’ve seen most Jack’s leave or get upset in a game because the engineer wouldn’t build or upgrade the forge. It leads me to believe that most Jack’s don’t need to, or don’t feel like they contribute in any other way besides feeding the forge, picking up people when they go down and occasionally using their ultimate. Because of this, Jack can feel like that role that can just be carried to wins. I’m not saying that’s the case or that all Jack players are looking for that, but it certainly is a possibility. Then there’s the deflection of blame. As a character who isn’t really expected to put down damage, get kills or be directly involved in a fight, Jack’s can more easily deflect blame to other players for a loss, similar to a support player in Overwatch.

Now, again, I’m not saying any of these things are the case. They’re just excuses that any average Jack can fall back on. Also, I hate this little trash can’s design. He looks like a flying butthole with teardrop eyes…

Del

I figured the engineer role would end up being my secondary character type. I enjoyed building fortifications in the fourth game. The engineer role in Gears 5 is the only one that has access to all fortifications at any time. It’s also the only role that can upgrade. It seemed like a no brainer.

But then I started playing it…

So, the engineer is probably the role that will drive you nuts if you aren’t careful. No doubt, this role has the highest APM of any other role in the game. You’re always moving, running around trying to build and keep fortifications up during and in between waves. You rarely ever get time for rest, especially if you don’t have a Jack to lend a hand in fixing or reloading defenses.

On top of that, people are always begging you to build this and that and will get all pissy if you don’t. “Build a forge!”, “Build me a weapons locker!”, “More turrets!”. It’s the biggest pain in the ass. And it feels like no one actually appreciates what you’re doing. To cap it all off, you’re constantly finagling with finite power all the time, especially if your team doesn’t deposit. And you might as well restart if they don’t because you won’t make it very far on higher difficulties. Every fortification you put up is a significant decision made by you. Questions rolled through my head every time I opened up the fabricator menu: ‘Do I put another barrier in this spot or do I place another turret here?’, ‘How much power should I be spending on what resources?’.

It gets a little easier as you keep playing the maps and seeing how other people set up their defenses as the engineer, but it’s still way more stressful than it should be. It’s the role everyone wants to be a backseat driver to. I figured a good rule of thumb is just to build a forge first if you have a Jack, or weapons lockers. Keeps everyone happy and off your ass if everyone gets a weapons locker. If you don’t know what to spend all that excess power on, always default to weapons lockers.

Looking at Del specifically, two things stood out to me when watching and playing: his ultimate and the inability to buy perks. Del has the kind of ultimate that you can basically toss out whenever you get it. It isn’t significant enough to put some thought into using, but it also isn’t useless enough to never think about using. Del sends out two trackers that automatically hunt down enemies and explode. Since all it requires you to do is press a button and watch, it becomes a sort-of throwaway ultimate that might net you a kill or two in early waves.

He can’t buy perks, but I suppose that makes sense because he’s usually relegated to building and upgrading things for everyone. So, all the power he acquires is all going toward fortifications to some degree.

Del 2

Photo Credit: James Robinson

Del gets power discounts to fortifications and skill cards that also decrease the cost of repairing/reloading them. He has cards that change fortification properties built by him. He also has cards that give them damage or health buffs. In late-game situations, prepare to fire from your guns very rarely. The majority of your damage will come from your defenses. You get more value out of keeping them healthy and full of ammo than trying to fire shots yourself.

In terms of his weapons though, he does get stuck with the rather underpowered Enforcer SMG, but he also gets the much more useful Overkill shotgun. I didn’t find dropping the Enforcer to be too much of a detriment, but it’d probably be worth sticking with the Overkill. It can help to clear out smaller enemies that get too close to your turrets or decoys.

As the only engineer in Gears 5, not counting Kat, Del is pretty much just as requested in games as JD and Jack. You shouldn’t technically NEED him, but you kind of do. Gears 5 is really weird about who it let’s build what in horde mode. It’s also the only role that can upgrade fortifications. So, to just make everything much simpler, you might as well have him. It makes everyone else’s jobs a little easier that way. Just be wary of people’s judging eyes and constantly trying to tell you what to do. Even on beginner difficulty, Jack’s will still tell you to build a forge even though there’s no reason to when power is so abundant on that difficulty.

Kait

I saved Kait for last because she’s currently my main. She’s also probably the most interesting out of the 6 characters available in Gears 5‘s horde mode. Kait fills the scout role. She’s the only character that plays that role in horde, period. Not even the guest characters fill that role. She’s currently one-of-kind. But that isn’t what makes her my main.

Kait has a utility that’s not as resource heavy as JD and is a much more reliable damage dealer than Fahz. Kait is an incredibly straight-forward character. Her in-game description touts her as being able to collect power in dangerous situations. I wouldn’t recommend this on higher difficulties. At least not by yourself or without using cloak.

Because of this and her passive skill that increases nearby power drop values by %25, Kait is probably the character on your team carrying the most power at any given time, outside of Jack. Kait is also the only character who is completely unable to buy fortifications from the fabricator. You won’t have to worry about her using power for anything unless she’s buying perks or maybe a weapon or two. I will admit though, I have such a blast playing as Kait sometimes that I usually forget to deposit.

Kait probably has the fewest number of things to think about during a horde match and that’s why I like her. You only essentially need to do two things as her: Do damage and collect power. She’s probably the closest thing to an autonomous character in this mode. Just remind her to deposit every so often, maybe give her a weapons locker and a barrier fortification to work with and just let her go to work. I’d argue she doesn’t even need a weapons locker either if you don’t mind doing some looting at the end of waves.

Kait 2

Photo Credit: James Robinson

This isn’t to say that you should be running around the entire map by yourself as her on higher difficulties. I mean that she has enough utility to watch a chokepoint practically by herself with little help if you’re careful enough. She allows you to place more resources at other places on the map if she’s able to lock down a spot comfortably. I’ve had games on insane difficulty as Kait where I just watched one of the secondary choke points on the map with just a shock sentry, a weapons locker and a few level 2 barriers to support me and rarely did Swarm ever get through the door. This allowed the rest of the team to fortify the main choke a lot better.

This is because Kait is a close-range damage powerhouse. Similar to JD, Kait can inflict bleed damage onto enemies when using shotguns. That bleed damage stacks up heavily, and it isn’t even as range-limited as it may sound. I often run Kait with a two-shotgun loadout. A Gnasher and an Overkill. The Gnasher is good for super up-close encounters while the Overkill can do good damage just inside mid-range. Both weapons capitalize on her bleed cards. The Gnasher and Overkill specific cards make one even more powerful while it gives the other much-improved handling. The option for a Boltok instead of the unreliable Talon pistol would honestly make her perfect.

The majority of Kait’s card options are geared toward shotguns or her ultimate in some way. Right now, her shotgun options give you such an unreal amount of utility that it practically makes the rest of her cards useless. They’re still fun to play around with, but if you’re serious about going 1-50 on master difficulty, then you’re usually rolling with her shotgun cards all the way.

Second to her weapon utility is her ultimate. The majority of the ultimates in Gears 5 are generally underpowered. Though, you can still get some significant value out of them if used right. Kait’s is no exception. Kait cloaks herself and becomes completely invisible to all enemies. This can be used offensively or defensively.

Kait 5

Photo Credit: James Robinson

Offensively, its value is a little limited. While cloaked, Kait can execute enemies for free. Although, I found the timing for executions coming directly after each other to be a little wonky. After the first one, the second one will either happen or I’ll just end up doing a basic melee attack, regardless of whether the prompt shows up. Since you only have a finite amount of cloak time, waiting for the prompt to show up to confirm the execution means you’re just wasting time. On higher difficulties, enemies are guaranteed to punish you for being out of position after using the cloak. So, it can be frustrating when you try to set up two executions and end up only coming out with one before running back to safety before you uncloak or end up being downed before you can make it.

Defensively, Kait can pick up downed teammates in the same vein Jack can under some of the craziest conditions. There’s certainly a level of decision making when it comes to using the cloak. I’ve only seen most Kait’s use cloak offensively to get a few executions. Most don’t really use it at all. And I might have only seen maybe a couple use it defensively to pick up teammates. How to use Kait’s ultimate is probably the most thinking you’ll be doing in a match while playing as her. And for a character so straight-forward, I can appreciate that.

The suggestions I have for her is maybe buff the time stipulations for her cloak ultimate. She has a legendary card that increases its duration for every enemy executed that happens to be bleeding. This situation is a bit specific though. A card like that practically has no value. At the very least, make it to where the timer freezes or slows down during each execution. Executions have rather long and dramatic animations. About a quarter of your cloak time is taken up by just one execution.

She has a card that increases the cloak’s duration. The base time can net you about two executions at best. The extension might get you one or two more or give you more time to pick up teammates. Also, make every melee button press an automatic execution while cloaked. You shouldn’t have to wait for a button prompt when you’re literally right in the enemy’s face.

I think changes like these would make her other cards a lot more useful, especially the stim related ones. I like the idea of the stim, but how you can acquire its properties are so limited right now. Buffing her stim options and making them more accessible will better open up her game of being an actual autonomous figure on the map.

General Strategies

The first thing I want to touch upon is how the mode feels compared to how the developer said they wanted the mode to perform. They said that they wanted the mode to encourage players to be more aggressive and branch out from the standard ‘hunker down in one spot’ strategy. In my experience, I don’t feel like the mode has really done that. On lower difficulties, players are free to run around the map and basically do anything they want, sure. But on higher difficulties, that’s a recipe for instant defeat in Gears 5.

Any time I’ve succeeded on higher difficulties, which is all I choose to play on most of the time, it’s been through the hunker down strategy. It feels like elaborate base defenses have honestly gotten even more elaborate now. Most games consist of choosing one side of the map to place the fabricator and building your defenses out to specific choke points. This gives you serviceable sightlines to pelt enemies with damage as they make their way in while also giving you some fallback positioning if they breakthrough.

The power taps were apparently supposed to be the big boot to kick players out of their defensive forts. Honestly, it hasn’t been that effective in my opinion. The power taps feel like too much of a hassle to babysit and spend resources on. The return on power seems negligible if you don’t manage to keep one up for a very long time which can be a pain when enemies can sometimes destroy them in no time flat. Spreading resources out to protect a power tap is often a lost cause if you don’t pick a spot on the map at the beginning that naturally integrates a tap’s spawn position into your base defenses. Thus, it’s worth knowing where taps spawn at on any given map you’re playing on. Even then, you still could be screwed with bad spawn positions as well.

This is where the forge comes in. The forge is a fortification that allows you to destroy weapons for extra energy. The reliance on this tool for teams is incredibly high, at least from what I’ve seen. It enables teams to pull off the elaborate hunker down strategy more comfortably. Most games I’ve won, or at least made it really far in, didn’t feature any tap securing but just borderline cheesy usage of the forge. At most, I’ve had games where one tap was used, and only if it was in a convenient spot near the base. I’ve yet to play a game where players went out of their way to keep a tap up consistently on the other side of the map unless it was on beginner.

Fahz

Photo Credit: James Robinson

The issue with the forge is the cumbersome method of picking up weapons and taking them back to put them into the little smelter. That’s where your favorite little tin can comes in. Since Jack doesn’t really carry a loadout like human characters, he can easily pick up weapons with his little magnetic attachment. He can effortlessly feed the forge this way after waves and even sometimes during waves.

All this working in concert with each other along with a little bit of character cheese and heavy weapons hoarding can make for a near-impregnable defense, save for some rouge elements.

So now, let’s talk about how to set those defenses up comfortably and how to play them out.

With horde mode in Gears 5 essentially being a character shooter, the value on what fortifications you want to put up first might vary depending on who you’re running and what players prefer. I’ve seen some want to build a forge before anything else. I’ve seen emphasis placed on weapons lockers before anything else. And then others are just worried about how many sentries are on the map. For me, in the beginning, I’m happy with just weapons lockers or building barriers to cover every entry point that enemies can take to get to your team. Then using turrets to cover the most popular routes based on how far forward the team wants to hold. You’ll know if you’ll actually need a forge if you have a Jack.

If you post up on one end of the map, covering the main choke is never a bad option. You then have to decide whether or not the side chokes deserve some attention or not. I’ve had games where enemies rarely used one of the side chokes because our defensive position was pushed up slightly farther than normal. I believe this has something to do with the way enemies spawn on the map in correlation with where every player is at any given time. I can’t really confirm this, but there might be a bit of spawn manipulation occurring here. Given how the mode works, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if that is the case.

Upgrading is governed by importance and energy available. From what I’ve seen, the consensus is: forge first, if there’s a Jack, then weapons lockers then everything else.

With barriers, I recommend not upgrading the majority of them over level 2. They start to become too expensive to repair at that point. They also tend to take a lot more damage when above level 2. This leads to them being destroyed a lot more. The utility of level 2 barriers is serviceable enough and just gives the engineer less to keep track of. With lockers, I feel like 4 is a good number to start out on with each being level 3 or 4. This gives enough space for some heavy weapons and character weapons.

Hoarding heavy weapons makes a big difference too. Though some are more useful than others in more difficult games. The cryo-freeze, for instance, is basically useless. It takes a year and a half to freeze an enemy with it and by that time you’ll already be dead. The buzzkill is too unreliable to get any value out of it consistently. Tri-shots and rocket salvos are the only heavy weapons worth keeping. The tri-shot feels especially overpowered. It’s incredibly easy to headshot kill enemies with it from any distance. It also does a reliable amount of stagger and a ton of damage. It does so much stagger to most enemies that they’ll be cut down before they have a chance to recover.

If you have a JD, it’s not a bad idea to just give him his own level 4 locker right from the jump. Ammo is very scarce in Gears 5. Pickups are very stingy and enemies sometimes take a few clips to kill. Over-dependence on certain resources is honestly something that bothers me in this horde mode but that’s just how it is. At least it’s not exclusively a dependence on turrets, though that’s still possible to some degree.

Gears Horde 7

Photo Credit: James Robinson

At some point, it’s probably better to just let your builder build without too much pressure while you just play your role as best as you can. Of course, your builder can’t keep an eye on everything. So, it still might be helpful to let them in on how the defenses are playing out and whether or not enemies are getting really aggressive at specific points on the map. This might help them better adjust accordingly. And for the love of God, don’t step beyond the defenses. I’ve had so many games end prematurely just because players don’t realize how much focus fire and damage they take when they’re beyond the defensive line.

Positioning is just as important as it’s ever been. Maybe even more so. In games, I like the method of two players each watching entry points. It always feels better to know you’ve got a teammate watching your back specifically. It also makes Jack’s job a little easier, if you’re running one. If you’re playing 5 human characters, then a 3-2 or 2-2-1 setup might be where’s it’s at, depending on the map and your defensive position.

Building out defenses in Gears 5 means spending more resources and also working your engineer even harder. More defenses mean less immediate work for everyone else though. Going with a more minimalist style in defensive set up requires better overall play from the team. You save more power but run the risk of being overrun at any moment. If you manage to make it through that rough patch, you have a lot of excess power to fall back on.

Most games I’ve played on some of the better maps in Gears 5 usually involved building defenses out to about a quarter of the map or so. Some of the worst maps usually incorporated very tight and cheesy defenses, especially on higher difficulties. Asylum is a big example on master difficulty. It’s one of the smaller maps in the game while also having very horrible defensive positions everywhere. The best way I’ve seen people try to approach the map is setting up either on top of or underneath the bridge and taking advantage of the AI’s wonky pathfinding. You’re still by no means safe though. Something as simple as a well-placed shot from a Boomshot Scion or a gang of Juvies can instantly end your run in these cases.

Character Utility

As engineer, Del obviously gives you discounts on building fortifications and can upgrade them. This obviously saves on power and other resources, especially with weapons lockers. Depending on how many are up, it can make the waves after boss waves trivial. I think one of the most important things to know when playing engineer is map knowledge. Knowing where to put defenses no matter where you set up the fabricator can make being the engineer a lot easier. I’d also encourage you to experiment with different mixes of defenses instead of just relying on sentries and barriers everywhere. It may not seem practical now, but it’s definitely a lot more fun.

JD and Kait give you a metric shit-ton of raw damage and can be a lot more focused. Sure, Del might always end up leading the group in damage because of the defenses, but it’s all unfocused. The waves where a Del will lead in kills is usually because it’s a wave where smaller enemies are being thrown at you. Kait and JD give you more significant damage. The utility that comes from their bleed damage is also great for enemies like the Matriarch and Wardens. They don’t have to worry about hitting weak points. The bleed damage will start chipping away at their health bars regardless. As a result, they can effectively solo most bosses in the game with relative ease.

JD can almost completely eliminate the execution rules modifier as explosive weapons can blow away downed enemies. This makes him a pretty safe option from long-range. Kait can quickly take down enemies that can close distances quickly like Snatchers and Pouncers. Even flying enemies can be shot down if a Kait is in the right position. I found myself becoming more choosey when playing as Kait while rolling with two shotguns. Shotgun ammo is finite after all and you want to make those shots count. Picking targets wisely can definitely make a difference in any game as her. Other than Grenadiers, Drones and other smaller enemies are only a priority if they get too close. Most of my focus goes on Scions who are closing the distance, Pouncers, Sires and flying enemies like Bastions, Sentinels and Guardians.

On some waves, I’ll use the pistol to pepper in damage from a distance just to save ammo if the shotgun damage isn’t explicitly needed. As annoying as the scarce ammo is, once the weapons lockers start filling up, I found looting around for ammo as Kait a non-issue. In every game I’ve gone the distance in as Kait, my teammates seem to forget that ammo pickups spawn on the map every so often. And at that point, it just feels right for the scout character to be constantly making use of this resource more than anyone else.

Kait 4

Photo Credit: James Robinson

So, a JD can chill out with his weapons locker and spam all day while the Kait can have the option of either being even more focused with her damage thus you save locker space for maybe more heavy weapons for everyone. Or she can have a weapons locker, giving her agency to play a bit looser.

While Kait and JD handle the big boys, Fahz and Marcus can be more than capable of holding off some of the smaller threats together during that time. Fahz can be great for thinning the heard of Drones and Shepherds, especially snipers if he’s in a comfortable spot in the backline. Headshot kills also mean avoiding execution rules as well.

While I said I’m not entirely sure where Marcus fits right now in Gears 5, I do see his uses. They just aren’t what I expected them to be. Marcus can provide good focus damage on Scions with his ultimate. With the chainsaw Lancer and Gnasher as well, he can provide close-range backup on enemies if the Kait is occupied no matter which one he’s holding at the time. And outside of JD with the Lancer GL, or Kait if she opts to keep the Retro Lancer, Marcus is also the most capable of removing the shield of a Sentinel/Guardian with a consistent rate of fire. Marcus’s utility can be useful, but I can’t say it’s entirely unique, but can help with resource relief if utilized in those ways.

Jack can provide good crowd control when enemies get too close with the zapper and gives teams some pressure relief with his ultimate. He’s also the best housekeeper in Gears 5. It’s often safer to send Jack to pick up teammates or cog tags. It’s borderline disgusting how much enemies tend to ignore Jack or just straight-up miss him half the time when he isn’t cloaked.

The little robot isn’t excused from being downed when by himself on an island just like anyone else though. In fact, 9 times out of 10 whenever I see a Jack go down in a game, it was because of the player’s hubris. Jack can’t move when he’s downed, which means he can’t close the distance between him and his teammates by crawling. If this happens, it’s handy to have a cloaked Kait as a backup to save him and anyone else. I have to admit though, whenever I see a Jack blow up into parts, it gives me the most satisfying of sadistic feelings. Again, I don’t innately have anything against people who play him. I know people are going to twist my words. I’m just not a fan of what the character brings to Gears 5 as a whole.

That’s about it. Once again, feel free to leave your comments on any suggestions and tips you may have. Also, what’s your opinion on Gears 5’s horde mode overall? And if you’re curious about the campaign, you can read my review on it here.

Have you played Gears 5? What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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