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You may be playing Gears 5 totally wrong

With an epic narrative to boot, Gears 5 from The Coalition and Xbox Game Studios is the sixth (and arguably most difficult) game in the franchise's relatively brief but impactful history. When the original Gears of War hit the Xbox 360 in November of 2006, fans were blown away by the game's special blend of bloody sci-fi horror and brutal third-person action. Years later, the core mechanics remain the same, but a few improvements and revisions have helped shape the current Gears landscape — notably, the continued refinement of the game's cooperative modes like Horde and Escape, along with its harrowing, unforgettable co-op campaign.

If you don't know the lay of the land, your Gears 5 gameplay experience can be equal parts fun and frustrating. Sure, you're allowed to play however you want to play; but, simply put, Gears 5 can be downright punishing at higher difficulty levels, and (given the many tweaks over the years) can even serve the most seasoned veteran a heaping slice of humble pie when they least expect it. With that in mind, we thought we'd delicately point out a few of the many ways you might actually be playing Gears 5 totally wrong.

The Horde never stops in Gears 5, and neither should you

Horde 4.0 is the unofficial moniker of the latest iteration of the fan-favorite game mode, which once again pits a squad of COGs against 50 waves of relentless enemies in a down-and-dirty fight to the finish. The Horde of Gears 5 maintains all of the tell-tale features of the previous versions with a few new tweaks. If you're new to the Gears of War party, it's important to know that Horde sessions can take a few hours to complete. Scores are tallied between rounds, which helps fuel the kind of friendly competition that makes the Gears world go 'round.

Pro tip: don't stop playing between rounds after the final enemy is eliminated. You can still navigate the battlefield while the score is being tallied and perform various tasks — like crossing the map to deliver power to the fabricator, picking up ammunition, or activating power taps — despite the obstructing overlay. You'll often need to trigger interactive elements before the overlay appears, but a well-executed maneuver can buy you a meaningful amount of extra time. And it's always worth getting the drop on that next wave.

Always perform an active reload while doing a Roadie Run

The key to surviving the stacked odds of higher difficulty levels in Gears 5 is knowing how to successfully navigate the terrain. When you're not stopping and popping in, around, and over cover, you'll be Roadie Running from one location to the next. This hasty, low-to-the-ground maneuver makes your character harder to hit by shrinking the hit box, and (naturally) speeds up your movement. But what if we told you there was a not-so-hidden benefit built into the Roadie Run that just might change the way you think about movement in Gears 5?

Since the Roadie Run locks you into a character animation throughout the course of the run, there's little else to do but get to where you're going. You can, however, perform an active reload with the greatest of ease during this traversal. And, in case you missed it, a successful active reload increases the damage of your weapon by 8%. If you take anything away from reading this article, let it be this: there is never — and we repeat — never a good reason to not perform an active reload while doing the Roadie Run.

Don't forget to mark your targets

One of the most crucial components to Gears gameplay, and one that is most often overlooked, is the time-honored duty of spotting enemy targets and marking them for your teammates. If done correctly, the enemy displayed in your weapon's reticle will be marked with an icon, and your character will shout it out to the rest of the squad. Furthermore, you can also follow the outline of marked enemies through smoke grenades and the like.

Spotting the enemy doesn't simply tell players what's problematic on the battlefield; it also directs the fire of your AI teammates. This mechanic is a veritable life-saver when an IRL player drops out of a Horde match and is replaced by an AI, but it's also a fundamental strategy when taking down juiced-up bosses on higher difficulty levels. No matter how you slice it, concentrated fire is a crucial part of winning Master-level matches in Gears 5. So mark those targets, soldier. Your very life might depend on it.

Avoid bogarting the ammunition

Etiquette and protocol are important parts of the Gears 5 online experience. But let's face it: this game lives online, where lawlessness reigns. Unless you're playing co-op with your closest pals, chances are you'll have to run a veritable rat race to maintain the proper ammo supply. And if you don't know each map's weapon and ammo spawn points (or if you just get left behind), you might be out of luck until the next drop comes around. When you're playing Gears 5 at higher difficulties, a combination of sparsity and stinginess won't cut it.

Sometimes, there's simply not enough ammo to go around. The onus, therefore, is on each of us, as good Gears citizens, to understand the status of our fellow players, including their access to desired and/or required ammunition. If you're not in a chat channel with your teammates, use your Expressions or some basic courtesy to ensure everybody on the squad is outfitted with a little ammo. Your key to success is their continued survival.

Never escape the Hive without your teammates

Escape is a three-player survival speedrun mode new to Gears 5 that will challenge every skill you and your squadmates can muster. "At its best," as Polygon describes it, "[Escape] is a tense firefight that escalates to a brutal crescendo. At its worst, it's a frustrating slog that forces you to run the same lengthy sections of gameplay over and over again." The easiest way to avoid that frustration is by recognizing the exacting limitations inherent in the game mode, along with the expectations it sets upon your three-person team.

While it might be tempting to rush ahead for a higher speed score, leaving your teammates behind during an Escape run can very easily lead to the loss of a team member or two. And the simple fact remains that total points are always higher when the squad bonuses are in full effect. Mistakes are bound to happen, but the linear nature of the Escape mode offers little consolation when it comes to righting wrongs. As the old saying goes: waste not, want not. Don't waste your team's time by rushing ahead, and you won't suffer from the unsatisfied and endless yearnings of constant failure or compromised scores.

Engineers are the key to the best Horde runs in Gears 5

It's been said that the best offense is a good defense. With that in mind, we'd like to suggest that the best Horde runs in Gears 5 are made with squads that highly value their Engineers. Ever since the advent of Horde 2.0, Fortifications have played an important part in this breakneck game mode and the various strategies found therewith. And now that the Fabricator is a central component to Horde gameplay, Fortifications can play an even larger role in how you take on a match.

Nothing crushes the opposition like a bank of well-barricaded and fully upgraded turrets. Sure, Offense characters like Marcus, Fahz, and Emile can be extremely fun to play, and Support characters like Jack have their own utility charm, but only Engineers like Del and Kat can upgrade Fortifications from the Fabricator. So if you want the best defensive setups, you're gonna want an Engineer (or two) on the squad. Plus, their ability to repair fortifications (combined with those of a Support character like Jack) change the pursuit of Fortifications from little more than a hopeful effort to a worthwhile investment.

Don't stop 'til you get enough (XP)

Horde sessions in Gears 5 can be grueling. It's an easy plight to find yourself affected by: you only wanted to squeeze in a few minutes of gameplay, but it's two hours later and you're still grinding on that Wave 40 boss. Usually, this is when the temptation to quit the match kicks in. Yet war ain't easy, and neither is Horde.

The moment when that voice leans in to tell you to let go and quit the match is the very moment you need to pick yourself up by your virtual bootstraps and double down on your commitment. Point blank, the XP and subsequent Supply Drop awards for completed Horde and Escape runs are higher than the rewards for uncompleted sessions. Always finish your match, because dropping out early isn't simply poor etiquette on your part: it results in harsher and slower gains for your own XP level and the various unlocks associated with it. Plus, daily log-in is the primary key to a higher Supply Drop rate with the aggregation of your Daily Supply Drop Bonus.

Move your Horde fortifications when it matters

One of the most important changes to hit latter-day iterations of Horde — and one that takes center stage in Gears 5 — has been the development of Fortifications and the Fabricator. As you collect the Power consumable during any given Horde run, the Fabricator allows your squad to build an assortment of Fortifications. From simple decoys and barriers to full-blown turrets, these Fortifications help guard and defend whatever corner of the map you decide to call home.

Certain enemies like Snatchers and Matriarchs can run roughshod over your fortifications, often destroying them in a single pass. When waves including these larger enemies and similar bosses come your way, be sure to disable your fortifications by moving them into an undeployable area so they won't get demolished. You'll notice a Fortification is unplaceable when its outline turns red instead of blue; and if you set the red, undeployed fortification down in this manner, enemies will ignore it completely. Once the enemy threats have been eliminated, simply grab the red Fortification and re-deploy it "in the blue" to get back to business. With a bit of hasty effort, you'll quite often find you've saved yourself a little headache and a lot of Power.

The Forge is a robot's best friend in Gears 5

The jack of all trades robot known as Jack has always been a part of Delta Squad. But now that he's a playable character in Gears 5 with his own set of skills, abilities, and upgrades, it's time to assess what his collection of assets provides for the team. Although he's a fun accompaniment to the co-op campaign, Jack really shines in the Gears 5 Horde mode, where a special new Fortification allows him to earn constant resources for the whole squad.

You can earn extra Power during Horde sessions by purchasing and building the Forge Fortification from the Fabricator with Jack. Dismantling weapons at the Forge converts them into Power, which can provide the perfect surplus of energy for all your repair needs (and that way, you're not cutting into the community stash). Not to mention, the extra Power in your personal bank makes upgrading Jack's set of Support skills a cinch. The faster you upgrade Jack's movement speed, the more weapons he can collect between matches, and so on. From where we're sitting, when it comes to the new features of Gears 5, the Forge is the gift that keeps on giving.

It might be time to find some new squadmates

Critics and fans seem synonymous in their assessment: Gears 5 is, by many accounts, one of the most challenging installments in the series. As VentureBeat simply puts it, "In a couple of the boss fights and even some of the battles with the waves of enemies, the odds of survival are not good."

To take on some of the game's higher and heart-pounding difficulties, you just might need to step outside of your comfort zone and squad up with a few relative strangers more often than you're used to. This means expanding your friends list with some less-than-best pals for a roster of diehards when the time is right.

Some of the best candidates for your newly augmented friends list are the folks that actually show up on the battlefield with ethical gameplay that keeps the objectives of the entire team in mind. They're the players who'll mark the problematic targets, who'll share with you the ammo you so obviously need, and who'll revive you whenever you're downed (not simply when it's convenient). So leave your bashfulness at the door and just send that friend request. Your Gamerscore and XP progression will thank you.