Here let's briefly talk about what's new and different in Gears 4.
As with all Gears games the typical four difficulties apply: Casual, Normal, Hardcore, and Insane, but Gears 4 has actually introduced a 5th difficulty: Inconceivable. Unlike previous titles you don't have to beat the campaign first to unlock Insane difficulty, but you will have to complete Insane first to unlock Inconceivable. DLC has also introduced an Ironman mode, which means you only have one life, and requires it be completed on a minimum difficulty of Hardcore and also in co-op mode. One playthrough requires that you hold on to your Lancer for most of the game, while another requires you do not use either a Lancer or Gnasher. If you're a Gears God it is theoretically possible to do only two playthroughs if you combined your Insane campaign with Ironman and never touched the Lancer/Gnasher, but this could prove very frustrating. The campaign is on the shorter side of the Gears series akin to Judgment, so you can blitz through it in less than 6 hours of co-op mode if your partner is playing on casual difficulty.
Depending on how many playthroughs you would like to do and how adventurous you feel you can jump right into Insane difficulty, although if this is your first foray into the Gears franchise I would recommend Normal. Insane/Inconceivable difficulties do not have a DBNO(down but not out) feature, which allows you to be revived by the AI or friends. So on these harder difficulties once you sustain enough damage, you're reloading the checkpoint. You can make the game slightly easier on yourself by having a partner play on Casual while you play on the desired difficulty level, although they will obviously not get the same difficulty achievements as you. You can even attempt to play the Casual controller yourself and hide your main controller's character somewhere but certain points of the game will require human hands on both.
The game does have collectibles and situational achievements, some can be accomplished in Horde mode so if you're playing on a low difficulty in the campaign consider them here.
Two main tips:
-Use cover! The button is your friend and the game will punish you if you try to fight out in the open.
-Active reload! Hit to start a reload and then again on the tiny hashmark to get a small damage/rate of fire boost. It's better to be late than early as you can still get a quicker reload, just without the damage/rate of fire boost.
There is an easter egg available in Act 3-2 that can make the game A LOT easier but only available on Insane difficulty and above.
Experience, cards, credits, and scrap
In Gears 4, the campaign will not net you any experience or credits, only versus and horde modes. There are 4 main types of packs and 4 rarities of cards.
Rarity: Green(common), Blue(rare), Purple(epic), and Gold(legendary) cards
Horde (400 credits): Horde skills, horde bounties, and customization cards
Versus (400 credits): Versus bounties and customization cards
Operation (800 credits): Increased odds of purple/gold cards
Elite (2000 credits): Even higher likelihood of purple/gold cards, customizable cards only
As you play versus and horde matches you have the option to set a bounty, ie. a goal to accomplish during the match for additional experience or credits(and you'll need plenty of both). As you level up you will receive credits, as you re-up (hit 100 and reset your rank in the War Journal) you will also receive bonus packs. Seriously 4.0 requires 10 re-ups while the Classy achievement requires maxing out an entire class of horde skills. My personal experience was that experience come faster than credits and I was able to finish S4.0 well before Classy, but luck may play a big role. The bottom line is always equip your best available bounty whether it's experience or credits.
The customization cards are character skins, weapon skins, and emblems. You will be scrapping most of these in favor of crafting your horde skills, if you want to complete this game as quick as possible. Scrap is a form of currency generated by destroying cards you've acquired, which can be used to create other cards. However, it costs significantly more to create a card in comparison to what is gained from scrapping it.
Common: +5 scrap -40 create
Rare: +20 scrap -100 create
Epic: +150 scrap -600 create
Legendary: +600 scrap -2400 create
Horde basics, etiquette, and strategy
The basic Horde principles from Gears of War 2 and 3 apply in that it's 50 waves of enemies that progressively get more powerful in number as well as abilities, with a boss wave every 10 waves. Waves 11-20 enemy health is doubled, Waves 21-30 enemy health & accuracy is doubled, Waves 31-40 enemy health, accuracy, and now damage is doubled, and Waves 41-50 all three attributes are 2.5x higher than normal. But the first fundamental change is that you HAVE to complete the waves consecutively in order to receive credit for the 50-wave achievements and bounties. You cannot play 1-25 one night and continue 26-50 the next so before you start a game be aware this can sometimes mean a very long time commitment. A "speed run" can complete 50 waves in an hour but if you're just starting out or don't have higher level players to carry you 50 waves can take over 2 hours.
The second change is that instead of simply giving you money upon death as enemies did in Gears 3, they drop energy instead that needs to be collected and subsequently deposited in the fabricator. Here as you'll learn during the campaign you can purchase weapons, fortifications, and power-ups.
Similar to Gears: Judgment there is a class based system: soldier, heavy, sniper, engineer, and scout. All classes start at level 1 and need to be leveled up, but the experience here is different than that of your account. Whereas your player account earns exp based on your individual performance with ribbons, game types, win bonuses, and bounties, the only thing that matters for class exp is completing horde waves. The harder the difficulty and higher the wave the more experience gained. But there are also very significant bonuses to completing consecutive waves. If you're failing waves throughout a run it's a good indicator the difficulty level is too high for your skill level, card level, or class levels(or all three).
The higher your class level the more class-specific skill cards you can equip. You start with 1 and unlock additional slots at levels 3, 5, 7, and 10. A good system to ensure you don't get in over your head is to play casual/normal under level 3, normal/hardcore until 5, and don't touch insane/inconceivable until 7. This is just a rule of thumb that of course depends on your skill level, the level of your class cards, and your teammates. It doesn't matter if you're the best Gears player in the world, a level 1 class with level 1 skills is a charity case on harder difficulties. The backbone members of a horde team will be the scout and engineer. Without each of these the difficulty level of horde jumps exponentially because they possess critical abilities and skills.
The scout's primary goal is to fetch the money. Scouts carry a unique passive ability that any energy picked up DURING combat is doubled. If you pick up energy after the wave is cleared it is not doubled, so as the wave starts getting low it's incumbent on you to be out there collecting the energy and your team to cease fire to give you an opportunity to collect all of it. The first scout skill that you select with your cards will be 'Deposit Bonus' that applies a 10-60% bonus on any money you deposit into the fabricator. It's generally a good idea not to bother playing scout until your deposit bonus is at least 50%. If you see people committing suicide at the beginning of the match, it's because soldiers and heavies will blow themselves up before the first wave so that you can collect their 1000 starting money and get a little extra dough. So if you're not the scout, don't pick up the energy! The only exception to this is if you're standing next to energy and the next wave is about to start and the scout will not be able to grab it in time, feel free to ensure it doesn't disappear.
The engineer starts with a repair tool instead of a pistol and as you can imagine, fixes things. The engineer is very poor in combat and does not have any combat enhancing cards as all of their cards revolve around making cheaper and improved fortifications. The engineer usually has a plan for what is being built and next, so just like the scout handles the money, the engineer handles the building and layout of fortifications. The fabricator has 4 levels and energy needs to be spent in order to level it up. Being a good engineer doesn't mean repairing everything in sight. You will sometimes deliberately move fortifications you don't need to be destroyed on purpose to accelerate the rate it takes you to progress to level 4.
Barriers: They slow down the bad guys. The most efficient fence is the level 2 barb wire fence as it slows enemies down enough, but is very cheap to repair. As you progress to the blue and red laser fences, these can be very expensive to fix and are a marginal improvement so it's better to have a pair of level 2 fences back to back than a single laser fence. A smart engineer also keeps a few level 2 fences tucked away hidden before you make the upgrade to level 3 to replace possible destroyed barbed wire fences in the later rounds when your only option is an expensive level 4 laser fence.
Decoys: A waste of money at levels 1-2, but can take a savage beating at level 4 and immensely helpful to have one or two for bosses.
Shock sentries: They stun bad guys. By themselves not effective, but paired with sentries and turrets at choke points they can be a solid compliment.
Sentries: With the right engineer cards they become the bread and butter for harder difficulties. Generally deployed in groups of 3 or more.
Turrets: At launch the main way to get through Insane runs and despite numerous nerfs, they are still a great way for an engineer or a low level player to be combat effective. It deals massive amounts of damage at level 4, but turrets are very expensive so be protective of them and don't let them be destroyed on boss waves!
Weapons Lockers: Place weapons into the locker for not only safe keeping but because ammo is slowly recharged in it over time. Each level of the fabricator increase the amount of weapons that can be stored. These are especially helpful if ammo is scarce or to stockpile dropped weapons such as Salvos for boss waves. Just make sure you don't expend all the ammo in dropped weapons otherwise they disappear instead of being eligible for recharge.
When you die you drop whatever energy you were carrying. Destroyed fortifications also drop 25% on of the money spent to purchase them. This is especially important to let your scout grab this as it's a more efficient way to level your fabricator up. They can't double these credits, but they can increase the deposit by 60% effectively increasing the credit refund rate to 40%. If your scout dies don't pick up their treasure trove of money and if you do, just blow yourself up or die so they can pick it up again, just don't deposit it.
Mark targets! This is important for the sniper and heavy as both have incredibly valuable skills that increase damage on marked targets. Sniper's called shot works for the entire squad while heavy is only for themselves. You'll also collect more experience for military intelligence ribbons.
When you die you can be revived by someone grabbing your COG tags and running to the fabricator. The first one is free, but the cost does go up for each successive revive(per wave) so don't spend 1500 energy to revive someone when there are only 3 enemies left.
Every 4 waves a loot challenge will appear to execute, headshot, turret kill, etc. If completed the entire team gets money and a pair of airdrop boxes appears near the fabricator with grenades, weapons, or ammo refill. Save them for boss waves or high 40s waves. If you open a crate up and it's a bunch of weapons drop them off at a weapons locker for later use. If your team needs the money deposit it, otherwise sit on it until you die and the scout will pick it up.
Every map has at least 2 ammo boxes. Coordinate with your team who gets them and when. Consider taking turns: 2 guys on odd rounds, the other 2 on even rounds. Don't grab one because you need 30 rounds in your Lancer when your heavy's Boomshot is empty. Heavies and soldiers will also kill themselves quite frequently for full ammo on respawn, just be aware you'll be back to starting weapons so place them in a locker before you harakari yourself.
Fortifications can be moved and often should be if a boss is about to rampage over your very expensive fortifications. Make sure you hit instead of as people have made very expensive upgrades in the middle of combat.
Be aware of your positioning. There is no friendly fire but running in front of a Heavy using a Boomshot or Salvo will result in them blowing themselves up. So don't do it and if you do it by accident, pick them up.
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