Aliens: Fireteam Elite Review – New Game Colonial Redeems the Franchise
Developed By Cold Iron Studios
Published by Cold Iron Studios, Focus Home Interactive
Available on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S
I would consider myself a fan of the Alien franchise. I’ve liked all the movies, except for Resurrection. Hell, I even really enjoyed Prometheus and Covenant. I have an appreciation for the art of the Alien world. When I was offered a copy of Aliens: Fireteam Elite, I was cautiously optimistic after a slew of, let’s say, less than stellar franchise outings. I downloaded the game and hopped in with two people who know how to play games: Dread XP Head of Production Ted Hentschke, and fellow writer Rosy Joan. We met in the dead of night, to gather together for the ancient rite of playing an Aliens game.
We were all surprised. Aliens Fireteam Elite gives you a bit of exposition and dumps you into the main base. It feels very much like Ghost Recon Breakpoint or Wildlands. It’s third-person, over-the-shoulder. The mainstays of the Alien franchise are on display. Gruff, grizzled marines, milling about a large hanger. You can even catch someone working on a power loader on one side of the hanger. Nice callback, game. You’ll be designing your marine. The customization options are fairly sparse for their looks, but serviceable. You’ll choose their hair, skin, facial hair, eye color, etc. After some tinkering, I settled on long pink hair with a pink beard. I had made a 2012 Youtuber to fight off the alien swarm.
Getting into Aliens: Fireteam Elite‘s missions is absurdly simple. You just hop into a quick private or public match and off you go. The couple of times that I’ve played this with Ted and Rosy, it’s usually less than 3 minutes from deciding to play the game to sitting in the lobby. That time of course is expanded by Rosy’s constant tweaking of cosmetic items. Customization is a big part of Aliens: Fireteam Elite. You can customize your character, then their outfit, and then, to me, the most important part: Their guns. Guns can have colorways, which change their paint job, and each gun can be given a decal. Decals are found throughout the world and add a little bit of uniqueness to your guns.
For instance, Ted is currently using a metallic purple shotgun with “ADIOS” emblazoned on the side. I use a flamethrower bearing the mark of my job in Aliens: Fireteam Elite: PEST CONTROL. It’s a fun way to make your characters feel like your character. The class and perk system is surprisingly deep. As you level up, your special class abilities can be changed and modified using a grid-based system. Oh yeah, there are classes. Four, with an added fifth after completion of the campaign. Technician: A mechanical wiz that uses turret abilities to defend and buff the team. Demolisher: Heavy damage output and area denial through firepower (my class). Doc: A healer that uses buffs to keep the team healthy. Gunner: An all-around class that buffs damage. Recon is unlocked after the campaign, and I won’t spoil it, but you can kind of guess from the name.
Proper team composition is the key to battling through hordes of aliens. Running 3 demolishers would pigeonhole you by eliminating buffs and overall making the game harder. In my playthrough, we settled on a demolisher, technician, and gunner. The gameplay of Aliens: Fireteam Elite is simple. Each mission has 3 separate parts, and you’ll be playing each with the option to return to base after each mission. The types of missions are all the same. I don’t mean that as a bad thing. You’ll generally be moving through some delicious Alien-franchise-themed levels, gunning down xenomorphs, synths, and other forms of weirdness.
One thing that Aliens: Fireteam Elite does well is lore. A keen eye will find you intel scattered around the levels that provide further reading at the base. These bits of intel flesh out the story for all you Aliens fanatics out there. The intel is not hard to find in the very linear levels, so I don’t want to hear any complaints about being pushed out of the story because they’re too difficult to track down. There is also at least one hidden cache in each level, which can contain decals, weapon attachments, and emotes.
There is a store on the base where you can purchase weapons, attachments, emotes, colorways, and decals. The content of the hidden caches is made up of items that you can’t find in the store, which provides an incentive to seek them out. One of my greatest joys in Aliens: Fireteam Elite was customizing weapons. Each gun has multiple customization options, You can change color, decal, barrel, magazine, and optics. Each one of these attachments has different bonuses that up your character’s combat rating. A bit like the gear scores in something like Wildlands, you’ll want to have a high combat rating to take on some of the games’ later missions.
If you’re worried that you’re going to spend all of your credits on a silly cowboy hat and ignore your weapon, fear not. There are two different kinds of currency in Aliens: Fireteam Elite. One currency handles practical uses, such as weapon attachments. The other is for purely cosmetic items so that you can play pretty dress-up marine. I hate to be a pessimist, but I can see the cosmetic currency being something that, down the line, will be sold as DLC for those too impatient to save it up through campaign runs.
I’ve seen people claim this isn’t an “Alien game” and unfortunately I believe those people are wrong. You’ll be treated to at least one setpiece per level ripped straight out of the Alien franchise. From the giant doughnut ship from Prometheus, to the alien nest, full of those pesky facehuggers. There is something on offer for every fan of the series. You would think that linear levels, over-the-shoulder shooting, and a cover system would get tedious, but it doesn’t. You’re constantly having new alien variations thrown at you. The drones are simple, fast little fellas that can be dispatched easily. As you’re getting comfortable with them, the game will mix it up. Giant warriors or crushers will show up to absolutely beat your team to death. Spitters add a ranged threat.
We kept joking about the cover system because the aliens are primarily melee-focused. We shut up when about halfway through the game we found ourselves battling rogue synthetics. You will absolutely need to take cover when those things start popping off. They’ll flood the arenas with working joe-class robots, unarmed but numbering in the 10’s to 20’s. It gets frantic. Thankfully, Aliens: Fireteam Elite does something very neat. When you kill an enemy, a red X will quickly pop up over them. This indicates that you got the kill, and can move to the next thing to shoot at. It’s especially helpful with weapons like the flamethrower, which can easily obscure your vision during use. The red X’s were the only thing that let me know that I could change where I was throwing flames.
The aliens themselves are lovingly designed. They make spooky alien noises, and act like the aliens they’re based on. The devs put a lot of effort into their behavior. An alien sprinting towards you can be hit hard enough to lose its footing like a dog on tile, rolling and trying to regain its footing mid-run. There is a dodge mechanic, where a punch of a button can send you dodge rolling away from danger. There is a small indicator from the aliens, where their claws spark off of the ground right before they jump. Your eyes might not see it, but your mind will. 7 hours in Ted realized that he had been dodging based on that visual cue, but hadn’t noticed it until then.
After finishing the admittedly short, but very fun campaign, you can take your hardened marines into a horde mode. Increasingly large and violent hordes of Aliens will try to beat you up. Every ten levels you’re given a reward in the form of weapon XP, attachments, decals, and other goodies. It’s very fun, and we had no issues running through 20 rounds of alien shenanigans. It keeps things fresh and interesting while you wait for what I’m sure is almost guaranteed DLC content. The urge to optimize is strong. The horde mode helps you level up guns to gain bonuses on them, and if you finish out upgrades for one gun, it’s very simple to fall back into the grind of finishing up another. The pure fun factor has kept me coming back to the game far after I finished the campaign.
All in all, I enjoy Aliens: Fireteam Elite. It’s got enough customization options to keep you replaying its admittedly short campaign. If you can’t gather up 2 friends to take on the horde, the game will happily assign you some pretty useful synth teammates. It all comes together to form the antithesis of Aliens: Colonial Marines. It’s well made, respectful of the source material, and most of all, fun.