Aliens: Fireteam Elite took me back to the 80s as soon as I booted up the game. I remember when I was younger and the first Alien movie came out, I almost sh@t myself a few times. But when I watched the sequel, Aliens, I wanted to be that badass marine. I know, those were the days when I believed in Santa too…yes, I was that young and maybe shouldn’t have been allowed to watch them.
The Colonial Marines were rock hard, their arsenal of weaponry was like no other, and that “Get away from her, you bitch!” line still resonates with me to this day. Yes, there have been a few Alien movies in the franchise, but for the old school fans, nothing beats the first two. That also goes with games based on the Alien franchise, and yes, there have been a few, ranging from pretty good to downright terrible.
By the time you read this, the embargo would have been lifted on the 23rd August, and I would have had the game for just over a week, and whilst I was unable to play online with others (I had to rely on the AI-controlled Marines as allies, but more on them later), it was long enough for me to get some hours into the game and give you my thoughts and impressions.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a much better game than I was expecting and certainly better than previous Alien games. What I must point out from the start is that you will die many, many times and may even think about giving up. I know I did a few times, but because of the love I have for the Alien franchise, I just had to have one more go. Hopefully, dying so much was just due to playing with the AI characters. At times I found them to be very capable of having my back, and then other times they would just stand around while being overrun by Xenomorphs. I also had one AI marine standing right next to me while I was bleeding out and dying. Did he revive me? Nope, not a chance, and it was times like these that sort of spoilt the experience a little.
So, I would definitely advise anyone buying this game to make sure they play with real people once the servers go live. For those who like to play alone, look forward to having a hard slog and many deaths. I did find the levels and objectives to be a little similar, at least up to the point where I managed to get to. Gameplay centered around “find this and hold off a large attack until the countdown ends” type of thing. This usually revolved around waiting for a computer to boot-up or an elevator to arrive. Don’t get me wrong, the swarm of Aliens coming at you is at times relentless, and I did breathe a big sigh of relief on more than one occasion. But that was because I was just wishing for the onslaught to finish as I was getting a little bored of waiting, though I did panic a little.
It probably sounds to you like I hated my time playing Aliens: Fireteam Elite, but actually I did enjoy it. Cold Iron Studios has clearly put a lot of love and attention into this game, and it’s obvious they are great fans of the Alien universe. The missions are based across four campaigns, though at the time of writing this review, I only managed to play the first two, and they both feel and look like they are part of the Alien universe. Taking place after the original Alien trilogy (23 years), the Katanga space station orbiting an oil refinery, as well as the planet below known as LV895, both feel like they were taken straight out of the movies. The identical hallways of the Katanga space station soon lose some of that ‘I want to see more’ feeling, even though the lighting and attention to detail is fantastic.
Things soon change once you arrive at the caves of LV895, highlighting further attention to detail and more variation. Water effects, etc., are great and add a further layer of fear to the rest of the surroundings. The game really does look great and faithfully represents what you remember from the movies, and then some.
When it comes to the weapons, you will be immediately reminded of those toys that the Colonial Marines had in the movies. The pulse rifle, M56 smart-gun (my favourite), shotgun, auto-turret, etc., look and sound great. I did feel that more “oomph” was needed with the sound though as at times they sounded a bit flat and didn’t provide that ‘punch’ that you would expect from such heavy duty firearms. Nevertheless, I enjoyed using what was available, and being able to upgrade each one is a great idea too, making you even more powerful. And believe me, you will need to be because with the 20 different types of enemies ranging from Xenomorphs (some that spit acid and some that explode when you get close to them) to Face-Huggers, to various types of synthetics belonging to the Weyland-Yutani corporation, you will need all the firepower your team can muster.
Customisation is one of the main parts of Aliens: Fireteam Elite, allowing you to make your marine totally unique depending on the role you choose, of which there are five: Gunner, Demolisher, Technician, Doc and Recon. You can customise everything, from body armor, helmets, weapons, even down to hand-written sayings on your amour. When putting your own team together, it is advisable to use a variation of roles available. This will make getting through each campaign easier as without a Doc, for instance, if you die and don’t have one in your team, you won’t be revived…game over!!
One issue I did come across from the very start, which sort of took me away from the experience, was chatting with other characters you meet through the game’s missions. As you wander around the ship, you will come across various characters who you can interact with. However, when you do interact with them, you are left with just a slightly animated image of them, there’s no cutscene interaction of them actually moving and talking to you, no lip synch discussions even. I do feel that Cold Iron Studios could have done more than this, and it really does take you out of the whole immersion and tension that you get from the gameplay. I’m hoping at some point this is changed in some future update, it just feels like a missed opportunity to get you more involved in the game and with each character.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite is meant to be played with friends, and that is obvious from the start. The AI characters are basically synthetics and really don’t have any type of personality to them, meaning you really don’t care if they get ripped apart. I hope that playing online with others will make this game a completely different experience, especially if you have friends and work together as a team as this is how it’s meant to be played. And with the challenge card system, which you can choose in the lobby (cards may make the game harder or make your movement sensor malfunction, giving you false readings), there will hopefully be some long-term appeal to play with others.
My only main concern with Aliens: Fireteam Elite is the long-term appeal and how long it will take before players become bored with what is available. This game does not support crossplay, so you are really relying on the card system to make it interesting each time you play. As this is a co-operative shooter, I’m not sure how much longevity there is at the moment to keep players returning long-term other than the Alien universe itself.
Fingers crossed that Cold Iron Studios can keep us interested by providing frequent updates and additional content because, otherwise, gamers may become bored with what is on offer fairly quickly. I’m not even sure that players who are passionate about the Alien universe will find anything new to bring them back, but I hope I’m wrong.
Developers: Cold Iron Studios, LLC, Cold Iron Studios
Publishers: Cold Iron Studios, LLC, Cold Iron Studios, Focus Home Interactive
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows
Release Date: 23rd August 2021
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Aliens: Fireteam Elite was provided by the publisher.