The Aliens franchise began in 1979 and has spanned many years and many formats. Films, games, books, comics, and plays all take influence and the name of this iconic series. Yet, this big-hitter hasn’t always struck the right chord, and its many fans can be a fickle bunch. Roll on to 2021 and Aliens: Fireteam Elite has been released to tickle our fancies.
Developed by Cold Iron Studios and published by Focus Home Interactive, this is a cooperative third-person shooter. It’s a standalone sequel to the original trilogy but set twenty-three years after those events. Played solo with a team of AI bots, or with two friends, this is a hectic alien endeavour that will fuel those Sci-fi desires.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite blends some big named games into its all-or-nothing action gameplay.
The background of the story won’t shock you, and it leans on many much-loved elements from the franchise. You control a group of marines who are sent on a rescue mission to an outer colony after receiving a distress call. After boarding a refining station known as the Katanga, the team quickly realise that our friends the Xenomorphs have taken over. After an epic rescue mission to save Weyland-Yutani scientist Dr Timothy Hoenikker, the group turns their attention to another survivor on the planet surface. LV-895 is more dangerous than first anticipated as it’s the breeding ground for experimental Xenomorphs and the home to a deadly pathogen. As I said, the plot lacks any mighty surprises, but it’ll keep the hardcore fans happy, nonetheless.
Cold Iron Studios believes that cooperative shooters should be more than simply completing a goal together. They have created five roles within the team to ensure that each member is a useful cog in a well-oiled machine. The idealism does, however, give off distinct Left 4 Dead vibes, and the developers admit that there are similarities between the projects. But, they stress that Aliens: Fireteam Elite is also unique in many ways.
It’s also worth noting that the latter stages and enemies are reminiscent of the Gears of War franchise. I don’t blame them for borrowing elements from both, and luckily there is enough about it to make it enjoyable on its merit.
Familiar settings, fast-paced action we all crave, and useless AI.
When Alien: Isolation was released, I was excited, but it left me deflated. Yes, there was tension, but all I desired was to grab a rifle and start shooting. Fortunately, Aliens: Fireteam Elite has this in abundance and this is exactly what this franchise needs. However, it uses the usual claustrophobic labyrinth of rooms and tight tunnels too often, and this funnels the gameplay into all too familiar and repetitive places.
Fortunately, the regurgitation of gameplay is somewhat eased by character perks, weapons upgrades, class selection, and challenge cards (more on these later). Yet, you can’t help but pray that something happens to spice up the fun, yet shallow, story.
One area that does alleviate that feeling of Deja vu is when you play with friends. The combination of tactics, the necessity to work as a team, character selection, and watching your mates being mauled by Xenomorphs were fantastic. However, it’s only fair of me to mention the one negative, and that’s your abysmal AI teammates. During the early missions, you’ll stomach their inadequacies, but as the waves and types of aliens get larger and stronger, your useless crew are cannon fodder at best, and a hindrance at worse. In a game where teamwork is essential, this was an oversight.
Five roles, a short campaign, and plenty of replay value.
The six to ten-hour campaign is short, but its alien splattering, synthetic smashing, and cover to cover moving ways are great to experience. The four chapters each comprising three stages take you on a fantastic journey that explores the underhand experiments by the Weyland corporation. You search some iconic locations that link nicely to the films and these will make hardcore fans salivate.
Where Aliens: Fireteam Elite excels is its selection of roles and its attempt to add longevity to a rather repetitive core concept. You are free to select from Gunner, Demolisher, Technician, Doc, and Recon. Each has unique weapons and cool down perks that enable you to create specific tactics for any situation. Whether you are using a shotgun, rifle, missiles, turrets, or more, each role has its strengths and weaknesses.
This is further enhanced by upgradable equipment and perks that add small buffs to each character. Sadly, though, you’ll be grinding out many of these improvements rather than earning them on the fly, so it feels like a cheap and tiresome way to add longevity.
Where this didn’t feel forced or cheapened was the challenge cards. These additional goals give the team a further focus and this increases the difficulty considerably. Whether it’s a team-based aim or extra foes to annihilate, they add some welcome meat to the bone.
Why experiment on a deadly alien species?
Now, I’m sure it’s common sense, but messing with the DNA of a monstrous killing machine will end in tears, surely? Well, according to its many films, book, and games, that’s an accurate statement. The experiments completed by the Weyland scientists have created a hodgepodge of Xenomorphs that the brave colonial marines must contain. With warriors, spotters, drones, and more to contend with, you’ll be seeing chunks of alien skin and green acid-laced blood splattered across many walls. If you thought things couldn’t get worse, you’re sadly mistaken as synthetics and other horrific entities await you.
Unlike the normal Gears of War cover defence mechanic, Aliens: Fireteam Elite doesn’t rely on this defensive mindset. The Xenomorphs are an angry bunch, and they care not where you hide, or your tactical approach. You must have eyes in the back of your head as an attack can come from any angle at any time. This evil and aggressive attack mechanic ramps up the fear factor and enhances the inevitability that death is just around the corner.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite looks and sounds great.
I came into this with an air of resentment that the previous poor iterations helped develop. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, only for them to be dashed again. Fortunately, I was so off the mark with my concerns that it was a pleasant surprise. Aliens: Fireteam Elite looks and plays fantastically well. Utilising the normal grey and sombre tones, you are struck by the futuristic yet doomed look, instantly. The variety of landscapes and character models were brilliantly designed and include incredible details. On the Series X, it runs effortlessly and the colours are vibrant.
This quality is continued by the hard-hitting and futuristic audio. With excellent acting, thumping sound effects, and spine-tingling alien screams, this is the stuff of nightmares. Every element of the sound compliments the other, and it was joyous to listen to. The music builds the suspenseful atmosphere and the footsteps and narrative comfortably fill the silence while adding to the tension.
The controls are a handful but well thought out.
If you are a veteran of the third-person shooting genre, then you’ll find the control setup a breeze. Helped by its well thought out layout and excellent UI, it uses a generic but comfortable approach. However, if you are new to the genre, you’ll find the volume of controls a handful. It takes some patience and practice mastering them while concentrating on the all-or-nothing action.
Thanks to the challenge cards, character perks, and unlockable horde mode, there are elements of replay value. However, these aren’t helped by the shallow story and repetitive gameplay. The constant room to room action and inevitable ammo and health crates at every turn undermine the desire to return.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite delivers a good but hollow Aliens experience.
There is much to love about Aliens: Fireteam Elite as it captures much of the Aliens essence. The atmosphere and tension are fantastic, as are the range of opponents you face. Sadly, the mediocre at best AI is unforgivable and taints the solo experience, considerably. Weighing things up, I had more highs than lows and recommend you to buy it here! Take on another alien destroying mission and help to save mankind from this never-ending threat.