Aliens: Fireteam Elite (XSX) Review


What’s clear from the outset with Aliens: Fireteam Elite is that it is made by a team of folks who are passionate about this franchise. This isn’t a team who was saddled with an unwanted licensed IP, no the developers at Cold Iron Studios are fans and this labor of love that they have created might be the best action-oriented Aliens game in franchise history, even with its issues.

Unlike the stealth gameplay on display in Alien: Isolation which was the last major game to feature the titular Aliens (aka Xenomorphs), Aliens: Fireteam Elite decided to focus their game on action. Which strangely enough is pretty much what the difference is between the original Alien film from 1979, and the more popular sequel Aliens in 1986. It really is amazing what making a word plural can do for you, am I right? But movie history lessons aside, in Fireteam Elite players will have the opportunity to create their own Colonel Marine.

MSRP: $39.99
Platforms: Xbox (reviewed), PlayStation, PC
Price I’d Pay: $39.99

Wait… Stop… I know I said that you can be a Colonel Marine. I also know that saying that can evoke strong emotions in people who were ultimately disappointed by that game of the same name. So, allow me to make one thing clear for you at the start of this review… Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a better game than Colonel Marines. Ok… you still there? Ok, thanks I appreciate it…

The create a player tool here is passable, nothing as deep as those you would find in huge RPG’s but I was able to make a cool avatar to kill some bugs with and really that’s all one should be looking for here. Once I had my marine, I was spawned on the deck of the USS Endeavor, a military ship of Colonel Marine’s who are charged with protecting the outer colonies from various threats. (Sidenote: Why do we never hear of any other threats in this universe? I mean the only worry we have is Xenomorphs and Predators in the future?) Of course, this being an Aliens game that particular threat comes in the form of a Xenomorph outbreak. Upon landing and stumbling upon a conspiracy by none other than the megacorp you love to hate, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. The rag tag band of Marines will have to fight through waves of Xenomorphs and other threats to shut down the mega-corps latest machinations thru which we are able to save the very galaxy itself. The last part might be a stretch but players are going to shoot loads and loads of Xenomorphs and their variants.

If you’ve played Left 4 Dead or World War Z then you have a good idea with what to at least expect from Aliens: Fireteam Elite. Missions start on the ship and players have the choice of Campaign (which consists of 4 chapters each with 3 missions) and a Horde mode that is unlocked after completing the campaign. Honestly content wise Aliens: Fireteam Elite is really lacking. The developers have said that there is a plan to add post game DLC, that along with the budget price of $39.99 takes some of the sting away but not much. The real issue is that we have no idea when that content will be added so players will be forced to replay levels multiple times. Truthfully the game is built around this concept, as one plays they can level up one of 5 classes (the Recon class unlocks after completing the campaign) with each class being locked to two weapon types as well as abilities that players are able to modify to their liking as they level up.

Completing missions rewards players with currency that can be spent back on the ship to purchase various things. Players will be able to buy weapons, scant few outfits, weapon skins and other things to tweak the marine’s build. Customization is also incorporated into weapons, players can equip various attachments to their weapons that will give better range, or provide other debuffs to the xenomorph enemy. This reviewer took 20 hours to complete the campaign and that was playing mostly solo and replaying a few missions to grind some experience for levels. After so long it begins to get old going through the same tunnels, and following the same pattern of run to an open arena, start a loud machine, hold off the encroaching xenomorph swarm, wash, rinse, repeat then evacuate. Seriously. This is the loop and it will get old if you are playing alone, playing with real people however makes it considerably more enjoyable to make that slog.

Gameplay is quite enjoyable, blasting bugs with the arsenal of weapons and each of the classes felt good as well. But that’s where it ends if playing solo, you see Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a 3-player squad-based game and anytime I didn’t have actual people to play with, I had to use the bots. Well in a word the bots are bad. I guess to be fair the developers knew that, because if you read the difficulty settings they explained that the bots are effective in Casual or Easy, that effectiveness is reduced if you play on normal and the last two difficulties they tell you to not use bots. Well that’s all well and good but whether choosing to play alone by choice are because I wasn’t able to matchmake with anyone didn’t mean that the experience should be held back; and that’s exactly what happens here. Not only that but I couldn’t even customize the bots, they are equipped with a pulse rifle, grenades and seemingly endless supply of health packs that they would use to save themselves. What quickly becomes apparent when playing solo is its no longer a squad game, don’t bother with the medic class as it’s a waste. Just pick any of the other classes and just use the bots as diversions for the xenomorph hordes and especially the bosses. Since the AI will not prioritize enemies especially in the later levels, bait is really all they are good for and the fact that if they have higher elevation than a foe they will shoot the floor, wall or ceiling instead of moving to line of sight. It honestly becomes quite exhausting, but if players are looking at this game as a solo player I feel like this is information they really need to have.

Graphically, Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a real sight to behold if one happens to be a fan of the Aliens franchise. The love and respect for the franchise as a whole is on full display here from the team at Cold Iron Studios. The only way someone could show greater reverence for the source material is if their last name was Cameron. All of the sights and even sounds are as if they were pulled straight from the movie sets, computers have that late 70’s 80’s look for what they thought those things would look like in the future. As computers process the requested tasks I could hear the arm moving over the drive plates and hear the grinding, something that today’s youth know nothing about with everyone using solid state drives. Audio is another are where the team killed it, the music is appropriately tense and low when creeping through the tight corridors of the Katanga station. With only the sound of the ping on the motion detector and a hiss of a pipe next me. More than once the game evoked a jump or a scream, which is quite rare so props are to be given.

The story in Aliens: Fireteam Elite starts off rather slow but as progress is made the layers start to fall away and it ends up being pretty good, before ultimately not sticking the landing whatsoever. If you are a fan of the franchise then you will find lots of great stuff here. With references to Ripley, Aliens vs Predator (loosely) and even the newer films like Prometheus there is lots of lore for fans to digest. But just as well this game can stand as an introduction to the world of Xenomorphs, Face-Huggers and of course her majesty the Queen. As I progressed through each level I found various objects that would unlock lore, once back on the ship I could speak to the corresponding officer and they would reveal some tidbit of lore from the universe at large. The team did a very good job of walking that fine line of too much and just enough and I think people will appreciate that most. The ending though…..without spoiling it lets just say that you won’t get the opportunity to ‘bend the knee’ as it were even though its heavily alluded at a deeper face to face meeting with her majesty than what was actually delivered.

If you have a group of friends to play Aliens: Fireteam Elite then you all will find some fun to be had here, unfortunately for how long that fun last will depend on what you enjoy. As I said the game is repetitive and grindy, while the later game sees a mix up in enemy types it does very little to change up the formula of gameplay. Therefore, like Arnold said when facing down one of the Xenomorphs more famous predators (pun intended) “If it bleeds, we can kill it” which is to say you won’t run into a problem in Alien: Fireteam Elite that cannot be solved by throwing tons of bullets and explosives at it. There just seems to be some weird design choices that went into Aliens: Fireteam Elite which were made for one reason or another. Be it your AI androids just not working at times to briefing scenes where they zoom in on the character speaking but the person’s lips never move. They just stand there awkwardly while the voice actor is reading their lines…not game breaking just off putting and a real head scratcher by design. The core gameplay here is quite fun though, even alone the game is fun however fleeting. The best advice though that I can give is to play this with your friends, it’s truly how the developers want it played. You will be able to mix the classes and abilities together to great success and trying the various builds and weapons ends up being a blast with your buddies. If you are a fan of the franchise then you don’t need to be advised you are going to enjoy this game, but if you are new to Aliens know that it does a great job of easing you in so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • Oozes the dark atmosphere from the Alien films
  • Sound design team deserves a raise
  • Design choices can hinder the fun
  • Unplayable on high difficulties as a solo player
Written by
Terrence spends his time going where no one has gone before mostly. But when not planning to take over the galaxy, he spends his time raising Chocobo and trying to figure out just how the sarlaac could pull Boba Fett’s ship with its engines firing FULL BLAST into it’s maw with relative ease; yet it struggled with Han Solo who was gripping *checks notes* SAND!