Cold Iron Studios’ Aliens: Fireteam Elite takes a number of design cues from Valve’s Left 4 Dead games, but falls flat in achieving the heights of its inspiration. Aliens: Fireteam Elite has a great concept, but lacks the polish and variety found in Valve’s offerings in the same space which made it a household name in gaming for more than a decade. Many of these oversights are further exasperated by a litany of glitches and technical problems that make enjoying Aliens: Fireteam Elite a tough ordeal at times.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a co-op survival shooter set in the world of the Alien IP. The source material is the posterchild of inconsistent output with titles such as Aliens: Colonial Marines which was abysmal in many ways, and Alien: Isolation which was a true gem, with both of them occupying two completely different ends of the quality spectrum. Aliens: Fireteam Elite does a great job at capturing the aesthetics of the source material, with what seems to be a pretty authentic representation of the Alien universe that lore buffs would have a great time with.
"Aliens: Fireteam Elite has some good stuff going for it, but none of it really stands out in any particular way."
The game is set more than 20 years after the original Alien trilogy and sees players controlling a custom character titled Marine. As a soldier under the UAS Endeavor, players will be tasked to rid planets and installations across alien planets of well, Xenomorphs, all the while uncovering a larger narrative involving hideous experiments, synthetic robots, and whatnot. The story isn’t exactly front and centre for Aliens: Fireteam Elite, but the game manages to pull off a respectable job with its writing and voice cast. I particularly enjoyed the hilarity provided by commanding officers and other officials, which share some funny banter among themselves. It’s nothing spectacular, but this does lend a sense of authenticity to the overall vibe that makes listening to these conversations endearing.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite has 4 separate campaigns, each with a set of 3 missions that players can take part in as a group of 3 people or with AI bots if matchmaking doesn’t get you partners in time. The game has a handful of different classes to choose from – Demolisher, Gunner, Technician, Doc, and Recon. Each class has 2 special abilities that operate on a cooldown timer, as well as class-exclusive perks that players will utilize over the course of their playthrough. Most of my time with the game was spent with the Demolisher, who has a flurry of rocket blasters and a firecracker of sorts that stuns enemies in a given radius. Other classes have grenades, health stations – all of which can be pretty useful at times. There’s a decent variety amongst the classes, and using abilities in tandem with each other is pretty enjoyable.
"Gunplay feels solid, with great sound design and feedback that gives each weapon the heft it should carry. "
The majority of the gameplay revolves around fending off enormous hordes of increasingly tough Xenomorphs and Synth soldiers. Gunplay feels solid, with great sound design and feedback that gives each weapon the heft it should carry. However, there is a big issue with the camera, it feels that it’s jutted so close behind your character that peripheral vision remains quite limited. It’s quite common to continually get backstabbed by a Xenomorph, which can become quite annoying at times. The controls can also feel equally sloppy at times. Rolling in general is accompanied by a pervading sense of clunkiness and unresponsiveness at times. What makes this issue more egregious is that most Xenomorph types will continually rush towards your position – making rolling an essential part of the combat loop.
When it comes to Xenomorphs and Synths, there is a fair bit of variety in the roster of enemies but in the heat of the battle you don’t necessarily need to be tactical in your approach, and everything just essentially boils down to pumping Xenos with hot lead until they stop moving. The AI can glitch at times, with some enemies getting stuck on cover or terrain which makes finding them an annoying ordeal after a stressful encounter. The Synths, on the other hand, are bullet sponges for the most part. Defeating them involves taking cover and exchanging gunfire, which gets stale pretty quickly due to the aforementioned sponginess. The heavy synth variants are even worse offenders in this regard, and their gargantuan health pools make them feel more like a raid boss than an enemy meant to fight alongside a horde of marginally weaker enemies.
"The heavy synth variants are even worse offenders in this regard, and their gargantuan health pools make them feel more like a raid boss than an enemy meant to fight alongside a horde of marginally weaker enemies."
A neat trick up Aliens: Fireteam Elite’s sleeve is that most fights against these hordes will have a preparation phase before it – where players can choose to install their line of defence using a number of sentries and mines. It’s quite satisfying to see this preparation bear fruit when the arena gets filled with dozens of different kinds of enemies.
As mentioned before, Aliens: Fireteam Elite has some great art direction, and the levels look great from a purely aesthetic standpoint. However, the rooms that players will fight through to get to the end of each stage just feel bland with repetitive layouts and visual designs, which when combined with repetitive objectives make getting through levels a slog at times. Undoubtedly, the biggest factor contributing to this front is the lack of mid-mission checkpoints.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite doesn’t feature any mid-mission saves.
A mission can last up to 40 minutes or even more, and failure will set players back to the starting of each stage. This makes the game extremely unforgiving and bland at the same time. This issue becomes even more painful when the aforementioned litany of bugs and glitches come into play. Furthermore, during my time with the game, I experienced a number of glaring issues – such as getting kicked out of sessions even when my internet was working completely fine and the game refusing to open doors even when all teammates were present at the spot. During one mission’s finale, the audio would completely cut off making dealing with a humongous horde an exercise in pain.
"A mission can last up to 40 minutes or even more, and failure will set players back to the starting of each stage. "
There’s also a progression system in the game, where you have to fit a number of perks such as stat boosts and upgrades in a frame. It works in a similar way to NieR: Automata’s chip system, and there is some potential to push for specific builds. The same mechanic is present for weapons, whose individual parts such as muzzles and magazines can be swapped out for better ones which provide some added benefit. From what I experienced, the effects of these perks didn’t feel impactful except my arbitrary combat rating kept going up. Much like Valve’s Left 4 Dead, players can choose challenge cards for a particular mission – which is an interesting concept executed well enough in Aliens: Fireteam Elite. One particular run with a Challenge Card reduced our health pool significantly, but gave the team health regeneration ability provided that we didn’t take damage for a certain while.
There isn’t a lot left to do once you beat the campaign. There’s a Horde mode which tasks your Fireteam to fend off these same enemies in increasingly tough waves. You could always go back to the campaign and beat it on higher difficulties or with challenge cards, but from what I experienced – not a lot of changes with every new run. Enemies spawn in exactly the same location as per my observation, and the number of revives per teammate decreases with increasing difficulty levels.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite has some good stuff going for it, but none of it really stands out in any particular way. There’s some clunkiness within the gameplay loop, which becomes more aggravating when coupled with a number of bugs and glitches. It’s not impossible to have fun with Aliens: Fireteam Elite, but doing so requires putting up with several annoyances such as no checkpoints. For fans of the Aliens franchise, Fireteam Elite might serve well as a co-op shooter but for others – there are better options out there.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
Art direction feels faithful to the Aliens brand; guns feel good to shoot; decent class variety.
Many bugs and glitches; no mid-mission checkpoints; repetitive level design; uninteresting progression.