Aliens: Fireteam Elite
Developer: Cold Iron Studios
Publisher: Cold Iron Studios
Genre(s): Third-person shooter, Action, Adventure, RPG
Platform: Xbox Series X (also available on Xbox One, PS4, PS5 and Steam)
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 24/08/2021
‘It’s a Bug Hunt’
In the run-up to the release of Aliens: Fireteam Elite, fellow Rapid Reviewer Ciaran McGinn shared a few of his thoughts on the perfect Alien(s) game. My own love affair with the Alien(s) franchise began in my childhood. I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess at how old I was when I watched Aliens (the film that began it all for me) – too young most likely.
Whilst I adore the first two films in the series and enjoyed Prometheus (the rest, not so much) until recently I had avoided playing any Alien(s) related video games. However, a couple of years ago my brother convinced me to give Alien Isolation a go. With my love for survival horror, it was a no-brainer. Despite hours spent hidden in lockers (if you’ve played it, you know) it hit all the right buttons and is up there as one of my all-time favourite games.
Enter stage left, Aliens: Fireteam Elite. It was immediately apparent that this game would have a different vibe to Alien Isolation. However, the promise of hordes of Xenomorphs to dispatch sounded more than a little tempting. So, what else could I do? I decided to go on a bug hunt, of course. The big question is: could this latest instalment in the Alien(s) gaming franchise live up to expectations? There’s only one way to find out, read my Rapid Review below.
‘Prepare for Dust-off’
In Aliens: Fireteam Elite you play the role of a Colonial Marine who is stationed on the UAS Endeavour. Events in the game take place twenty-three years after the original trilogy of films. You can choose from five different loadouts and customise the look and gender of your marine. The five loadouts are: Gunner, Demolisher, Technician, Doc and Phalanx. Each one features a different weapon set and abilities. Your fireteam has two more marines in it, controlled either by AI or human online players – there’s no couch co-op.
I’m going to cut right to the chase here – the strength of this title lies not in its plotline, but in its gameplay. That’s not to say that there aren’t interesting references and additions to the lore, but this is a game about surviving onslaught after onslaught of Xenos. It’s not about deep development of characters or shocking plot twists. Rather than the storyline fitting firefights into its fabric, the fabric of this game is battle, and the plot fits very much around that.
I was not disappointed by this set-up in the slightest – I had signed up to shoot bugs. In any case, there are plenty of small touches that combine to make you feel as if you are within the Alien(s) universe. From the sound and look of the guns, architecture reminiscent of the original film, to famous lines from Aliens cropping up. There’s even a nod to Alien Isolation with the inclusion of Working Joes.
The main campaign in Aliens: Fireteam Elite is split up into three chapters, each with three stages. There are no checkpoints within missions; you either make it through, or you don’t. This might not be to the taste of some players but I felt that it worked well for the game, maintaining player immersion and offering a greater sense of achievement upon completing the level. There was also a similar difficulty step in each chapter. The first two missions were usually relatively straight forward with the third and final one moving things up a gear or two.
You can choose to play on ‘Casual’, ‘Standard’ or ‘Intense’. The difficulty setting that you choose affects not only the number of shots it takes to kill enemies, but also the number of times you can go down and be revived. I played on ‘Standard’ where you could be revived up to four times per mission. There are also health packs situated at strategic positions throughout stages.
There are no cutscenes during levels but you do pick up ‘intel’ which, once you return to base, allows you to gain insight into the story playing out. These snippets of information are delivered by characters spread around the UAS Endeavour. You can choose to listen as they speak or read along, since their dialogue is also provided onscreen. On one hand, I felt that these parts could have been delivered better in short cutscenes. On the other hand, I appreciated being able to skip through them as some of them were a little less than riveting.
‘Game Over, Man!’
Despite the format being relatively similar in each chapter, I didn’t find that the game got stale at any point. This was due in part to the ever-evolving variety of enemies, meaning you could never get too comfortable. Another reason not to get complacent was down to the omission of checkpoints during missions. I think this made for a more adrenaline-fuelled experience in the final battle of each stage, which ultimately made this the most fun (and stressful!) part of each mission.
The levels were also fast paced with no way to pause action once you had started a mission. In addition, if you stay to explore an area you have cleared of Xenos, sooner or later more of them will appear. The only way to get completely clear of them is to keep moving forwards and finish the level – or die trying.
‘You Didn’t Tell Me There Was an Android on this Mission’
You can play Aliens: Fireteam Elite in single player with two AI controlled synthetic teammates. However, just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. I had the most fun when I was playing with other humans on my fireteam. The AI is passable, but I found that I had to change my strategy when playing with them.
Typically, the AI would follow me wherever I went and bunch up in one place. They did shoot aliens and they did revive me if I went down. Yet I spent more time reviving them and sometimes pondering why they were shooting out a wall or thin air. Occasionally they would wander off into the horde, rather than stay behind defences I had placed, and make it difficult for me to revive them when (predictably) they went down.
In addition, there were times when it was more efficient for one teammate to cover another while they worked on the mission objective. This was not possible with AI as there was no way to direct your synthetic teammates. AI teammates also did not place tactical consumables (such as sentry guns or mines) in preparation for large firefights.
‘We Got Nukes, We Got Knives, We Got Sharp Sticks.’
Once you complete the main campaign in Aliens: Fireteam Elite you unlock two new difficulty settings, the ‘Recon’ loadout and two new modes: ‘Quick Play’ and ‘Horde Mode’. ‘Quick Play’ simply selects a level for you to play at random after you choose the difficulty and matchmaking (private or public) settings. I can see that this might be fun in a situation where you have a few people playing together but I can’t see myself using it again after testing it out once. For me the interest lies in replaying on higher difficulties, but I think it’s a positive that different tastes are catered for here.
‘Horde Mode’ is quite delightful. You set up in one spot and take on wave after wave of enemies. I can see myself playing this mode the most now that I’ve completed the campaign. It provides a quick and easy way to sate my desire to rid the world of (digital) Xeno hordes. Got to keep my mum safe!
There are also daily and weekly challenges to complete from the get-go. The bounty for completing these is in the form of ‘requisition credits’ and ‘scrip’. You can use credits to buy new weapons, consumables (mines, sentry guns etc.) and weapon upgrades. ‘Scrip’ is used to buy ‘Challenge Card’ packs and character outfits. If you fancy making a level more difficult than it needs to be, you can use a ‘Challenge Card’. In return for extra rewards (such as XP) you will have to suffer a level where weapons lock up instead of reloading, reloading time is doubled, all unspent ammo is lost when you reload or some similar devilry.
‘Another Glorious Day in the Corps!’
Whilst the inspiration in Alien Isolation seemed to come mostly from the film Alien, in Aliens: Fireteam Elite it is the influence from Aliens that comes through the most. The moment I began my first mission I could hear echoes of Hicks, Hudson, Vasquez and Drake in the corridors. It’s in the sound of the pulse rifle, the look of the smart gun and that unmistakable armour. It’s in the film quotes peppered throughout the game. Add to that structures and references that hark back to other Alien(s) franchise films and this is a feast for those who fancy a new adventure with a trip down memory lane on the side.
What Aliens: Fireteam Elite also offers is a variety of ways to slaughter Xenomorphs. There are lots of weapons to experiment with, as well as plenty of consumables to suit all your destructive needs. It doesn’t offer a profound story experience, but the atmosphere and tension created in each mission deliver an adrenaline shaped ride as you try to survive multiple onslaughts. If you’ve always wanted to experience the terror and the rush of facing a horde of Xenos, Aliens: Fireteam Elite fits the bill perfectly.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4 out of 5
You can buy Aliens: Fireteam Elite from the Microsoft Store.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.