The history of games based on the Alien film franchise is spotty at best. The four-person arcade game was fun, and Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction was a blast. But for every good Alien game, there’s been a colossal disaster like Aliens: Colonial Marines, and that has left fans and gamers with trepidation every time a new game is announced. Developer Cold Iron Studios is now taking their swing at the franchise with Aliens: Fireteam Elite, and they connect where it counts, creating a massively fun and pulse-pounding co-op shooter that really nails the spirit of James Cameron’s Aliens — and the franchise as a whole.
If Alien: Isolation recreated the dread and chills of the first Alien film, Aliens: Fireteam Elite nails the action and gunplay of its sequel. Players create a customizable Colonial Marine, team up with two friends, and get to huntin’ bugs. If you don’t have friends handy, the game will assign you AI-controlled “synths” to assist you. Admittedly, these AI marines are not the best, and probably shouldn’t be counted on for later levels — and higher difficulty settings — but in a pinch, they serve their purpose well.
Story-wise, Aliens: Fireteam Elite marks a new chapter in the Aliens saga, as a group of colonial marines stationed on the USS Endeavor are called upon to rescue a scientist from a derelict Katanga research facility. This opens the door for a chaotic struggle that sees the team eventually make landfall on LV 895 and face off against various forms of xenomorphs, including the majestic queen. The story takes some interesting turns, even dipping into some of the mythos that emerged from Prometheus and Alien: Covenant.
The campaign’s 12 or so missions are designed to move the fireteam through well-designed levels, fighting through plenty of swarm encounters, with the occasional sneak attack thrown in for good measure. The fighting is intense, and the game’s four loadout kits provide the right tools for the job. Players can choose between the Gunner, Technician, Demolisher, and Doc — with a fifth loadout unlocked after completing the campaign.
Gunner is the basic marine, armed with the classic M412A2 Pulse rifle and a powerful shotgun. Technician excels at using turrets and the like to create kill zones for the bugs. Demolishers get the big guns, like the L56A3 “smartgun” — the same that Hudson used in Aliens. Lastly, Docs have extra med-packs to heal up teammates. Each of the loadouts can be fully customized with new and better weapons, and those weapons can be modified to raise a marine’s combat rating. Loadouts also level up individually, creating plenty of opportunities for replay.
Players can add unlocked perks and abilities to their marine, on top of changing their appearance as new outfits are discovered. I was actually kind of shocked by how deep the customization options are in Aliens: Fireteam Elite. Don’t let the $40 price tag fool you into thinking this is anything short of a full-fledged game.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite goes all-in on creating a film-like atmosphere. The maps are well designed, pushing the players through tight corridors and open areas where swarms appear frequently. And you never fully clear a room — the bugs just keep coming, which also works to force the player into the next encounter. Xenomorphs come from above, below, front and back, and all sides, and your trusty map device pings you to know where they are before you get overrun. They’re literally “comin’ out of the walls, man.”
Sound effects are taken straight from the films, and the lighting creates amazing atmospheres in each level, both star-side and planet-side. The footfalls of the various xenos sound differently, and you can tell when a warrior xenomorph has joined the fray, as its feet clomp loudly on the steel flooring as they charge at you. Cold Iron Studios are clearly fans of the films — Aliens, in particular — and that love comes through in Aliens: Fireteam Elite.
The visual design of the xenomorphs is near-perfect; they’re fast and relentless, and their acidic blood hurts you. In total, there are 11 different types of bugs, including the tougher Warriors, evil Spitters, and diabolical Praetorians. These types are compounded by hundreds — if not thousands — of drone xenos that will swarm you quicker than you can say, “Game over, man.”
In addition to the campaign, Aliens: Fireteam Elite also includes a Horde Mode, which is self-explanatory, setting the fireteam smack dab in a swarm where you battle wave after wave of xenos to earn rewards. Cold Iron has also announced new content and DLC packs are coming in the future, which should hopefully extend the game’s life.
I came into Aliens: Fireteam Elite worried that we would have another Colonial Marines on our hands, or even worse, a quickie licensed game like the recent GI Joe: Operation Blackout, which failed in almost every way. Instead, Cold Iron Studios has delivered one of the best Alien games ever. I’ve had an absolute blast playing Fireteam Elite, and I fully expect to continue to do so for weeks and months to come. A good story, awesome gameplay, deep customization, and everything that makes the film franchise so beloved are here in full force, and I can’t wait to see where this goes next with the DLC drops. Finally, we have an Aliens game worthy of the film it is based on, and for fans, it’s time to “stop your grinnin’ and drop your linen!”
Aliens: Fireteam Elite (finally) proves that a great game based on the Alien films is possible in the modern era. A solid story, amazing action, deep customization, and intense battles make this one of the best adaptations of the franchise to date.