Title: Aliens: Fireteam Elite
Developer: Cold Iron Studios
Release Date: August 24, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
The Aliens series has a huge fanbase, and for a good reason, I mean, Alien is perhaps one of my favorite horror films of all time. The idea of man versus otherworldly creatures raises the stakes as you fight for survival against an enemy whose main goal is to potentially use your organs to harvest more creatures. Sadly, the video game adaptions haven’t been all that impressive, but that’s not going to stop Cold Iron Studios from providing their take on a multiplayer-centric experience called Aliens: Fireteam Elite.
Let’s just get this cleared up; Aliens: Fireteam Elite wants to be a looter shooter so bad. It begs you to care about your loadout to the point where there’s a deluxe edition available to receive all the upcoming Season DLC releases and various accessories. However, once you begin playing, loot is hard to really care about. I don’t know what it is about the game, but I never felt like my loadout was particularly uninteresting or underdeveloped.
I think the bigger issue is that there aren’t too many moments of gameplay where you’re invested in the weapon staches or hidden crates for spoils. It’s there and fun to find, but it wasn’t like I went straight to my menu to customize my loadout. Still, the game totes various ways to customize your guns and characters; that doesn’t matter in the scheme things as they are simply skins. I’m here to shoot some Xenomorphs, and the last thing I want to do is put tiger strips on my gun.
Weapon types are tied to classes, which is only the first indicator you’ll need to replay stages multiple times to get the most out of this game. The classes available are Gunner, Demolisher, Technician, Doc, and Recon. Each class is an essential part of the three-person team, so be sure to mix it up. The characters also have their own class-specific specials that make them unique and variety to encounters when paired with other character’s skills.
To force players to try new things are daily quests that net better rewards than completing the stage normally would. These sometimes urge you to use a certain character or play on a high difficulty several times, so it’s good to check this each day. In addition, they are necessary to finish if you hope to buy any of the weapons in the shop to stand a chance against the higher missions. One surprising exclusion, though, is a real need to explore the stage. There’s only one loot box hidden within a stage, but there are often multiple halls leading to dead ends with nothing in them. I wish the developers filled these areas with something for the players that like to search every nook and cranny.
The story is brief but far deeper than I could have expected. The events take place 23 years after the original Alien trilogy, and you’ve chosen to fight against the rising threat of Xenomorphs. However, if you have some time, you’re able to interact with other marines to learn more about intel collected in stages and the state of the world. A menu-based dialogue system allows you to dip out if you don’t want more info, but it’s pretty surface level in execution. The characters are all voiced, but their mouths don’t move, which is weird but not super offputting.
With all that out of the way, I can get into what I like, hanging out with friends and killing aliens. As strange as it may sound, I had a pretty enjoyable time making my way through the levels and clearing out waves of enemies. Many of the stage’s halls become identical, but a few decent set-pieces are found in each stage. Most of the time, you’ll be fighting against waves of enemies, with a tower-defense style struggle that closes out the mission.
Here’s the thing, Aliens: Fireteam Elite is extremely fun to play through once, but this game demands you to play through each stage again and again until you have a powerful loadout to continue. You can fight for as long as you want, but there will come a time when the Xenomorphs will overwhelm you. Sadly, neither I nor the others in my group had any desire to play through stages again. We just wanted to go through the game as if it were a normal adventure campaign, but this experience doesn’t work that way.
The waves of Xenomorphs begin to get old as you replay stages, and you only look forward to having enough funds to level up and become powerful enough to move on. Luckily, there’s plenty of enemy variety to shake things up, but it doesn’t always matter when you’re shooting everything that moves, so you might miss some. The warrior-like Xenomorphs are fun because they’ll grab onto you, but for some reason, the AI often ignores players and has tunnel vision on one. However, I liked how they would crawl through the vents and appear out of nowhere to startle the crew.
The end of the stage typically has you hold a position as waves of Xenomorphs run at you. It causes a shift in playstyle as you refrain from using any items collected in the stage to create a line of defense in these final moments. I didn’t like this dynamic and thought there could have been a better conclusion. Even a level conclusion where you just had to run from a powerful unkillable ending would be cool. That said, there are “boss-type” Xenomorphs in the game who are tied to the narrative. It’s not super impactful, but it adds some depth to the stages.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite is extremely fun to play once through with your friends, but when you’re expected to play the same stages multiple times, the gameplay wains on the player. It becomes more tedious than anything because the stages themselves just aren’t that interesting. Playing higher difficulties provides more challenge to your crew, but it gets repetitive. You’re expected to want to do this for more gun customization, but that’s barely interesting. Regardless, I have to admit, shooting down waves of aliens with friends sure is entertaining.
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