Okay, I should preface this review with a disclaimer: I was a huge Aliens fan growing up. But that’s not such an unusual thing. In fact, Alien and Aliens had a huge influence on early video games, with games like Metroid and Doom taking inspiration from James Cameron’s winning mix of action and sci-fi horror. It seems like it would be a winning formula to make a video game based on the ultimate badasses that are the Colonial Marines from Aliens, but no one has gotten it quite right. After the massive disappointment that was Aliens: Colonial Marines there really hasn’t been an earnest attempt at one until now. Sadly, I’m still waiting for a worthy Aliens video game, but Aliens: Fireteam Elite comes so damn close.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite is third person multiplayer shooter in the vein of Left 4 Dead. In it, you and two other friends (for a maximum of three player teams) go on a series of missions as an elite three person fireteam for the Colonial Marines. These missions will have you fighting xenomorphs and more as you go from location to location, interacting with objects and fighting waves of xenos. I wish I were being flippant by just saying “interacting with objects,” however, but it’s apt, as each level has you travel from point A to point B, hold down an interaction button, and shoot the aliens that show up. If the gunplay is great, that should be good enough, right? Well, maybe.
I’m not saying Aliens: Fireteam Elite isn’t fun. It’s pretty great, especially on first impression. The sights and sounds are all there, and shooting the guns feels good. There are six classes to choose from, and while these don’t feel extremely specialized, they each bring their own abilities and utility to fights. Each class has standard gear when starting, but the more you play the wider the array of weapons you’ll have to choose from. It’s a pretty rewarding gameplay loop, too. Beat levels, get XP and gear. I do want to talk about Aliens: Fireteam Elite’s perk system. Instead of just choosing which perks you want to apply, you have to arrange them in a grid, much like old school inventory management from classic ARPGs.
Past my first impressions, Aliens: Fireteam Elite started to feel a little generic. Most games in the Left 4 Dead style have you fighting enemies as you traverse levels, performing tasks while holding off hordes. Aliens: Fireteam Elite does this, but in the laziest way possible. Every level has you go from point A to point B, hit a switch, and fight what comes. It gets a little boring, even with enemy varieties.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite has lots of “special infected” type variants that are pretty standard: there’s the one that pounces on you, the one that spits on you, the one that explodes, the bigger charging one, etc. There’s also special “drone” and “warrior” variants that are beefier, and can knock over your marine, or hold them down and slash at them. These stronger variants are interesting, and something to be feared amongst waves of regular xenos—until you get a good look at them, because their animations are hilarious.
Xenomorphs are supposed to be scary creatures— they move like slick, deadly machines. The xenos in Aliens: Fireteam Elite look like guys wearing stiff rubber suits. For as much as Aliens: Fireteam Elite gets right: the look of the levels, the gear, and even the sound effects, it just totally faceplants on the atmosphere. I know Aliens is more of an action movie, but there was real danger and fear behind those action scenes—something that made it so effective. Aliens: Fireteam Elite doesn’t utilize any of that. Sure, it takes place in a universe where all of that worldbuilding occurred, but Xenos are a known threat, just a bunch of bugs to be exterminated. Their acid blood is just an inconvenient hazard, and their iconic inner jaw barely makes an appearance (if ever). Even Left 4 Dead managed action that was also scary and atmospheric.
There was also a huge missed opportunity with the aliens introduced in the newer films. This might be a controversial opinion, but since Aliens: Fireteam Elite had elements from Prometheus and Alien: Covenant it would have been cool to see neomorphs. I’m fine fighting the classic alien types, but I feel like it was a missed opportunity to turn the newer aliens into a variation of “special infected” since the game had no qualms with making up their own new varieties.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite isn’t the Aliens game I was hoping for, but it isn’t the disaster that was Aliens: Colonial Marines, either. Instead, it takes a classic, iconic franchise and manages to make it feel generic. It’s not quite a worthy Aliens game, but it’s what we have.
A PlayStation 4 code was given to us for this review.
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