2021 marks the 35th anniversary of one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time, Aliens. Alien, the first movie to launch the franchise, was released in 1979 and quickly became the primary example of doing a horror/sci-fi alien movie right. The slow burn of the original Alien still haunts me to this day, and was wonderfully recreated in Alien: Isolation. James Cameron took a different approach with the sequel, making Aliens much more of a roller coaster ride through a bug hunt on a far away planet. We were introduced to the Colonial Marines and their iconic weaponry, such as the M41A Pulse Rifle, which makes one of the most iconic weapon sounds in movies. If Alien: Isolation was the closest thing in a video game we could get to the feeling of the first movie, then Aliens: Fireteam Elite is pretty much the closest thing we got to how the second movie made me feel.
The events of Aliens: Fireteam Elite take place 23 years after the events of Alien 3. You play as a Colonial Marine, stationed on the USS Endeavor, when a distress call reaches your ship from a remote colony. As you land on the colony, you come face to face with the xenomorphs that have overrun the compound. You discover that the population of the entire colony has been killed, except for a single scientist, Dr. Hoenikker. You and your fireteam must now brave the waves of xenos in order to reach the Dr. and exfiltrate the base before being overrun.
So the overall story of Aliens: Fireteam Elite won’t win a Pulitzer prize for originality, but it hits the right beats when you need them. If you are an Aliens fan, then the story will feel familiar and that is a good thing. For others that are not huge fans of the franchise, the story will feel somewhat disjointed and a little generic. You can get more story information by talking to some characters around the USS Endeavor, or by finding file collectibles on missions. However, that felt like finding the collectibles in Outrider, like I cared for the information the first 10 times I found something, then I would just skip the dialogue after that. I had a hard time caring about the story, but would que up for the next opportunity to just start blasting xenos every chance I had.
I went into Aliens: Fireteam Elite expecting a solid third person shooter, and boy did I get that. But I was also surprised at how many rpg elements there are in this game as well. You begin the game by making your character. You can select how your character looks, and customize your character however you would like. Then you get to pick one of five classes that you are going to be – Gunner, Doc, Recon, Demolisher, and Tactician. Each class has access to certain weapons and/or skills that the other classes do not have. If you are looking to rock the M56 Smart Gun like Vasquez, then you would want to pick the Demolisher. I decided that the draw of the M41A Pulse Rifle was too much for me, and chose Gunner. The Gunner begins the game with 2 skills and two weapons, but you will level up and earn more skills, modifiers, passive skills, and weapons as you progress. You will also earn cosmetic items such as skins, decals, and new weapon colors.
Once you have outfitted yourself, you need to select your next mission. There are currently 4 major missions, each with 3 separate stages and objectives. Your fireteam consists of 3 marines, which can be either player controlled or can be played by an AI, if you prefer to go it solo. As a solo game, the AI does a pretty good job of keeping up with you and hitting their targets, but I did find that the AI would have the annoying trait of always following me around when we were defending an area, instead of being able to stay on one side while I was on over watch on the other side.
Before each mission you also have the opportunity to play a challenge card. Challenge cards are earned by playing missions and finding hidden caches on the maps. When a challenge card is played, the game becomes slightly harder in some way, but you will earn more credits and xp at the end. For instance, a challenge may be that your weapons have 3 times more recoil then normal, but you will earn 1.5 times more credit and xp at the end of the mission.
Once the mission has started, the story will begin to play out and you will receive your orders. You will see a point to head to on your HUD, and will be constantly under heavy attack by xenos as you progress through the mission. The xenos you face will be much more varied then the movies. You will see your typical drones, but will have spitters, poppers , and warriors to also contend with. Yes, before you say it, it is very much like playing a sci fi version of Left 4 Dead. That’s probably my biggest complaint about the game, is that it is pretty much just a re-skin of Left 4 Dead, down to the sections where you need to defend an area while waiting for some slow thing to happen. This didn’t stop me from enjoying the hell out of the game and the journey through different environments, including a Weyland-Yutani held alien stronghold.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a good looking game that feels like an Aliens game. As you progress through the missions, you will see call backs and items from movies past that will make you take notice, that is if you are an Aliens fan. You will run past giant statues of Engineers, and even see a Navigator, but to those that haven’t seen the movie you won’t feel the same connection to these environments.
Voice work is done pretty well for this game. My biggest complain here is that the mouths of the person talking do not move, like at all. When you start a dialogue with a character, you will have the ability to make choices and ask questions, but the lips of the person does not move when they talk. It’s just creepy and seems a little lazy on the part of the developer. However, the iconic sounds of the weapons are all in the game. You could not peel the smile off my face, every time I heard that classic M41A Pulse Rifle sound as I blasted xeno after xeno.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a very good game, especially for one that is a fan of the franchise and can enjoy the call backs and nods to the franchise. If you are not a huge fan, then this will feel very familiar to you, especially if you spent any time playing Left 4 Dead. I loved Left 4 Dead, so while it may not be overly original, Aliens: Fireteam Elite is still a blast to play. The rpg elements gives you a reason to keep playing the game so you can unlock better skills and different items, but also makes it less likely that you will play another class during a game. Why play my level 1 Doc, when I can bust out my level 8 Gunner? At the end of the day, Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a solid game that is fun to play. Sure, it may be repetitive in some parts, and sure it’s not very original, but blasting xenomorphs hasn’t been this fun in years. Aliens: Fireteam Elite is available now on Steam.