Aliens Fireteam Elite Review: Another Bug Hunt
Aside from a cracking good (and now ancient) coin-op brawler, Aliens hasn’t had a lot of luck in gaming. While Alien Isolation is a superb take on the theme and atmosphere of the original film, Aliens Colonial Marines is widely lambasted for being a buggy mess. Aliens Fireteam Elite takes a safer approach and comes off a little better off as a result.
Fireteam Elite is a cooperative third-person shooter, wherein a team of three marines takes on an array of heavily structured and narrated story missions. There are four campaigns built in, with four chapters that play like a greatest hits tour of the whole Alien mythology. Get through all those and the horde mode is unlocked as well, which lets players forgo any semblance of a story in favor of just shooting bugs.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite Review: Another Bug Hunt
For fans of the series, there’s a lot to like in Fireteam. The visuals show off an impressive fidelity to the source material. Whether you’re wandering aboard the marine’s base ship, the UAS Endeavor, or skulking through claustrophobic corridors on an LV-planet or space station, the game nails the sets and atmosphere of the original films.
The soundtrack follows suit. From the ambient station noises, xenomorph screams, and sounds of the weapons firing to the score, there’s never any doubt this is an Aliens game. Even the dialogue, full of sometimes annoying bravado, is fully in line with the marine banter from the film. Finally, there’s a ton of extra Alien universe lore to be had in data packs left around the levels and dialogue with the characters you’ll meet.
The aliens themselves look great too. There are 11 different kinds of aliens that range from facehuggers, drones, and warriors to the fearsome elite alien warriors, the Praetorians. Several are new to the game as well. There’s a distance attacker that spits acid and another that explodes. The game also has some non-xenomorph enemies as the plot thickens (especially Weyland-Yutani Synthetics, though they don’t have nearly the nightmarish impact of those in Isolation).
Fireteam Elite lets players make their own marine by customizing the look of their character from top to bottom. There are five classes as well—gunner, the questionably-named demolisher, technician, doc, and recon. Each has its own special abilities, perks, and stock loadout. A highly appreciated feature is the ability to switch between classes anytime outside of a mission. This means you can easily test which playstyle suits you without having to create a whole new character.
As you build up experience in any given class and even with specific weapons, your stats improve as well. Finding new tech in crates and hidden caches during a mission or earning new items by leveling up lets players upgrade their guns with new mods and attachments. Once you’ve earned new gear, you can install it while aboard the Endeavor, or visit the armory to buy other pieces and cosmetics.
Some of the mods increase stats like a gun’s range, critical shot chance, and overall damage, while many others are purely cosmetic. There are also earnable perks for your marine. Finally, the game has challenge cards that are used to create minor performance side goals during a mission (like "kill 100 enemies with the pistol") to add a slight bit of variation to the missions and help increase XP and currency gains.
So, for the most part, the pieces are in place for a decent Aliens shooting gallery and generally, that’s true. So long as you understand that despite the character development, this game is absolutely hitting the mindless blasting end of the shooter spectrum. It’s damn near arcade-like in how the action plays out.
The marines can take cover, for instance, but it’s mostly useless against aliens that either doggedly charge you from all directions (and across all surfaces), just sit and spit at you, or simply wait frozen until you get close. There are times when the cover mechanic just causes frustration by sticking you against cover while a flood of aliens runs right over. It’s as if the feature was thrown in because someone in management said all squad shooters must have it, without actually thinking if the game needed it.
Cover makes slightly more sense against actually armed, non-xeno baddies though, but those aren’t the focus of most of the shooting. Beyond that, the AI as a whole is amazingly weak. The aliens can mostly get by being mindless because the game just constantly respawns them. Aliens pop out of every vent shaft and alcove, running along the walls, floors, and ceilings to munch on your team. At times, they literally just magically appear right in front of you.
When you can’t find other humans to play with, the game gives you bots. We can only assume the Colonial Marines’ tech budget was weak this fiscal quarter because damn, are these guys mostly useless. They’ll at least attack, but not well, and often seem to wait for you to start firing. You can conceivably play through the whole campaign with them on casual or normal, but even that’s really going to test your patience.
Finally, moving the action to a tight quarters third-person camera brings up a host of unfortunate camera views. When a large alien warrior rushes you against a corner or wall, for instance, it usually results in an inability to see anything going on. Thankfully, the ol’ reliable motion sensor is excellent and vital for surviving.
Aliens Fireteam Elite Review — The Bottom Line
- Nails the look and sound of Aliens
- It’s fun to mow down hordes of xenomorphs with friends
- Surprisingly good character creation and leveling
- AI is very lackluster
- Camera issues
- Not for single-player gamers
Aliens Fireteam Elite already has new story missions lined up for the future, so there’s a distinct possibility the game will be able to hold player interest for a while. If you’ve got bug-hunting buddies to play with, you’ll have a much better time. Single players, however, should probably give it a pass.
[Note: Focus Home Interactive provided the copy of Aliens: Fireteam Elite used for this review.]