- We go hands-on with the upcoming co-op multiplayer game Aliens: Fireteam Elite.
- Play as one of five unique classes to deal with a growing xenomorph threat.
- Aliens: Fireteam Elite will launch on August 24 for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.
I grew up in a house that let me watch R-rated sci-fi and horror movies as a kid. The ‘80s, as you’re likely aware, had a handful of now-iconic films that were definitely not for kids, but still found a way to market to them and my parents were totally down for it (I had the ED-209 toy from “Robocop” and the sandworm from “Dune” to name a few). Like those films, including “The Terminator” and “Predator,” they all left quite an impression on my youth (which explains… a lot).
After watching “Aliens,” I think it left one of the biggest marks, kicking off my imagination where I’d run around the playground with friends channeling my inner Hudson, yelling “Game over man!” and pretending xenomorphs were nipping at my heels. It’s this type of experience that I think Cold Iron Studios wants to harness with Aliens: Fireteam Elite, a co-op third-person survival shooter that drops us in the thick of an evolving xenomorph threat. After playing through the first few missions with an early preview build of the game on PC, I think it’s the closest I’ve come yet in a game to re-capturing that running around the playground feeling.
“There’s movement all over the place!”
Aliens: Fireteam Elite takes place a few decades after the original trilogy of films. As a Colonial Marine — those heroic grunts that were made famous in the movies — you’re stationed aboard the UAS Endeavor, a massive, space-faring troop carrier that has been sent to investigate a mysterious distress call in the outer colonies. Naturally, things go wrong, xenomorphs show up, and it’s time to lock-and-load.
From its film-inspired setting, I appreciate that the xenos are already a known threat from the get-go. There’s no, “What are these things?!” moments. Every marine on these missions wholly expects to encounter these bugs and they’re all well-prepared to do so, from the detailed pre-mission briefings all the way through to the equipment on their back, they’re ready to face this threat. What everyone is less prepared for — and this is where the story comes in — are the wide variety of xeno-types they will confront.
Taking some inspiration, no doubt from iconic co-op shooters like Left 4 Dead and Gears of War, some of these xenos are designed to overwhelm you by sheer numbers, while others can explode and spray acid everywhere when destroyed, and some can even keep their range and “spit” at you (we’re told to expect 11 different types of xenomorph throughout the course of the game). This presents you and your cohorts with a nice variety of enemies to blast, keeping the action feeling fresh as you navigate from checkpoint to checkpoint battling hordes of xenomorphs, all the while the mystery of what has gone wrong here slowly begins to be revealed.
“Express elevator to Hell.”
Of the first several levels I’ve played through, mainly on the distressed Orbital Refinery Katanga, I’ve been taken by how much Cold Iron Studios has nailed “the look” of the films. Everything feels steeped in retro-future tech, much like how the excellent Alien: Isolation captured the look and feeling as well. Dimly lit corridors, acid sprayed metal walkways, flood lights, piles of crates, leaky pipes, and old CRT screens are all commonplace here.
One area that appears to still be under development in our preview build is the weapon audio, which sounded a little muted at times during our gameplay sessions; I was hoping for a little more punch from the M41A2 Pulse Rifle or feeling a little more rattled after an explosion. The voice acting is very well done, especially Staff Seargent Herrera, who you’ll hear from a lot from as she barks orders in your ear and fills the role of narrator throughout the campaign missions. Also, the music is top-notch, feeling like parts of it were pulled from James Horner’s excellent film score as the action starts to ramp up in-game and dials it down as your squad creeps through a smoke-filled corridor, hinting that danger is lurking just beyond your reach.
And then there’s the aliens themselves. They look, sound, and move just like you’d hope, if not a little predictable about where they might rush into the level to attack – odds are good if you’re walking past a vent shaft or if your squad is trapped in a narrow corridor, you can anticipate some resistance.
It’s hard to tell this early how predictable or unpredictable these encounters can be on repeated playthroughs, but you can mix up the difficulty before missions through the game’s “Challenge Card” system, which can modify how to plan for a mission, like playing only with your sidearm, finishing the mission in less than 15 minutes, or having your motion tracker randomly malfunction as a few such examples.
Completing these challenges will net you a bonus payout at the end of the mission, like additional credits that let you purchase better weapons, consumables, and attachments, to additional experience points that you can put into your marine’s perks to modify and improve their existing abilities, like increased accuracy for turrets or increased ability duration. You can also open marked storage crates during the level that can yield consumables to use in-mission. In short, there’s a lot of variety that you can adjust on your own to help keep these encounters feeling fresh on repeated playthroughs.
“Another glorious day in the corps!”
For our preview build, we had access to four of the five available loadout kits: Gunner, Demolisher, Technician, and Doc; Recon was unavailable. As you might infer from their names, each brings a different element to the fight.
Gunner is combat focused and has team buffs to improve fire and reload speed. Demolisher is all about heavy damage and can equip the awesome smart gun with auto-tracking (or an epic flame thrower). The Technician can set up sentry guns and utilize charge coils to slow enemies down, and Doc can deploy a trauma station that delivers an AOE healing effect when you’re standing near it.
Each kit brings with it a unique role to the fight and finding a good balance between teammates as well as the ideal weapons, perks, or consumables can make or break your chances of getting back from your mission in one piece.
“Not bad, for a human.”
It’s possible to play Aliens: Fireteam solo, but it’s not an ideal experience from what we’ve played. A Gunner Synth will auto-fill any open roster spots during matchmaking, but we highly recommend hopping online to be matched in a group that can better adapt to the alien threat throughout the game. The Synths, while useful in laying down a carpet of firepower, stick close by and (in this preview build) can’t be given any specific squad commands — only a basic ping system lets you call out an area of the level that you’re aiming at with a situational verbal cue.
Still, the amount of work an indie studio like Cold Iron Studios has been able to pull off here so far is very impressive. There’s a solid foundation here for a fun co-op multiplayer game and we’re looking forward to checking out the finished experience when it hatches on August 24.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite is available for pre-order today on the Xbox Store and will launch August 24 for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S as an Xbox Series X|S Optimized title with Smart Delivery Support, giving you the best available version for your Xbox console at no extra cost. Keep it tuned to Xbox Wire for all the latest and greatest news about your favorite upcoming Xbox games.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite
Cold Iron Studios
Aliens: Fireteam Elite Deluxe Edition
Cold Iron Studios