Before embarking on the second mission of Extraterrestrials: Fireteam EliteI activated a challenge card that guaranteed a special alien to appear at least once. In exchange, this granted an XP multiplier – unfortunately I had misread the second half of this mutator. Every 10 to 15 seconds, the Drone, a Xenomorph capable of pinning you like the Hunter in left for dead, appeared and terrorized my squad. It was so ridiculous that it became a running joke until we inevitably failed the mission. But in retrospect, this high-risk/high-reward situation created a memorable moment, and I wish Aliens: Fireteam Elite was filled with more of them throughout.
Made by developer Cold Iron Studio, this is the latest addition to the ever-growing line of left for dead– similar (think Back 4 Blood, Galactic Deep RockWhere war hammer: Vermintide 2.) You and up to two other players – or AI teammates in the form of androids – can join forces in online multiplayer to slay Xenomorphs across four campaigns, each comprising three chapters, following a rather shallow storyline. set 23 years after the original film trilogy.
You begin this space mission not by choosing between a group of charismatic marines, but by creating your own. There are five classes to choose from (featuring your usual archetypes with an alien twist around weapons and abilities), as well as a customizable loadout. After a brief cutscene, you are thrown into a space station that serves as a hub. Swap a few dialog screens with the nearest NPC and you’re good to go.
In practice, this all looks immensely familiar to countless other games. But while recent examples like Riders classes presented with otherworldly abilities and Back 4 Blood tries to shake up the formula with its card system, Aliens: Fireteam Elite feels shackled by ideas he borrows from other cooperative shooters. It pays homage to both aliens and left for deadbut it doesn’t draw on any of those influences in new or exciting ways. It’s almost too much respectful, and it ends up being forgettable.
The courses are quite simple and lack creativity. My teammate went with the Demolisher, which is the only class that can use heavy weapons, such as the signature Smartgun, or a flamethrower. Myself, as a technician, I could only carry a pistol and a shotgun. As for abilities, I could throw an EMP grenade and deploy an auto turret. After a few missions, I switched to the Gunner, which allows assault rifles instead of pistols, and it became my go-to class. His ability temporarily improves the squad’s rate of fire and reload speed, which helped me in staged firefights. And while there are no microtransactions, leveling up can take a while, and grinding is required to buy attachments and new weapons.
Abilities can be upgraded or even swapped out for others, but this progression system is unnecessarily complicated. Instead of skill trees, you are presented with a grid. Each upgrade or modifier occupies a number of slots in the grid. If you want more space, you will need to increase your class rank. (And it may take a parcel grinding.) By the time I was about to have the grid fully unlocked, I had already completed the campaign. Playing Aliens: Fireteam Elite often means jumping through a series of unnecessary blocks to progression.
Considering the complexity of all of this, I was surprised at how simplistic the space station hub is, both in terms of personality and interactions. You can talk to NPCs and ask them about events related to the Aliens universe, but everything seems so lifeless. There are several rooms to visit, but the Armory is the only one I felt compelled to return to due to its usefulness. The overall artistic palette certainly exudes aliens ambiance, but with no notable characters or points of interest, it feels like a missed opportunity to add more flavor to the world.
That being said, some of the key characters you meet in the hub are fully voiced and provide exposition during combat. But I was particularly impressed with the way the Spanish-speaking characters are presented. They fall into the trope of reminding audiences of their origins by randomly switching to Spanish mid-sentence, often without any reasonable purpose. It happened constantly until the end, and after a certain point I was laughing or shaking my head every time it happened. If the goal was to get a hold of the decades-old tropes around Latinx characters, then Aliens: Fireteam Elite succeeds.
As for combat: Missions tend to last around 30 minutes, depending on your difficulty of choice and the challenge maps you’ve chosen, like the aforementioned stalking drone. The objectives are simple, mostly taking you through hallways from point A to point B to interact with either a terminal, a locked door, or a locked door followed by a terminal and vice versa. It gets tiring fast, and the lack of safe parts of any kind means that opportunities to breathe are incredibly rare. Also, since there are no checkpoints, difficulty spikes and unclear extraction points result in full restarts without even retaining the XP you’ve earned.
Encountering aliens isn’t exactly scary in the traditional sense, but seeing hordes in the distance closing in on you at an alarming rate leaves you overwhelmed in the best way possible. At no time do you feel helpless – unlike Amanda Ripley in Alien: Isolation, the sailors of Aliens: Fireteam Elite are well equipped for combat. They’re up to the Xenomorph hordes, but not too much, and I often barely got by in fights. Uncertainty makes victories much more satisfying.
This tension is helped by a surprising variety of enemies as you progress through the campaigns, each bringing a distinct behavior to combat. While you’re fighting literally hundreds of smaller Xenomorphs, the presence of a Drone or Warrior (the big and scary ones) can shake up your formation and force you to rethink your strategy.
This variety comes with a distinct series of environments that showcase the Aliens universe as a whole, ranging from classic films to modern movies, as well as Alien: Isolation. While the first campaign consists mostly of corridors, I was impressed by the open spaces, statues, and massive walls infested with crawling aliens that awaited me later in the game. Setting foot in the final levels of Aliens: Fireteam Elitewhere the scenery reached new heights and the diversity of enemies came together to repel our attack in satisfying fashion, felt like a difference between day and night compared to earlier levels.
Despite all the annoyances I mentioned, these last few campaigns felt really special and made my investment of time seem worth it. But an abrupt ending with an unsatisfying conclusion quickly dashed my enthusiasm for replaying levels or digging too far into the uninspired Horde mode.
i was wondering what Alien: Fireteam Elite want to be. Fans of the films – the widest Extraterrestrial the universe as a whole — will be satisfied with the small details scattered in the countryside. But they won’t get much of a new story in return. Levels can be impressive in terms of imagery, sure, but the lack of exploration doesn’t give them enough room to shine. Aliens: Fireteam Elite wears its influences on its sleeve. But as he tries to stand on the shoulders of giants – left for dead and aliens himself – he can’t quite make the climb.
It has been eight years since the disastrous Aliens: Colonial Marinesbut his shadow still hovers Aliens: Fireteam Elite. The game features a solid foundation that manages to surprise in some ways, but doesn’t quite leapfrog. I was hoping this iteration on the Aliens universe would finally be one that wasn’t afraid to take risks. But I’ll have to wait for the next attempt to find out if it’s just a hopeless wish.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite will be released on August 24 on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Oneand Xbox series X. The game was reviewed on PC using a pre-release download code provided by Cold Iron Studios. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.