I am a simple man – I love the Alien series and I love horde shooters. Combine the two and you get the latest offering in the Alien video game series, one done by a relatively unknown studio, but what appears to be an actual budget.
Unlike the last couple Alien games we got – both in first person – Fireteam Elite plays as a third-person shooter. The best comparison I can make is basically a combination of Gears of War and Left 4 Dead. You got the semi-clunky movement, but fun shooting of Gears and the horde-like gameplay style of Left 4 Dead.
It has its hiccups, but at its core – the movement and shooting are solid. Dodging is responsive, the cover system actually works, and landing shots is never not satisfying. The headshot sound effect in particular definitely adds to this feeling – it really makes those shots feel rewarding especially when playing on a higher difficulty.
In fact, on that topic, I would highly recommend playing on the game’s “intense” difficulty right from the start as opposed to its default “standard” difficulty. I started with the latter, but was breezing through the game with two of my friends and it didn’t really have that sense of urgency you would expect from an Alien game. Bumping it up to intense and now ammo is way more of a concern, the big alien types actually feel challenging, and setting up turrets, mines, and other traps in preparation for the next fight are way more rewarding.
It’s just an overall better experience and I wish I had started on that difficulty from the start – worth noting that there are two difficulties even higher called “extreme” and “insane” unlocked after you complete the full campaign once.
Also worth noting is that there exists a “challenge” system similar to the skulls from a Halo game. You can buy these challenges form the in-game store (using currency you earn while playing) and activate them before missions to make them even more difficult. Whether that be having an alien constantly on the hunt for you, having only half of your maximum ammo, or just straight failing the mission if you take damage – some of them are pretty extreme, but the rewards do make them worth a shot.
Because yes, the game has RPG mechanics in that have you leveling up characters, weapons, and classes and these challenge cards allow you to earn more XP and currency every time you activate one. The RPG mechanics here are where the game gets its depth and variety from. You get a handful of different classes – each with their own specialization and abilities. The doc, for example, has a really nice AOE healing field, whereas the demolisher (my personal favorite) has shoulder-mounted missiles similar to Predator.
Your weapon type also depends on what class you pick, with the demolisher being able to handle heavy weapons and the doc and technician handling smaller ones. You can freely swap between them between missions and the game encourages this because it is constantly giving you loot for all of them – regardless of what class you are playing. There’s a good amount of experimentation here and the variety offered by all of the different weapons, abilities, perks, and other upgrades are really what carry the experience here.
I say that because the gameplay loop is fairly simple. You enter a level, progress through it while blasting enemies, and complete occasional objectives like activating some machine, transporting a certain item, or just making it to the end. It’s not the most diverse set of objectives, but the core combat is fun enough that it never felt outright repetitive. The game itself is roughly 5-8 hours depending on what difficulty you play, so it doesn’t overstay its welcome either – granted, some might be put off by that length.
Also worth mentioning is the story, because despite carrying the Aliens title and obviously borrowing a lot from the movies – this is not really a game you should go into expecting any sort of “good” story. It’s not bad, but just kinda “there” – like this optional thing added on just to link the different levels together. For example, while there is dialogue and full voice acting – NPCs lack facial animation, so you’re just hearing their words while looking at them.
The Aliens theme obviously went more towards the setting and enemies, rather than storytelling – which I wouldn’t even consider to be a bad thing. It’s nice to just drop into a lobby with some friends and get to shooting some xenos. The game recognizes this too, allowing you to skip the dialogue scenes if you don’t want to engage with them. I ended up playing them all out anyways for this review, but it’s honestly something I wouldn’t recommend doing.
Graphically, the game looks just okay. Despite being released on PS5 and Xbox Series X, it is still a game you can tell was developed for the generation prior. Not to say that it looks bad – rather just basic. It at least does the job and I didn’t have any issues like not being able to spot enemies against the environment. There’s also not much to say about the music. It’s not that memorable and honestly, it felt a bit too “cheerful” for how dark the setting was – I would be in a big firefight while some upbeat cantina theme is playing.
As for optimization – I only had a few issues. I had to put down a few settings to get the game to run at 1440p on my 1070 Ti, but once I did it was smooth sailing fps-wise, hovering around 60-80 for most of it and rarely dipping below that. Still, I did run into the occasional model freaking out, frame stuttering when loading back into the hub world, and a grand total of one crash. I won’t say it’s the most polished game, but the technical issues I did run into were relatively minor and hopefully something a patch or two can clean up.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite may be a bit clunky, but the core combat is some good stuff and the RPG mechanics on top of it give it a nice sense of depth. Fun and unique classes, cool enemy designs inspired by the movie, challenging levels – it’s a nice all-around horde shooter even if the story and graphics may be lacking. It’s not really a game I would recommend for solo players (at least, definitely not at full price), but I had a good time playing through it with a couple of friends and would recommend it if you have some to play through it with as well.
Quote: Aliens: Fireteam Elite may be a bit clunky, but the core combat is some good stuff and the RPG mechanics on top of it give it a nice sense of depth. Recommended if you have friends to play it with!
Aliens: Fireteam Elite retails for $40 USD on Steam. It is also available on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, and Xbox One.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.