‘Aliens: Fireteam Elite’ is an arcade shooter for the online era


Image Credit: 20th Century Studios

Fireteam Elite fails to build tension. With such a transparent gameplay structure, any feeling of pressure or horror has to come from the xenomorphs themselves, and frankly, they’re often not smart enough to make this happen. The swarms rarely feel unmanageable and the specialized xenomorphs, like spitters or jumpers, routinely behave in non-threatening ways. This unpredictability ends up being more adorable than scary. Plus, I have to note that my game crashed three times in about seven hours of play.

That’s not to say the AI is trash altogether. Cold Iron says it’s already resolved some of the movement issues the xenomorphs were experiencing in the preview build, and it really is impressive to see dozens of inky black aliens bounding down the hallway, each on its own path but out for blood, and the game is built around these moments. The xenos stumble around corners like dogs on a tile floor, and details like this add much-needed personality to the waves.

20th Century Studios

The game’s most exciting moments come at the end of each mission, during the final swarm. These are long standoffs with waves of xenomorphs, including spitters, prowlers, bursters and giants that hunt down a single crew member at a time. I’ve found the technician and doc to be particularly useful in these moments — the technician has a turret that recharges after it’s been destroyed and shock grenades to keep the xenomorphs at bay, while the doc has an incredibly handy healing circle.

This is where the most strategizing takes place, even if it is mostly just turret talk. There are chests containing consumable weapons, health and on-demand ammo refills at each final battle, meaning your whole team will start off well-equipped and they’re free to spray and pray. This is good, considering the reticles on most of the weapons are generous, and crowd control is the name of the game, not accuracy. 

Aliens: Fireteam Elite

20th Century Studios

There are a few bright spots in Aliens: Fireteam Elite. The soundtrack is a James Horner-inspired orchestral situation and it’s a constant reminder of the game’s cinematic 1980s roots; it does a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to setting the mood. Plus, the game’s RPG elements — including character, loadout and weapon customization, and challenge cards — add a necessary layer of depth to otherwise straightforward missions.

I wasn’t expecting Fireteam Elite to be as narrative-driven as the films or as moody as Alien: Isolation, but I had hoped for something like Left 4 Dead meets Dead Space, and this ain’t that. Instead, Aliens: Fireteam Elite feels like a theme park ride in video game form. The monsters aren’t really threatening, but the crowds certainly are. And, of course, it’s more fun with friends.

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