'Aliens: Fireteam Elite' Isn't Great, But It's Good Enough

It's a bug hunt

Key Takeaways

  • Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a simple shoot-'em-up that pits you and up to two friends against swarms of Xenomorph monsters.
  • Surprisingly, it's taken this long for someone to make an Aliens game like this.
  • The standard edition is only $40, so you'll probably get your money's worth.
The cover art for 'Aliens Fireteam Elite.'

PlayStation

Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a solid way to burn a weekend with friends, but like any cooperative shooter, it loses a lot when you play it alone.

Set in the universe of the Alien movies, 22 years after the events of Alien 3, Elite puts you in the role of one member of a three-person unit of Colonial Marines, out to investigate a distress call from a refinery station that had been reported as destroyed.

Naturally, because it's this series, that means someone's been messing with the Xenomorphs, and soon you're hip-deep in angry, acidic killing machines.

You can play Fireteam Elite solo with a squad of two AI partners—fittingly, they'll be android "synths," making them literally bots—but I didn't have a lot of fun with that. It's an intense, strategic third-person shoot-'em-up that encourages you to watch each other's backs, keep each other alive, and rack up a high alien body count. Bring friends, or don't play at all.

"It's a great game with friends...you keep each other alive, and share resources to stay alive for just a little longer."

They're Coming Out of the Walls

Admittedly, Elite is a little repetitive. Each stage is a series of shooting galleries, with occasional alien ambushes, which can come from almost any direction at any time. Anything that looks like it could have an alien hiding in it probably does, and over the course of a given level, your team will face and destroy hundreds of them.

Elite is definitely drawing more on Aliens than Alien and takes a full-on action approach. This version of the Aliens universe's Colonial Marines knows exactly what the Xenomorphs are, has a pretty good idea of what they can do, and has practice fighting them.

The surprises are gone, which makes this a straight-up fight. The Xenomorphs of Elite aren't necessarily scary anymore, but they're still extremely dangerous.

The challenge comes from reacting and adapting to each successive attack. You've got a wide variety of classes in Elite, which can use trademark Aliens weapons like the smart rifle, and each one has its own tools it can bring to the table.

A screenshot from 'Aliens Fireteam Elite.'

Technicians, in my experience, seem particularly important here, maybe too much so. Not only do they come equipped with shotguns, which are amazing in this game, but technicians can deploy a sentry turret at will that automatically tracks and destroys aliens in its line of sight.

You do a lot of point defense in Elite. Other characters can use sentry turrets as a consumable item, but for typical runs, I couldn't see a good reason to not just roll up to the club with three Technicians and let the turrets do all the heavy lifting for us while we sipped daiquiris.

With or without Technicians, though, this is the kind of shooter where you'll want to be able to rely on your backup. It's a great game with friends, especially with voice chat, as you can coordinate your approaches, keep each other alive, and share resources to stay alive for just a little longer.

The AI partners are competent but are just riflemen with no particular quirks, and I've had one bounce a thrown grenade into me more than once. If you're going to play Fireteam Elite, you want to play it with people you know.

Grindhouse

Elite is the work of a relatively new developer, Cold Iron Studios, out of San Jose, but you wouldn't know it at first glance. It does have some relatively dull environments in its first mission when you're exploring yet another chunky derelict spaceship, but once you get a little further into the game, the visuals improve.

Screenshot from 'Aliens Fireteam Elite'

It does rely heavily on repetition, however, as there are many things to unlock and purchase over the course of the game. This includes new hats and outfits for your soldiers, new weapons, a wide variety of mods including decals, and emotes for your characters so you can communicate (sort of) without voice chat.

You've only got twelve levels, plus an unlockable survival-based "Horde Mode," with which to grind out all of that experience and currency.

Having extra difficulty levels helps, as does switching up your character classes occasionally, but Fireteam Elite’s long-term appeal is built around being endlessly replayed. (If the onscreen action didn't remind gamers of Left 4 Dead, the repetitive mission structure would.)

On the other hand, being short and focused on repeat runs also means it isn't padded, and Elite is relatively cheap for a new 2021 video game at $40. I don't know how seriously I'd recommend getting really into it, but for a few evenings of casual fun, it's one of the more pleasant surprises this year.

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