The Alien movies are some of my favorite movies of all time (especially Alien and Aliens). Unfortunately, the games based on that franchise have been a mixed bag. Some were good and some were awful. With the announcement of Aliens Fireteam Elite though, I was a bit hopeful. On paper, a horde mode shooter combined with the Alien franchise seems like the perfect match. So, after around 60 hours, here are my thoughts.
The game takes place in 2202, 23 years after the original trilogy. The USS Endeavor receives a distress call from Katanga refinery station which is orbiting planet LV-895 and proceeds to investigate. Although I don’t want to spoil anything, you can assume that Xenomorphs are involved in this, as well as Wayland Yutani.
The campaign spans across 4 separate chapters (with more coming post launch). The story is certainly not the focus of the game, and is told via voiced sections without lipsync (which can be a little jarring). Still, it’s enough to give some context to each mission. There are also lore collectables scattered across the levels that fill in more of the backstory. There is not much more to say here except that the game’s budget was not spent on this part of the experience. The good news is that it did not detract from the overall experience in any meaningful way… well… at least not for me.
Graphics & Sound
Visually the team has been incredibly faithful in capturing both the atmosphere and the look of the source material. There is an incredible amount of detail in each of the stages along with references to the various Alien films.
The audio is great overall as well. The sound of the pulse rifles, the screeching of the aliens, the motion tracker ping, and the ambient audio along with the music add to the experience as well (with the exception of one track which felt like it belonged more in a Star Wars Ewok adventure).
There are of course a number of unique weapons (that were not present in the films). Thankfully, even those felt impactful and punchy enough (and were rewarding to use).
Aliens Fireteam Elite is a 3rd person horde-based shooter along the lines of World War Z. The game is divided into 4 chapters with 3 levels in each (each taking around 15-20 min to complete depending on the difficulty). There is also a horde mode where you defend against waves of enemies for as long as you can. This mode currently has only one map, though I expect that more will come soon.
The levels are, for the most part, varied enough (visually). Unfortunately, though, all of them follow the same formula which goes like this:
- Walk through some small rooms and passages.
- If Aliens spawn they’ll usually come out of the same vents each time.
- Then there is a big fight in a larger room.
- Depending on the room, they attack from the same places in the same order every time.
- And then there are some more passages, another big room, a few more passages and the final room of the level and the formula continues throughout all of this.
I was a bit disappointed, to be honest, as I had hoped for a far more dynamic affair. After having played a ton of Left4Dead and World War Z, Aliens Fireteam comes across as quite sterile in this regard. This is by far my biggest issue with the gameplay loop. The lack of randomness in each stage (regardless of difficulty) is going to hurt the game’s longevity. The AI director in L4D kept things interesting for the most part because you never knew what to expect. However, and in the case of this game, it gets a bit repetitive as everything appears to be too predictable. Hopefully this is something that can be remedied with some post-launch updates.
The other issue I had with this game was its difficulty. There are 5 difficulty settings (Causal, Standard, Intense, Extreme and Insane). Playing on Standard and Intense works just fine, but anything above that will put you up against bullet sponges AND give you less ammo, which really does seem like a lazy and tedious way to make the game harder. In addition to this, these modes don’t offer any difficulty-specific rewards. All the unlockable cosmetics can be achieved on standard/intense, with the exception of the horde mode cosmetic stuff. The Bot AI is also useless on anything more than Standard difficulty. While it’s possible to complete some of the levels on Intense difficulty with the AI, if you are intending on actually completing the harder modes you WILL need to find a group of people. And then we have the issues with the matchmaking, but more on this later.
Movement works like every other 3rd person shooter. You have the ability to roll out of harm’s way 3 times before your stamina is depleted. You can vault over obstacles with SPACE or tap CTRL to hide behind cover (which is only useful against Synthetics) and you can blind fire over it at the cost of accuracy. Tapping SHIFT switch’s shoulders while ADS’ing (but it resets if you exit ADS mode or reload which is very annoying as hell), and you can melee (which I hardly ever used).
There are currently 6 classes to choose from (Gunner, Technician, Demolisher, Doc, Recon and the newly added Phalanx), each with 2 active abilities Each class also has two unique abilities that can be used on a 30-second cooldown (your perk modifiers can reduce this cooldown though).
Each of these classes plays quite differently. Not only that, but by using different perks and weapons, you can create different builds. The perk system itself is quite interesting and allows for a variety of build options. Slots and perks on the perk grid are unlocked as you level up each class to its maximum level.
Most of the perks are unlocked via leveling up that specific class. Some of them can be purchased from the vendor (located in your base) and a few are random drops from the hidden crates found on each stage. In addition to this, you can use some perks in multiple classes. Thus, I suggest levelling up all the classes to at least rank 3.
Each class can effectively change the function of their abilities based on what perk modifiers are used in their build. The technician, for example, can replace their default turret with a flamethrower or heavy turret (which is completely useless atm), or the gunner can replace their grenades with sticky grenades.
All classes are “viable” for harder modes, though some builds are more effective than others. I do wish though there was a template system to save builds, so you wouldn’t have to change out the perks each time you feel like trying something new.
While most of the classes felt quite good, the doc class design was a little odd and definitely needs some work. It’s somewhat cumbersome and not really that fun to play. The new phalanx class, which is supposed to serve as the tank, has no taunt ability. Thus, and in many instances, enemies just run past you. The phalanx felt a bit useless, to be honest. I don’t want to go into too much detail here but I think both these classes should be reworked to make them more useful and intuitive to use in team setups.
There are a number of guns in the game at the moment (with more coming), each able to have 3 attachments (a muzzle, scope and a magazine). These attachments come with stat adjustments such as accuracy, reload speed, weak point damage, stability, etc. Some attachments also come with bonus abilities such as reloading 50% faster when the clip is emptied. These weapons can be levelled up as well.
Weapons and attachments are unlocked from completing the levels on various difficulties. You can also purchase some of them from the vendor at your base, while a few can only be acquired from the hidden chest that spawns in each level.
There are also consumables in the game that players can use. For instance, there are sentry turrets, anti-personnel mines, cryo mines, incendiary turrets and more. These are found in chests and can also be purchased for requisition credits at the base.
Another big aspect of the gameplay is its challenge cards which in most cases introduce a handicap but increase either the XP or credit reward (or both). There are also a few cards that will offer only bonuses (like increased health) but won’t have any bonus rewards. Needless to say that these are best used in the Extreme mode. Packs of 3 cards can also be purchased at your base for Rep Scrip (one of the 2 currencies available in the game earned from mission completion or the daily/weekly challenges).
Finally, there are various cosmetics in the game. Players have the ability to change head and body gear, as well as gun skins and decals. Again, some of these can be purchased from the vendor at the base, but the majority will be obtained via random drops in chests.
Although there are some cool cosmetics, all the best ones are locked behind the real money Season Pass content drops or require you to upgrade to the Deluxe Edition (which is actually quite expensive. I mean, it costs nearly the same price as buying the actual game).
Now let’s switch to your enemies. Aside from the runners (your basic xenomorph), there are a few special xenomorphs, Weyland Yutani enemies and androids (thankfully though you’ll be fighting the xenos most of the time).
The special enemies are basically the same variations we’ve seen in other similar horde games, like WWZ & L4D (spitters, bursters, pouncers and 3 variations of tank Xeno, and a “Drone” which will come out of the vents pounce on someone, do damage and run away again. It will continue to do this until it is killed).
However, something that IS different is that the xenos that jump onto players and teammates and initiate a quick time event. It’s cool, though on harder difficulties it’s almost better to let your teammate finish the QTE rather than risk friendly fire trying to help them get it off them (unless you have the Demolisher and can AOE them off). This removes the feeling of danger when wandering off alone, which was a big part of sticking together in other games.
Bugs & crashes
I came across a few minor issues. Alt-tabbing while the game loaded would 100% of the time cause the game to crash. I had one instance of a mission item not dropping (which prevented me from finishing the mission) and one instance of a gun sound loop. It’s also been noted by some users that several perks do not work at all/correctly on occasion. It’s not something that I was aware of or noticed though.
Optimization needs work as well. While the frame rate was fine through most normal sections, at the larger encounters and in busy situations it would drop into the mid forties at the worst of times. The game also initially stuttered a lot for me and required me to enable DX12 via the launch parameter to fix (however a friend using an AMD card had worse performance when using this).
This is a more serious issue. The game lacks any kind of quick play option, and the way the matchmaking is designed is just awful. When you queue on a specific level and difficulty, the game looks ONLY for others queuing for that exact matchup. To make matters worse the counter is only 60 seconds long. Additionally, in the last 20 seconds, the game will auto-fill the team with bots and lock them. What this practically means is that you basically have only 40 secs to fill out the team. If you don’t get a full team, you have 20 secs to exit and re-queue (or be loaded into the level with either 1 or 2 bots). Rinse and repeat until you get the desired results.
Another feature missing on PC is the ability to communicate with your teammates when playing with random people. There isn’t any in-game chat or message support.
There is also no FOV option in the game at all. While it is possible to use a mod, players should not have to resort to such workarounds in 2021. Additionally, there can be some camera issues in tight spaces,
All in all, and despite its issues, I’ve enjoyed my time with Aliens Fireteam Elite. The good news is that there are no MTX in the form of loot boxes or additional paid DLC that includes actual gameplay content. There will be new levels, weapons and classes over the course of the next year that will all be absolutely free. The first of these was released a few days ago. As for the paid DLC, the developers have said it will be purely cosmetic.
In conclusion, I’d say if you’re a fan of the Aliens franchise, horde shooters AND have friends to play with, Aliens Fireteam Elite is worth checking. There is definitely a good few hours of fun to be had here.
However, if you don’t care about Aliens or plan to use the random matchmaking system, there are probably better options out there for $40 (unless you plan to pick it up on sale or the developers fix the matchmaking issues that are currently present).
Regardless though, I’m excited to see its new free content as it may give me an excuse to return and kill some more xenomorphs.
- Enjoyable & intense combat
- Aesthetics & atmosphere
- Variety of weapons, classes and builds
- Music & audio
- Free gameplay content updates
- It’s not Aliens Colonial Marines
- Can get repetitive
- No FOV
- Matchmaking is awful
- No voice or chat options on PC
- Some optimization issues
- Not enough randomness with enemy spawns
- Some bugs
- Paid cosmetics are expensive
- Only 1 horde mode map
- Bulletspongy enemies on extreme and above are an unfun & lazy way to make the game harder
Computer Specs: Windows 10 64-bit computer using an Intel i7-6700k CPU@4.5gh, 32GB Ram, and an nVidia RTX 2070 Super graphics card