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Aliens: Fireteam Elite Review – Co-Op Thrills Inspired by James Cameron

Few franchises have lent themselves so naturally to video games as Aliens. After all, you’ve got cool-looking enemies that offer an intimidating challenge, a lot of guns, and a sci-fi setting. Aliens: Fireteam Elite is the latest crack at making the series interactive and is the first title from developer Cold Iron Studios and has the bonus of offering a cooperative gameplay experience that allows three friends to enjoy the action together.

While video game adaptations of films don’t have the greatest reputation (although it’s better than film adaptations of games), the Alien franchise actually has a rich history in the medium starting with Alien for the Atari 2600, which was a Pac-Man-style maze game. What followed was nearly 40 years of titles ranging from great (the Capcom beat ’em up and the 90s shooters from Rebellion) to the truly awful (Gearbox’s infamous Aliens: Colonial Marines). Fireteam Elite sits safely between the two sides of the spectrum, although it’s closer to the top than the bottom.

RELATED: James Cameron’s Genius Makes Aliens One of the All-Time Greats

Let’s get the elephant out of the room immediately — Aliens: Fireteam Elite deals with the main issue with many licensed properties, which is that it can never quite live up to what it’s based on. For better or worse, this will be compared to James Cameron’s 1986 classic, which it really can’t hold a candle to despite offering a pretty darn good time in its own right. While fans are still going back to Aliens 35 years later, it’s highly doubtful that this game will have the same relevance. While it gains a lot of positives from being based on the film, such as rich lore and awesome xenomorph designs, it’s very difficult to ever offer an experience as thrilling as Cameron’s best.

With that out of the way, we can focus on what Fireteam Elite does bring to the table, which is solid shooting mechanics, gameplay that smartly brings forward many survival shooter stapes, and a few inventive replayability options. One thing the third-person shooter does nail is the feel of being a Colonial Marine as you’ve got an array of powerful weapons at your disposal that can be enhanced with a number of attachments that can be purchased with in-game currency. It’s highly satisfying when you mow down a xenomorph that is just a foot away from clawing into you. Seeing the dead bodies slide around the varied environments is always entertaining (especially if you toggle on the option to include damage numbers).

The game is split into several different campaigns that escalate in difficult that consist of multiple 20-minute levels. There are no checkpoints, so the threat of failure means replaying sections and giving it another go. While this can be frustrating at first, I actually like this choice a lot as it underlines that xenomorphs are a true threat. If two members of your squad are down, it’s truly tense because your success or failure doesn’t just impact you but the entire group. A more cynical view would be that this is due to the game being relatively light on content, but since it’s A) meant to be replayed anyhow and B) offers multiple difficulty options, I don’t think that skepticism is truly earned.

Levels are quite fun to get through the first time around, especially after the first campaign when you escape the narrow corridors and get to venture into more interesting locales. There are Left 4 Dead-style moments where you’re about to unleash a horde of xenomorphs and are given moments to prepare by setting up mines, turrets, and any other equipment you’ve picked up along the way. A few of the base-level grunt xenomorphs are generally not a threat unless they’re accompanied by a more unique variant but they move fast enough to keep players on their toes along the way.

RELATED: Interview: Aliens: Fireteam Elite Dev Explains Picking Aliens-Inspired Direction Over Alien

Graphically, the game isn’t able to offer the same amount of atmosphere as Alien: Isolation. It never feels all that creepy, even when going down a dimly lit hallway with a xenomorph around the corner, and it leans far more into a power fantasy than feeling hopeless. However, there are still a lot of tense exchanges whenever an elite xenomorph or a praetorian appears. The game is less about instilling fear and more about creating thrills, which is all heightened by the incredible soundtrack by Austin Wintory.

The bigger problem is once you finish the campaign as I never really wanted to go back and re-experience the levels despite recognizing the many systems Cold Iron has programmed to keep things fresh. First off, there’s a constant progression system where you’re unlocking new abilities, weapons, and consumable items (including cards that offer up fun variant levels). This offers quite a bit of variation from the player-side, which combines nicely with how spawns are randomized from one playthrough to the next. The problem is that most of the levels revolve around running from Point A to Point B in a pretty linear fashion, so it gets highly repetitive.

Aliens: Fireteam Elite Review

It’s clear that Fireteam Elite is a love letter to the franchise and one made with a lot of respect for the source material and the expanded universe. There are moments when the action truly comes together that feel magical. Situations where players are getting overwhelmed by an onslaught of xenomorphs only to barely scrape by with help from their friends provide memorable action. However, that magic is fleeting rather than a constant occurrence and the game never finds the optimum balance between being an authored experience and one that is being replayed a decade later like Left 4 Dead 2 or other gold standards in the genre.

Fans of the Alien franchise have dealt with a heck of a lot worse, but they’ve also had better over the years. Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a solid entry that’ll provide many cooperative multiplayer thrills but one that doesn’t quite reach the highs of the film it is influenced by or the best of the genre.

SCORE: 7.5/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 7.5 equates to “Good.” It’s a successful piece of entertainment that is worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.

Disclosure: The publisher provided a PC copy for our Aliens: Fireteam Elite review.

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