Aliens: Fireteam Elite review in progress for Xbox Series X, PS5, PC

Platform: Xbox Series X
Also On: Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC
Publisher: 20th Century Games
Developer: Cold Iron Studios
Medium: Blu-ray / Digital
Players: 1-3
Online: Yes

Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a new co-op third-person shooter from developer Cold Iron Studios based on the popular film horror/action franchise originally brought to life by director Ridley Scott. It?s the first significant Alien franchise game release since Alien: Isolation in 2014, and much like that unique survival horror experience, Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a pretty good Aliens game overall. 

I?m not quite ready to assign a score to this review, just because this game experience mostly revolves around online co-op play, and prior to launch there just wasn?t a lot of sessions I could pack in with other real players. I did end up playing through the majority of the campaign with bots, which worked well enough, but you ideally do want to fill out your three-party team with live humans instead. Once the game goes live tomorrow, and I?ve had a bit to see how well the matchmaking and network holds up, I?ll revisit this with a proper score.

That said, I?ve really enjoyed my time spent with the game so far. It?s very much in the vein of that World War Z game from a couple of years ago. You?ll have a small party put together from various classes, that you can then outfit with weapons, consumables, and perks that you?ll take into battle with you. The campaign is the main focus of the game, spread across 4 different missions with multiple chapters for each mission. The majority of the game is focused on holding off waves of increasingly difficult enemies, which consist of Aliens, synths, and other creatures you?ll encounter towards the second half of the game. There?s a pretty good variety for each enemy type, so with the Aliens you?ll get acid-spitters, exploding Aliens, tough-as-nails Warriors, and so on. 

Gunplay feels really great, the developers have absolutely nailed the sound of what a Pulse Rifle should be, and there?s a surprisingly large number of weapons and attachments you can gain throughout. Each class does feel distinct, consisting of 4 classes at the start and then an additional class that?s obtainable after completing the campaign. I played through most of the game as the Demolisher and Doc classes, but you?ll also have access to Gunner, Technician, and then Recon as the last unlockable class. Each class has two unique abilities tied to a cool down timer, along with another ability that generally causes some sort of passive effect. You can equip two consumable types, things like turrets or mines, and then also customize the look of your marine with a number of unlockable cosmetic options. 

Aliens: Fireteam Elite also employs a unique perk system, wherein each class has access to both class-specific perks along with universal perks. As you gain experience in a particular class, you?ll rank up which will allow you to equip more perks. The perks are laid out in a system that feels reminiscent of inventory management in some Resident Evil games, so a grid based pattern with limited space, with each perk taking up multiple squares in the grid. You?ll have to mess around a bit to make space for the perks you need, and it kind of forces you to be real choosy with your options in a way that balances the perk system fairly well. Perks can also have modifiers that have to be attached adjacent to a perk on the grid, which again forces you to really think about how you want to build your class. That said, you?re also not locked into these decisions and can swap between equipable perks in-between missions if a certain combination isn?t working out for you.

Visually, Aliens: Fireteam Elite does a great job of capturing the look and feel of the Aliens universe, and surprisingly incorporates a lot of Prometheus-inspired imagery as well. It also has a hefty amount of story content for an online focused co-op shooter, but a lot of that is packed away behind optional intel pick-ups that are hidden in each mission. I didn?t come across anything that led to any major revelations or tie-ins to prior Aliens media though, so maybe temper your expectations a bit if you?re hoping for something Ripley related or some other major film connection here. 

For online play, you can either invite friends to create your own fireteam, or you can start a mission and the game will attempt to fill empty spots for you. My only complaint with this system so far is that you don?t have the option to search for games in progress, so no lobby system or anything that would be a bit more helpful when trying to locate players for a specific mission. Since there are multiple missions across multiple difficulties, I?m curious to see how splintered matchmaking will be when the game goes live, which may impact how easy or hard it is to find a full group of random people to play with. 

As far as overall longevity goes, Aliens; Fireteam Elite is absolutely meant to be played through over and over again. It?s easy enough to revisit missions from your main pause menu, and the game incorporates both daily and weekly tasks to complete that will net you more consumables or in-game currency, which can then be used to purchase cosmetics, more consumables, weapons/attachments, or challenge cards.

Challenge Cards are pretty neat too, they?re basically mission modifiers that you can choose at the start of a mission to impact how the mission plays, and upon completion, generally nets you increased experience or currency. For instance, one Challenge Card employs a high-contrast black and white filter to the entire mission, whereas another card deploys an Alien drone that will stalk your fireteam throughout the mission. There?s a decent variety of cards available at the start, and it seems safe to assume that additional updates will bring even more challenge cards, which will in turn help keep the repeating missions feel fresh. 

So while I?m not quite ready to slap a score on this just yet, I will say I?ve had a lot of fun with Aliens: Fireteam Elite, and I?m hoping the online experience holds up really well at launch. As a fan of the films, I?d like to see this one do well, and it?d be neat to see what the developers could potentially introduce in future updates considering the foundation of the game is so solid at this point. So yeah, once I?ve had a few more days to play the game post-launch, I?ll have a few more final thoughts and a score to check out, so please revisit this space then. 

Note: 20th Century Games provided us with Aliens: Fireteam Elite Xbox codes for review purposes.