It’s been a while since we saw a game that visited Ridley Scott’s Alien Universe, which I always felt was ripe for some amazing gaming experiences. Sure we ended up with Aliens: Colonial Marines, which was a terrible experience, followed up by Alien: Isolation, which to me was the best Alien Universe game ever. Then comes along Aliens: Fireteam Elite from Cold Iron Studios, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. More so, as this was being marketed as a shooter, and we all remember the last game that did that, I still can’t get that nasty taste out of my mouth. However, this game turned out to be a surprise and one that I can’t put down.

Game Name: Aliens: Fireteam Elite
Platform(s): PC (reviewed) PS4,PS5,Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Publisher(s): Focus Home Interactive
Developer(s): Cold Iron Studios
Release Date: August 24, 2021
Price: $39.99 (standard) / 69.99 (deluxe)

While the game’s name does say Aliens, this is nothing like the movie that we’ve all watched (you did watch it, right?). Taking place 23 years after the film, Aliens: Fireteam Elite features an original story and new characters that aren’t put of the film. Giving Cold Iron Studios complete control to do whatever they want. As far as the story goes, you’re part of a colonial marines team sent down to respond to a distress call. From there, it gets really crazy, but since this is a non-spoiler review, you’ll have to play the game to find out more. 

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Let’s get personal

One of the things I really loved about this game is that there’s a ton of customization. When you first start the game, you must create your own character, complete with different sexes, hairstyles, and skin tones. It’s not the best character creation I’ve seen in a video game, but it’s not bad. Once you start playing the game, you’ll be given the option to also customize your weapons with different modifications, skin colors, and decals. There are also lots of perks that you can equip and modify your character with. It’s a nice way to allow players to stand out when playing, and it also gives a nice amount of personalization. Plus, it helps when players are modifying their characters to help their fireteam get through the game.

There are four classes to pick from at the start; Gunner, Demolisher (my favorite), Technician, and Doc. Each class brings something specific to the table due to their special abilities, which benefit both themselves and the team. There’s a fifth class that becomes unlocked once you’ve beaten the game. While I tried all of the classes, I fell in love with the Demolisher, mainly due to the heavy Smartgun at first, which was great for clearing rooms. But later on, I was able to upgrade to the flame thrower, which is my favorite weapon in any video game. Once I had that weapon, I used it as much as I could. That’s not saying the other classes aren’t as good, but c’mon, it’s a flamethrower.

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Nuke It From Orbit

The gameplay loop in Aliens: Fireteam Elite is pretty simple; You pick a mission, you try to survive the hordes of baddies while picking up resources and other goodies along the way. Should you complete the mission, you’ll be given a ranking of just how well you did. From there, you can either continue to the next mission or head back to the USS Endeavor, which serves as the hub of the game. You can interact with the NPCs at this ship, find out mission story stuff, and purchase new weapons and perks. You can also modify your perks, change up your weapons and personalize your character here as well. 

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It’s worth noting that the more you use a specific weapon, the more XP it games, the higher its ranking becomes, which affects your overall ranking. So if you happen to use a rifle more, it will rank up faster than your other weapons. 

There are five difficulty levels; Casual, Standard, Intense, Extreme, and Insane. The last two levels are locked until you beat the game, and for a good reason. Even on Casual, you can get rocked by the number of enemies that swarm you. The AI goes insane at times, and the higher the difficulty, the worse it gets. Sure, it makes for a great time until Xenomorphs surround you, your buddies are down, and you are just about out of health. 

There’s also Challenge Cards, which add specific objective that rewards you with valuable loot, should you meet that objective. Such as not getting downed throughout the mission, having less health, weapons having less ammo, and more.  These become unlocked as you play through the missions, or you can purchase a random pack. 

Gameplay-wise, the game feels just like Gears of War. You have a main weapon, a heavy weapon, and a sidearm that doesn’t run out of ammo. You can take cover behind walls and dodge to get away when needed. You have a short amount of time before you expire when downed, so your teammates can still revive you if they aren’t too busy.

Missions, well, missions are fun. You either squad up with randos, friends, or if you don’t have any of those, you’ll be assigned two bots; Alpha and Beta. From there, you’re given some story about the mission (blah blah blah), and then you start firing. Seriously, the amount of Xenomorphs and other things that try to kill you is up there in the hundreds. There’s never a dull moment when you’re in mission mode. The better you do in a mission, the more XP you get, the higher your level goes, and the more things you can do with your character. 

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Oh, and there’s no pausing when playing either. I found that out the hard way.

The controls are great; there’s not much more to say about that. I’ve played with both a keyboard and mouse and a gamepad, and I found both control methods worked well. But if I had to choose, I’d keep playing on the KBM just because I was more versed with that setup. The only thing that would have made the controls perfect is the ability to do a quick turn. With enemies coming at you from all directions, this would have helped, instead of wasting a split second turning around manually.

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How’s the multiplayer?

A game like Aliens: Fireteam Elite lives on multiplayer. You can’t start a game solo, and if you can’t find anyone to play with you, you’re provided with bots. Which is fine and dandy, but there are simply times where I wanted to fire up a session and kill some aliens all by myself. Now, playing with the bots isn’t bad; they’re pretty handy but damn if getting a session started isn’t a pain. At least with the review copy I received, I might add that I couldn’t find a single person outside to play with that wasn’t part of The Outerhaven; it was impossible to find anyone to play with. So when I wanted to play without my teammates, I got matched up with bots, which again was fine. This will change once the game goes live, so I’m not worried about this.

But when you can squad up with capable human players, this game is a lot of fun. Working your way through each mission, mowing down aliens, or having aliens overrun you was exciting, and it does borrow the atmosphere from the Aliens movie. 

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However, this game has no cross-play support whatsoever. I don’t get why this decision was made or who made it, but this will hurt Aliens: Fireteam Elite. Playing with people on the PlayStation, Xbox, and PC platforms would have been amazing. I hope this gets revisited in the future.

Is this game faithful to the movie?

I’m a huge Alien/Aliens film buff, and going into this game; I was concerned that this would be another Aliens: Colonial Marines. Thankfully, it was not. This game is faithful to the films, with Cold Iron Studios taking a few liberties by adding new Xenomorphs that fit into Aliens world perfectly. Not only are the Xenomorphs faithful, but so are the locations that you visit, as well as the overall atmosphere.

Looking at the visuals, it’s as if Cold Iron Studios ripped everything from the film as everything is identical. The weapons, ship designs, character outfits, and more. Sound-wise, it’s all there. From the weapon sounds, the cries of the Xenomorphs as they charge into you, to the Working Joes speaking in their cold, robotic voices. 

As for the newer Xenomorphs designed for the game, as I mentioned previously, they fit right in. I didn’t have any concerns or problems seeing a new variety of Xenomorph, and they actually made the game that much more exciting for me.

It’s clear that the developer did their homework when working on Aliens: Fireteam Elite. If you’re doubtful or skeptical about the game due to it not being faithful, you have nothing to worry about in this department. It’s all there.

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Game Over Man?

Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a short game, with either a decent team or going solo with the bots; you can make it through the game in a few hours. However, Cold Iron Studios thought about that and has provided longevity that will keep you coming back. While you’re playing, you’ll either focus on one main class as I did or swap around with different classes. Once the game is beaten, you can turn your attention to the other classes to maximize them and grab all their goodies. 

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Or, you can take part in the horde mode, which is unlocked once you’ve beaten the game. This mode has you mowing down tons of baddies in waves, and it’s a blast when playing with other people. 

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as there is more content being released later. Cold Iron Studios has released a roadmap that includes plenty of upcoming content. Four seasons of post-launch DLC will span an entire year. They haven’t said what it is, but I’m looking forward to it.

PC-centric Performance

My time with Aliens: Fireteam Elite was with the PC version and my time with the game was flawless. The PC is played on was equipped with an AMD Ryzen 5 5600x, Nvidia 2080 Ti, 16GB of DDR4 with the game installed on an NVMe M.2 SSD. Load times were quick, my frame rates were high, even at running with the highest settings and at 4K resolution. Overall, the performance was perfect.

As for the options, you have control over pretty much everything. Sadly, Nvidia’s DLSS wasn’t available, though I’m hopeful this will get added at a later date. As an added bonus, there are several accessibility options that can be tweaked and I’m happy to see this made it into the game.

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There was one minor issue I experienced not related to gameplay. You can change the resolution and screen (windowed, windows-full screen, full screen). I attempted to set my resolution multiple times, and it never took, so I had to change the resolution in windows. I don’t know if this was specific to my machine or what. Either way, I did report this to Cold Iron Studios.

Overall

I’m impressed with the amount of detail and just how faithful Aliens: Fireteam Elite is; fans of the movie will be right at home. There were moments where I geeked out just due to what I was experiencing. There’s just so much more I wish I could talk about, but being a non-spoiler review and all, you’ll have to trust me, from one Aliens fan to another. This is the second-best game in the Alien universe, and the best action-based game in that same universe, and I implore you to give it a try.

Review Disclosure Statement: Aliens: Fireteam Elite was provided to us for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.

Affiliate Link Disclosure: One or more of the links above contain affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you, we may receive a commission should you click through and purchase the item.

Summary

Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a must fan for anyone who enjoyed the Aliens film or those who love a great gaming experience. This is the best action-based game in the Alien universe.

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Pros

  • Faithful to the Aliens movie
  • Lots of Xenomorph variety
  • Tons of customization
  • It has a freaking flamethrower

Cons

  • It’s too short and I wanted more
  • Resolution changes would not stick
Overall
4.5


About The Author

Editor-in-chief and all-around good guy!

A grizzled IT professional during the day, but a passionate lover of video games after his 9-5 grind. Loves playing the Dark Souls series and has been gaming since he was 6 years old. Yes, I am a black gaming journalist. Follow my antics on Twitter @Shadowhaxor.