The Alien Colonial Marines Game We Needed
The year is 2184. It has been 5 years since the events of the movie Aliens where the Colonial Marines were confronted by xenomorphs at Hadley’s Hope. Corporations still rule the known universe, making living more miserable through science. It falls to the Colonial Marine Corp to contain the creation of weapons both biological and technological. You and your fireteam are the front lines of the battle to avoid the self destruction of the human race.
In Aliens Fireteam: Elite, you form a fireteam of 3 marines to take on 4 campaigns with 3 missions each. An additional horde mode is unlocked after completing all the campaigns. They take place on the orbital space station Katanga and in the ancient planetary ruins of planet LV-895. You can choose from 5 classes and have everything from pistols, to rocket launchers, to the favored M41 Pulse rifle at your disposal. You battle xenomorphs and abominations created through experiments on them, alongside experimental and even crazed synthetics. There are daily and weekly quests, alongside challenges you can activate to increase your rewards (like a random weapon jam for 2x credits) or change the mission experience somehow (doubling your health for example). Bother gear and cosmetics are purchasable with in-game currencies, and they seem to be earnable at an acceptable rate.
Gameplay is focused on a 3 player co-op experience, though synthetics (AI) will accompany Fireteams of 1 or 2 players. Synthetics offer a sub-optimal experience by design, but should get you through the lower difficulty levels. It is very much a third person shooter, Left 4 Dead clone with thematically appropriate twists. Every xenomorph explodes, throwing acid pools everywhere for you to avoid. Boss fights are replaced by ‘hold this position’ events in which large waves of enemies swarm you, with the occasional slightly more powerful creatures that use various different mechanics (knocking you down, picking you up, etc) to make your life difficult. Nothing a well timed dodge can’t handle. In total I have about 22 hours in the game, having just completed the campaign and a few horde mode games. I spent about 10 hours getting through all four campaigns, repeating failed missions, tinkering with loadouts, going through some lore, and customizing my character. A lot of my in-game hours were spent helping people unlock missions to catch up with me.
The ability to switch seamlessly between classes is a huge asset to the game, letting you check out all the classes without recreating your character or worrying about spending points to respec. I tested out each class pretty thoroughly and found them all fun to play. Least fun was the Technician, only due to the lack of a long ranged weapon which is totally just my personal preference. The weapon options are both short range (CQW & handguns) however the special abilities are probably the most fun and active of any class. Most fun to me is the Recon class, which unlocks after you complete the campaign. The ‘pups’ ability is really fun, and is an amazing implementation from the movies. The Gunner class provides the most reliable level of fun and is your standard soldier class. The Doc class needs a little work, but it is still a fun class. The recharging mechanic for your trauma station isn’t intuitive, and could cause problems when queuing up with randoms. Demolisher is your heavy weapons class and is pretty solid fun, the smartgun being worth a mention for it’s ‘auto-aim’ ability which is pretty cool.
I’ve spent most of my time on standard difficulty, and I wouldn’t recommend going lower. The enemy AI is truly devious. Swarms come from everywhere, and I literally mean everywhere. Above, to the side, and below, it seems like no matter how hard I try to keep my back somewhere safe, there’s always a xenomorph behind me. I look forward to the higher difficulty modes for the authentic Aliens movie experience. The weapon sounds and effects are also on point, with the flamer units being particularly satisfying in function and effect. The ability to mod up your weapons just a little (3 slots) lets you find a way to play like you want. Likewise the Perk trees are very simple and straightforward, letting you easily understand the effects of your choices. In essence, you can play Aliens Fireteam Elite as seriously or casually as you want, which should keep all kinds of players happy.
The environmental artists for this game should be sought after for the rest of eternity. If you’re a die-hard fan of the Alien movies, you’re not going to be disappointed. Everything looks insanely authentic, holding true to the movies. It’s more than just eye candy too, it actually becomes an extension of game mechanics. It’s always dark in all the wrong places in Aliens Fireteam Elite. I can’t tell you how many times me or one of my fellow marines walked RIGHT past a xenomorph hiding in the shadows, literally right above us on the ceiling. Or times when you send out your pups to scout, and all of a sudden dozens of red markers appear in front of you out of nowhere, letting you know you’re already too late. The xenomorphs themselves look terrifying and blend in well, like a deadly roach infestation. Even their movements look realistic and (un)natural. Adding to the movie nostalgia are the sound effects from the movies, from the pulse rifles, to the tapping on keyboards, and even computer processing sounds. It feels like a lot of care was taken to weave this game into the movie universe, and they pull it off masterfully.
Aside from the Doc class needing a little love, I’d like more UI options, like the ability to toggle it on or off completely or in part. Also while I don’t necessarily disagree with locking ‘progression’ behind completing the campaign, having to go back and repeat missions with new players isn’t ideal. Especially since I can’t see any reason for it beyond forcing the story on a player, but a lot of players just don’t care about the story. I’d also like to see a ‘quick join’ option for randomly selecting a mission. Going through to pick a specific mission once you’ve unlocked everything is a little tedious.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out Aliens: Fireteam Elite ties into the newly released Alien RPG sourcebook. The ‘Frontier War’ campaign from the Colonial Marines Operation Manual takes place directly before the events in the game. A couple of the players from my stream tabletop group have grabbed the game, so I’m hoping it’ll inspire their character creation for our own upcoming Frontier War tabletop campaign.
Aliens Fireteam Elite definitely earns a recommendation from me. I bought it day one and haven’t looked back. I am a fan of the movies, but you don’t need to in order to enjoy the game. If you like co-op shooters and sci fi, this game is for you. There are already more missions planned for the future, so this game will surely live beyond it’s current form. Hopefully it’ll transform into something like the Vermintide series, playing off future movies, or even inspiring them. Cold Iron Studios has done a fantastic job with this game, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store next. They say in space, no-one can hear you scream. In Aliens Fireteam Elite, if they can’t hear you screaming, it’s because of the explosions and gunfire on the battlefield. That or the facehugger has already gotten to them – or to you.