Blog » ForemostList Reviews » Aliens: Fireteam Elite (for PC) Preview

Aliens: Fireteam Elite (for PC) Preview

There’s something terrifying about the Xenomorph from the Alien films. Perhaps it’s the unique H.R. Giger design. Maybe it’s the fact that there’s no way to reason with the creature, or stave off your inevitable death. Regardless, it’s become one of the most iconic monsters in film history; a monster that should be one of the most iconic in video game history, too.

There have been many Alien games over the years, but few captured the movies’ pulse-pounding tension. 2014’s Alien: Isolation was a great exploration of the first film’s cat-and-mouse hunt that tasked you with surviving being trapped in a space station with a single Xenomorph. Now, Cold Iron Studios tries to replicate the second flick’s frights by pitting you against a rising tide of acid-spitting creatures. The $39.99, multiplayer-focused Aliens: Fireteam Elite places you side-by-side with other other players, as you blast Xenomorphs and worry about dwindling ammo counts. While its presentation stumbles a bit, Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a PC game that does a great job of making you feel as though you’re standing alongside Corporal Hicks and Private First Class Hudson. 

They’re Coming Out of the Walls

Aliens: Fireteam Elite is squad-based, third-person shooter. You can tackle the missions solo, or jump online with two other people to frag the acid-blooded invaders. The aliens attack in waves, rushing towards you from around corners and across ceilings. They dive into and out of vents, using subterfuge to reach you. 

The tension builds as the horde encroaches. You dodge acid spit, toss grenades down hallways, and desperately try to reload. The fear isn’t from the aliens per se; it’s from the sheer number of them coming at you, with each one represented by a tiny ping on your motion tracker. 

You encounter multiple Xenomorph types as you play. Most of the time, it’s the standard drones that you can easily shoot down. However, they become a problem in large groups. Then there are the heartier types. For example, the Prowler likes to surprise you from around corners, and escape into nearby vents. And the Spitter, well, spits acid from a distance. Level choke points also feature the massive Xenomorph Warrior.  

That said, the enemy AI is a bit dumb. There’s not a ton of flanking or higher-level tactics; instead, the aliens charge straight at you. I asked the developers about smarter aliens at higher difficulties, and they admitted that what really changes is the number of unique and stronger aliens that go into the mix. (Higher difficulties also activate friendly fire, so you must check where you’re shooting.)

Challenge cards let you change how levels are played

We Got Nukes, We Got Knives

Aliens: Fireteam Elite offers five character classes: Gunner, Demolisher, Technician, Doc and Recon. The dev team expects players to build balanced teams with multiple classes working together. Each one has its own active abilities, passive perks, and equippable weapon types. (There are two types of flamethrowers, and the fire effects cause the frame rate to dip.)

Take the Gunner, the jack-of-all-trades class. As a Gunner, you can equip one rifle-type gun and one close-quarters weapon, like a shotgun. A Gunner’s primary active abilities are Overclock (which lets you shoot faster for a limited period of time) and Frag Grenade (which is good for clearing alien crowds). Both active abilities recharge after use, letting you use them multiple times per mission. 

You’re not locked into any class, and can independently level them. As you level a class, you unlock new passive abilities and ability modifiers on its class grid. You also level equipped weapons, which increases their performance and lets you add muzzles, magazines, optics, and other attachments.

There’s a campaign story, but you’re meant to replay levels over and over again. Each time you finish a level, you gain class and weapon experience, as well as in-game currency: Requisition Credits and Rep Scrip. You use Requisition Credits to buy new weapons, weapon attachment, perks, and consumable items, such as automated turrets and special ammo. Rep Scrip unlocks cosmetics, such as new outfits, head accessories, emotes, and colorways. After the first few missions, I bought a pair of glasses to make my character really feel like me. The preview build contained zero microtransations.

As it stands, repetition is the name of most live service games. Aliens: Fireteam Elite leans into this with Challenge Cards. These are single use items that you find in chests as you play missions. These cards can be attached to a mission before you start it, modifying the mission itself. Completing a mission with an active Challenge Card results in much more experience, credits, and items. One Challenge Card forced me to play a mission using just a pistol, but it granted me four times the normal experience points. 

Yes, that alien has a name

They Mostly Come At Night

Aliens: Fireteam Elite’s campaign takes place 232 years after the events of the Alien trilogy. You’re a marine on the USS Endeavor, providing support after you receive a distress call from the planet LV-895. Of course, you touch down on the planet only to find it infested with Xenomorphs.

Visually, Fireteam Elite is a good-looking game. The first levels I played recalled the first two films, with lots of tight, industrial corridors and hangar bays. The lighting is a highlight here, with much of the levels being shrouded in darkness. Only emergency lighting and your squad’s flashlights illuminate the way. 

The preview build’s later levels were surprising in that they visually recalled the latter Aliens movies, Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. The missions took place in the middle of a Weyland-Yutani dig. The corporation seemed to have uncovered Engineer ruins, complete with alien script and massive structures. Aliens: Fireteam Elite looks to cover the entirety of Aliens, regardless of how you feel about the later entries. It’s good to have a change of pace; the Engineer dig site is simply more visually interesting than basic, industrial hallways. 

The slavish devotion to the films does have a drawback though: The weapon sounds are weak. The assault rifle’s high, whiny sound is likely from Aliens, but it sounds weak within a video game context. Likewise, the shotgun lacks a satisfying boom.

Nuke This Entire Site From Orbit

Based on the preview build, Aliens: Fireteam Elite won’t compete with AAA games on the market. The enemy AI is a bit dumb, the sound design could use some punching up, and the overall character animations are just fine. That said, when you squad up with two other people, and blast your way through a bug hunt, the Fireteam Elite experience feels like an Alien game in the best way. 

The team at Cold Iron Studios delivers Aliens: Fireteam Elite on August 24, 2021. It’s headed to PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series S/X, and Xbox One. While you’re waiting for the alien-slaying action, you should check out PCMag’s Steam Curator page. And for in-depth video game talk, visit PCMag’s Pop-Off YouTube channel. 

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