Dated Posted: 11/9/2022
Released in 2021 Aliens: Fireteam Elite follows a group of colonial marines that respond to a distress call from the Katanga space-refinery, a space station previously believed to have been destroyed. The player takes on the role of one of the marines sent in to discover the source of the distress call and battle the swarms of xenomorphs that have taken up residence on the station, and the planet below. The game is set 23 after the original film trilogy. It doesn’t feature any characters from the Alien Franchise returning so don’t expect cameos from Ripley, Bishop, Hicks or anyone previously associated with the film series.
Now if you have read my previous reviews, then you’ll know that a colonial marines game has already been attempted, the woeful Aliens: Colonial Marines. A game that was as crap as it was hyped up, it had terrible graphics, appalling AI from both the companion marines and the aliens they were battling with. It also decided to spend huge chunks of the game focussing on battling mercenaries hired by the god-like corporation that is Weyland-Yutani. Did Aliens: Fireteam Elite learn from the mistakes made by Colonial Marines or was it just another shit shooter to add to the pile? If you are sitting comfortably, we can take a look.
The game opens with your ship the USS Endeavour responding to a distress call made by Tim Hoenikker, a scientist stationed onboard the Katana refinery in orbit over LV-895. A squad made up of three marines (either one player with two synthetic companions or two players with one synthetic companion, or three human players). Once onboard it does not take long to discover that the station has been infected with xenomorphs and the team battle their way through the vicious creatures to rescue the station’s sole survivor.
Hoenikker reveals that the xenomorphs on the station have been bred by Weyland-Yutani and have been the subjects of various experiments using the pathogen (the substance that mutated some of the crew of the ill-fated Prometheus mission) that was discovered on the surface of the planet. The xenomorphs were able to escape their confinement and are now running unchecked on the refinery and on the planet’s surface.
The marines of the Endeavour head down to the surface to locate any survivors and must contend with the monsters now stalking the planet, and it is not just the xenomorphs that will be trying to stop them...
Before I go any further, the main question that has been thrown at this game is: Is it better than Colonial Marines? Well read on and I will tell you.
Colonial Marines was basically trying to retell the story of the Aliens film and even featured characters from that film cropping up in its plotline. The players were tasked with fighting an alien infestation of LV-426, something that we had seen a marine squad failing to do in Aliens. That game also decided that fighting mercenaries loyal to Wayland-Yutani was also more interesting than the actual xenomorphs. Thankfully Fireteam Elite is telling its own story which goes to the trouble of bringing in a lot of the lore elements from the original films as well as the prequel movies. Now whilst I have no love for Prometheus or Alien Covenant I have to admit that it was cool to see the pathogen being used to experiment on xenomorphs which has resulted in new breeds that haven’t been seen before. I like it because in the Alien franchise we have seen alien drones, warriors and queens. Here we see massive praetorians, spitters and crushers. Creatures that have appeared in games but not on in film before, but unlike other games this one takes the time to explain why they exist. In most games there are enemies that spit at you from a distance, ones that run up to attack directly, ones that blow up in your face, as well as the bigger boss-type enemies that appear as members of swarms after their initial encounters. There is inevitably not a reason for these variations given most of the time but here, the marines react to the new creatures, with your support character directly questioning how these new breeds can exist when they have not been encountered before.
Non die-hard fans of the franchise also might not know what and what is considered canon to the film series at this point. As far as I am aware the official canon is as follows: Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, Alien, Aliens and Alien: Isolation. You’ll notice that Colonial Marines is not part of that list having lost its canon status when it became obvious of just how shit it was. One of the key elements of that list is Alien: Isolation which means that elements from that game appear in this one. Katana was at one time owned by Seegson (the knock off company behind Wayland-Yutani), the Working Joes appear as enemies, and if you’ve played Alien: Isolation you feel like you could be walking around Sevastopol Station waiting for the Drone to appear at any moment. Plus for those of us who have played Isolation there was something absolutely joyous about blasting the Working Joes with high powered weapons in Fireteam Elite when they were so problematic and hard to kill in Isolation.
The game features several classes of marine and players can choose which build they wish to play as, for example there are the Gunners who have the role of good all-round support armed with rifles and shotguns, the Demolishers who are the tanks of the squad going ahead armed with rifles and heavy weapons, the Docs who focus on healing the team so have smaller arms and close-combat weapons, and so on. Each build has eight levels with new perks being unlocked as they level up. Each build will have two additional abilities which compliment the role, a Doc can deploy a station which can heal other players, the Gunners can activate a buff which improves weapon damage for the team, the Demolisher can fire a barrage of missiles from a shoulder mounted canon, etcetera. Each level of the campaign keeps track of which builds a player has completed the levels using, so it is actively encouraged to play over and over again with the different builds adding variety to the game play.
Some of the builds will grant universal perks that you can use for any build whilst some of them are build specific. J and I had played the game a few times and found that healing or door animations, and attempts to revive a fallen teammate could be interrupted if a single alien hit you whilst you were doing it. One of the perks that I worked to unlock as quickly as possible was a universal one that is unlocked whilst playing at the Doc called Surgeon’s Hands which when deployed mean that you cannot be interrupted when interacting with objects or reviving teammates. Once I unlocked it, I quickly equipped it to all my builds, only to discover on my first attempt to use it that it didn’t work, I was still getting stumbled. A quick Google and Reddit post later I discovered that many other players had this problem and the perk only seems to work sometimes. So I had focussed on unlocking something that would only work if it felt like it, and as a result there are times when I don’t get stumbled and times when I don’t. Naturally the times when it doesn’t work are the times when I desperately needed it to and when it is not so important is when it functions properly every time
Unfortunately this perk bug proved to be the beginning of the cracks in the game starting to appear...
When playing with AI companions two synthetics named Alpha and Beta accompany you on your missions, and they have a default Gunner build. They are armed with a pulse rifle and will occasionally throw grenades. They will also heal themselves if they get damaged during combat. The problem is that there is nothing you can do to control their AI or improve their default setting which can make some of the later missions incredibly difficult to complete if you are using AI companions. I was playing the final level earlier on today and during the reactor sequence in which you have to activate three timers whilst fighting off waves of enemies ranging from easy to kill fodder xenomorphs to boss-level praetorians my AI companions were taken down, and I was swamped by enemies far too powerful for me to defeat alone. I was trying to complete the level as a Doc so only had a rifle and pistol. I had no area of effect or especially powerful weaponry, so was killed and the mission failed. The issue that I have encountered over and over again is that with bigger enemies Alpha and Beta’s weapons are not powerful enough to take them down on their own. As a result I need to make sure that my weapons can, which in turn means that I have to be playing one of the builds with stronger and more powerful weaponry. Plus Alpha and Beta have effectively limitless heals but you cannot instruct them to heal themselves even if they are a mosquito’s bollock away from being taken down. Sometimes they heal when they drop down to around a quarter of their health and sometimes they don’t. You might be standing at the doorway to the next bit of the level waiting to continue but can’t because they are standing too far away from the door so it doesn’t register you are gathered together. You can’t tell them to go to a specific location and your waypoint marker means nothing to them. Admittedly the game is designed to be played in online co-op which is why a friend of my skin-sack brought it for me, with the intention of us playing it online together (which we have been doing), but with games that “can also be played on single player” it doesn’t seem really fair that the AI companions are basically designed to just draw attention away from the human player so they can do most of the work. You encounter enemy synthetics that are classified as Demolishers or are equipped with shotgun so why can’t we change Alpha and Beta to better suit the mission we are heading into or the build that we are using??
On the whole it has to be said that, Alpha and Beta do a reasonable job most of the time and can revive you if you health bar drops to zero. They can generally be relied on to kill the fodder enemies that flock to swarm you at every turn. Like I said you have no direct control and more than once I have watched them shooting at a wall because an enemy was on the other side of it, but by and large it is possible to complete the levels with them by your side. It would be nice to have some control over them beyond the fact that if you run too far ahead they just appear next to you, because there are times you want to regroup and they will be on the other side of the room shooting at a passing moth or something.
The AI of the xenomorphs fits with their particular breed. Fodder enemies will charge directly at you, spitters hide behind walls or barriers popping their heads out to vomit balls of acid at you, lurkers hide in dark corners awaiting the chance to ambush, with drones running into attack then retreating. Warriors, crushers and praetorians rely on their strength and power to overwhelm their prey so stalk relentlessly onwards after their chosen target. What I find odd about the AI of the xenomorphs is that all of them without fail will target a sentry gun over everything else if one has been deployed. This might seem like a good thing but sentry guns in this game have the durability of a wet cream cracker in a hydraulic press, so you deploy one to give you an edge in battle, and every enemy from the fodders upwards instantly target it. As sentry guns will usually have been deployed to deal with a swarm or larger enemy they get almost immediately destroyed which renders deploying them in the first play a bit pointless. I don’t get why a xenomorph would give priority to attacking an inanimate object shooting at them over a human shooting at them. Similarly with Alpha and Beta you cannot upgrade the armour of the sentry guns you pick up, and whilst you find stronger ones later, all of them are vulnerable to the alien’s acid blood so even if they do kill the enemies surrounding them the acid pool will generally finish them off.
Whilst not exactly an AI issue I feel the need to mention that there is a battle set in a hanger with a drop ship that needs prepping before it can launch. The pilot nags incessantly to complete the tasks necessary to complete the take off requirements despite the onslaught of xenomorphs you are battling at the time. At no point does she think to use the massive mini-gun mounted under the nose of the dropship to aid you in the battle. Yes, there is an obvious mini-gun attached to the ship that she does not think to activate to help you fight off the dozens of enemies that come swarming towards you.
One of the recent additions to the game is the option for cross-play which enables players on PC to play alongside those using a PS4. Due to the problems I was having completing certain levels with certain builds with Alpha and Beta, I decided to try playing with randoms a go. My first attempt went very well, I was with players who obviously knew what they were doing, and how to use their abilities effectively. As a result we completed the mission with relative ease. Since then my experiences have been considerably more miss than hit. There are times when I link with good players, but by and large I seem to get lumbered with morons. Last night I was playing a mission, the final part of which takes place in a hanger, and whilst being attacked by a swarm of enemies you must do three other tasks around the hanger, and then run to the back of the dropship. Once you get to the back the mission ends, it doesn’t matter if enemies are still alive or not at that point. I had completed the first two of the tasks, and had raced the length of the hanger to complete the third when my companions decided to abandon the exit point next to the ship and run into the middle of the hanger. After you activate the final task, three warriors spawn in with a couple of spitters, as well as numerous fodders, bursters, and lurkers. Thing is all you have to do is hightail it to the ship and mission complete. But the idiots I was with decided to hold their ground and fight almost instantly being taken down by the number and power of the attackers. I am used to playing the game alone so as soon as I hit the exit the mission ends, even when I have played with J, if one of us gets to the end a 30 second timer counts down and the mission completes at the end of that countdown regardless of if the other player as reached it in time or not. Unfortunately when playing with two other humans companions at least two of us needed to get to the exit point for mission complete and my idiotic teammates were crawling across the floor hoping to be revived whilst I had a trio of pissed off Warriors, lurkers, spitters and fodders after my blood. I managed to dodge round them and revive one of my team, I hoped that the enemies would keep following me, allowing my teammate to revive everyone else so we could finish the mission, but nope he or she immediately tried to kill the enemies, and was almost instantly taken down again. By this time my health was pretty much gone, and I too was taken down, resulting in the whole team being killed and the mission failing. I honestly sat on the floor staring at the mission failed screen flabbergasted at the stupidity of my teammates considering all they had to do was stay where they had been during the final battle then run to the ship to complete the mission. This level of idiocy was not limited to that one instance either. I had a random player activate a challenge card that turned the fodder enemies into the much more powerful lurkers, as a team we lasted 4 minutes on that mission, someone switched on a card that turned off one of our abilities, and so it went on. That isn’t a fault with the game it just makes you wonder why there is no matchmaking with players who have a similar combat rating as you so you don’t end up babysitting a couple of noobs who barely know which end of the gun to shoot with. Plus I have not yet discovered a microphone option so as of time of writing there doesn’t seem a way to talk to your team, if there had been I would have been shouting at the idiots in the hanger to “Go! Get to the choppa!” or dropship in this case.
The combat rating the game features refers to the perks you have equipped, and the weapon level that you are using. Weapons can be unlocked to four stars using xp earned during missions but none of these stars will increase the weapon’s damage and instead give bonuses to improve things like recoil or stability. This means that a player that has a pulse rifle at four stars isn’t putting out any more damage than someone whose rifle is still at one star. Attachments can be added to improve weapons but again it is things like increasing max ammo, or the size of the clip, rather than useful things like a weapon’s damage. It also leads to the bizarre situation in which you are instantly swapping out your four star weapons with the one star or lower ones because you don’t want to waste the xp on a full upgraded weapon. This does mean though that longer-time players don’t have much more of an advantage than newer players. J requested that I not play the game without him because he didn’t want another Dead Space 3 scenario in which I was so overpowered that all J did was just follow after me whilst I got to do all the fun necromorph killing. I agreed to not play any levels that we had not unlocked together and wouldn’t play the Demolisher build without him but did play as the other builds. When we play together my combat rating is usually higher as I have got more perks unlocked but my marine’s weapons are no stronger than his. This is a good and bad thing because it means that each player has to carry their own weight and cannot rely on their teammates to do all the work for them but sadly it means that each player must carry their own weight and cannot rely on their teammates to do all the work for them. As I have described above this reliance on teammates has led to problems when playing with people who don’t know what they are doing.
In an attempt to keep the game from getting too repetitive you unlock challenge cards which when equipped will grant bonuses like increased xp or credits you use to purchase new weapons. Only one card can be active at one time and if you fail a mission then that card is lost. They add new scenarios to the levels like making enemies tougher or making your marine more durable or upping weapon damage. There are some that make the game ridiculously hard but there is the option to change three cards into a random new one so ones you know you will never use don’t sit in your inventory indefinitely.
The problem of repetition is one that a couple of people have said to me, and they are not wrong. I think the game follows a similar structure to games like Left 4 Dead in the sense that you fight through waves of lesser enemies, reach a point that needs to be defended, defend that area for a set amount of time whilst a door unlocks or an elevator is called. Then you carry on, fighting more lesser enemies until you reach the next place to stop and activate something, where you fight a bunch more enemies usually with a couple of tougher ones thrown in until they are defeated and then moving on once more. There are usually at least three stop and fight zones in each level. I don’t really find this too repetitive simply because the enemies you fight are fast, powerful, and can wreck your shit pretty fast if you let them. Fodder enemies can be killed in a couple of hits but get a dozen of them around you slashing at you constantly and your health bar will plummet shocking quickly. I have found that often you need to use tactics like running down passageways to funnel them into a smaller area or getting your back to a wall so they can’t get behind you necessary to keep from being killed. Personally the only enemies that I found did get boring to fight are the “poppers” which are little crab-like aliens that spawn in huge numbers and walk slowly towards you. They can be killed with a single bullet from your sidearm (a pistol that has infinite reloads) so when you have a group of them trudging across a large room to get to you, you sit there just firing one bullet at a time until they are all dead. Yes they can be more of a threat if they get to you as they jump at you and explode but usually they could only have gotten to you if you’d popped off to make a cup of tea whilst they were approaching.
The missions themselves can also vary slightly with side objectives cropping up during some playthroughs whilst different enemies can spawn in different locations, so whilst I could certainly understand why a person might find the game repetitive, as far as I am concerned, because you have to pay attention to what you’re doing each time you play a level it doesn’t get dull.
The game also doesn’t feature any in-level checkpoints so if your team is taken down then it is a mission fail. Each campaign is split into three missions that generally take around thirty to forty minutes each to complete depending on difficulty level. It can be incredibly annoying to spend half an hour playing a mission only to die seconds from the end and know that you have to go right back to the start to have another go. I could understand if harder difficulty levels didn’t have checkpoints, and I’d be happy for challenge cards to be lost if you have to restart from a checkpoint, but to have none at all can be very aggravating.
Generally my issues with the game are nothing more than niggles BUT there is a big problem I have with several of the mission campaigns and it revolves around the enemies. So as I said most of the time you fight various forms of xenomorphs which I’m fine with, after the all the game is call ALIENS: Fireteam Elite, regrettably as you progress you find yourself having to
fight limitless synthetics that turn the game into Call of Duty: Synthetics. I don’t enjoy the Call of Duty games because I fail to see the fun in firing at enemies that are plinking away at you from behind cover, and that is exactly what happens in a few levels of Fireteam Elite. You enter a room and must fight synthetics armed with rifles, or shotguns, there are ones that run at you and blow up, snipers, guys that throw grenades (with perfect accuracy obviously), ones that run up to you with a shield which renders them impervious to pretty much anything you can fire at them as well as Demolishers and Flamethrowers. It probably goes without saying that the Demolishers and Flamethrowers are ridiculously armoured so you need high powered weapons to take them down. This can be a massive problem if you are playing with good-old Alpha and Beta who can be killed very easily by gunfire being shot by enemies blind-firing round obstacles that can shred health bars in seconds. I really, really dislike the synthetic based levels and find them more of a chore to play through than the alien levels which are actually fun.
All in all Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a bit of a mixed bag. Personally my need to complete as much as I can means that I have played it over and over again as the different builds, upgrading all of my weapons to four stars, and the inclusion of daily (and weekly) objectives has kept me coming back day after day. However, I have to admit it is very difficult to play certain levels with certain builds if you aren’t playing with human players, and even that is pot luck. Overall I would not have spent as much time playing it as I have if it wasn’t a game that I enjoyed so I am happy to give it a Thumbs Up.
There is a DLC that has just dropped but as of yet I have not played it, if and when I do, I shall do an update if it is worth talking about.
6.5/10 – a score of 6 is too low whilst a score of 7 is too high. Things are hit and miss. I would like it if the perks worked 100% of the time not just when they felt like it. I would like it if Alpha and Beta could be given instructions and/or upgraded with better weapons or different builds. The game is great fun when playing with friends, and can be good with just the AI. Still you need to be aware that if you try to play with random players the chances that you are attempting to complete missions with dumbasses who don’t know when to run and when to fight is going to be quite high.