Aug 31, 2021

NextGen Take: Aliens Fireteam Elite

Three things I like about this game, and three I don't

Aliens Fireteam Elite

By Paul Hunter

It was only a few months ago that I heard about Aliens: Fireteam Elite but as a big fan of the series and its spinoffs like Prometheus, my curiosity was certainly piqued. Plus I enjoy online co-op games, so I thought this might be the perfect game to fulfill my Aliens power fantasy while having a blast playing with friends.

Naturally, I had to check out this new Aliens title and I've put in a solid 25 hours of game time thus far. So let's mount up and board the Katanga orbital mining refinery—here are three things I liked about the game...and three I didn't.


Liked: Killing Xenomorphs is So Much Fun


The first thing I noticed after playing a few missions of Aliens: Fireteam Elite is just how much fun it is to shoot up the Xenomorphs. They're a total blast (literally) to blow up, burn and shred to pieces. They pop with a satisfying bursting sound, Xeno chunks go flying, and they leave a pool of acid by their corpse that can melt your HP with even the tinest accidental touch. And Xenos are relentless, during missions you'll routinely have a dozen or so running to claw your face to pieces and it's all such frantic, chaotic fun.

The game has a good variety of alien bugs to kill, too, including the quadruped Runners and Prowlers, the Bursters and Spitters that spew acid everywhere, plus the bipedal Drones and Warriors that—eek—come from humans. Then there's the massive Praetorians that'll ram your team with its plated head, and then finally the grand daddy of them all, the Xenomorph Queen. Oh, and the creepy crawly Facehuggers also make their uncerimonious appearance towards the end of the 12-mission story campaign.

Amplifying the excitement is how different the various Xenos attack and behave, forcing you to quickly adapt. Runners try to overwhelm you with their sheer numbers, while Bursters are basically bullet-sponge suiciders that run up and explode acid all over your three-person team. Spitters, on the other hand, are more cautious and lob acid from a distance while the Prowlers silently wait around corners to maul any unsuspecting space marine that happens to walk by.

I've replayed most missions ten times over by now and it's a real testiment to how satisfying it is to shoot up the Xenos. It's also awesome how the bugs can emerge from literally anywhere, be it holes in the wall, air vents and around every unexplored corner. They can rapidly crawl across the ceilings and walls as well, so absolutely nowhere is safe. The constant tension is a big part of why I can't get enough of this game.

Liked: You Can Upgrade Everything


I also really enjoy the upgrade system in Aliens: Fireteam Elite. Virtually everything can be upgraded including your player level, guns, and the five character classes you can choose from—Gunner, Demolisher, Technician, Doc, and Recon—each with different specializations and abilites.

At the end of each mission you'll gain XP, which is then applied to your loadout, giving you a real sense of accomplishment and progression. Often times several loadout elements would level up at the same time, like gaining a character level, class rank and weapon rank all following a single mission. It's times like this where I feel like a kid in a candy store checking out the new weapon perks and character abilities I unlocked.

You can also use Challenge Cards pre-mission that modifies the gameplay in some way, like heavy armour that slows you down by 20%, in exchange for better rewards should you successfully complete the mission. It's a nice risk/reward system where the harder the card makes the mission, the better your completion rewards will be. The cards also help to keep missions feeling fresh, going a long way to extend the replay value.

My favourite upgrade system in the game though has to be the perk matrix. As you level up your class you'll unlock perks that can be activated by slotting them into an 8x4 matrix. The catch is you'll need to slowly unlock matrix squares as you level up your class to seven, meaning the higher your level the more perks you can flick on. Perks also have a quality value, with better perks taking up more matrix squares. It's basically like playing Resident Evil inventory Tetris and it's a hell of a lot of fun mixing and matching to achieve your desired loadout.

Liked: Awesome Variety of Weapons


Guns in Aliens: Fireteam Elite come in four main varieties (rifle, CQW, hand gun and heavy) and most of them are super-satisfying to use. Shotguns like the single-shot DT-57 feels ultra-powerful as you explode Xenos one by one in all their acid-y glory. A personal favourite of mine is the Type 99 Incinerator flamethrower that literally melts Runners as the fry to a crisp.

Combat gets really interesting when you switch to the Demolisher class, the only one able to wield heavy weapons. You start off with a Smartgun that tracks mobility and lets you lock-on to fast-moving Xenos. It's got a fast fire rate, too, and a huge 200-magazine capacity so it's perfect for mowing through an entire rush of Xenos. Some of the Demolisher's other gun options are just downright deadly like the M12 RPG Launcher and M94 Impact Grenade Launcher.

What I also like is each weapon can be modified with attachments to improve fire rate, magazine size, handling, effective range a whole lot more. There's a bunch of optic attachments as well that can increase the gun's zoom magnification and even some that highlights visible targets—even obscured ones. Toying around with the attachments can turn an otherwise ordinary gun into something much more useful, so it's a neat system worth investing the time in.


Didn't Like: The Doc Class Sucks


The Doc class is so poorly thought out and desperately needs fixing in upcoming patches. The Doc's main ability is the Trauma Station that heals nearby allies, which sounds great in theory but the effectiveness is limited. The station only contains 3,000 HP and when it's depleted your doc completely loses that ability. When playing on Intense difficulty or higher the 3K drains fast and you can literally find yourself in situations where you have a half a mission left and your medic can't heal.

The situation gets even worse as you rank up your Doc. You can unlock perks that add buffs or debuffs to your Trauma Station, thereby increasing it's effectiveness. The huge drawback though is once the juice is drained you lose the station and by extension the buffs/debuffs. It's utterly absurd that this can happen.

Now there are ways improve the situation, such has gaining 700 Trauma Station power back everytime you pick up an Aid Kit. But again there are issues like: (1) If you do matchmaking with random players online they'll often steal the Aid Kits, and (2) You can only hold one Aid Kit at a time, so if you have a kit and are near-full health, you have to use it (waste it, basically) just to pick up another Aid Kit to replenish the Trauma Station. And on the higher difficulties you can't afford to waste kits like this.

To rectify this, the station needs to either auto-replenish over time or replenish as you kill Xenos. Hopefully the developers will address this!

Didn't Like: Matchmaking is Lacking Essential Features


Matchmaking in Aliens: Fireteam Elite is so under-baked I'm amazed it made it out the door in this state—especially a game entirely focused on co-op multiplayer. For starters, there's no quickplay option. So if your friends aren't online and you want to jump into a match quickly with strangers, you can't. Quickplay is an essential component of online MP games in 2021, so it's very surprising this game doesn't support it.

Compounding the matchmaking issues is the lack of crossplay at launch, but at least it does have cross-gen support. So if you're gaming on PlayStation and your friends are on Xbox or PC, you're out of luck. Given this, matching up with random players online is the easy solve but here's where it get extremely complicated. To squad up you need to choose one of 13 missions, each having five difficulty settings for a total of 65 different lobbies. This effectively spreads the playerbase too thin and you'll quite often not get matched with players. Way too many times I've had to play missions with bot helpers because I simply can't get matched up.

What's disappointing, too, is you can only stay in a lobby for 40 seconds before you get matched with bots. There's no option whatsoever to simply wait in the lobby for players to arrive. And there's also no way to see what lobbies players are in, so you don't know what missions or difficulty settings are popular that day. It's a total mess and for the health and longevity of the game the matchmaking issues need to be a priority for the development team.

Didn't Like: Lack of PS5 DualSense Features


I'm playing Aliens: Fireteam Elite on PS5 and it's disappointing that the advanced DualSense controller features aren't used in this game. While there is basic rumble, both the adaptive triggers and haptic feedback aren't used, which feels like a miss to me.

The Verdict


Aliens: Fireteam Elite is pure joy to play when all the stars line up. By that I mean when playing with friends or when you're lucky enough to get matchmaking online to work. There's a lot to like here, from the intense moment-to-moment combat, to the deep class system and the exceptional weapon variety. It's really too bad the game is severely lacking on the matchmaking front so here's hoping this gets addressed quickly. If it does get resolved, I can see this being my main go-to online multiplayer game for many months to come.

Final Score: 8/10 - Great


Aliens Fireteam Elite details


Platform: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Developer: Cold Iron Studios
Publisher: Cold Iron Studios
Genre: Third-person Shooter
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)


A code for the game was provided by the publisher.