Whenever you look to make a game based off of the ever-popular Alien film franchise, there are always two routes that you can go down. The first option involves leaning into the horror-focused roots of the series found in the original Alien film. Within the past decade, Alien: Isolation opted to go about this method and gave fans a memorable experience that featured the same sweat-inducing moments that were seen on the big screen back in 1979.
The second option available is to then make a game based on Aliens, which is the action-packed sequel directed by James Cameron. And although some video game attempts at this style have been made over the years, none of them have ever worked out all that well. Luckily, Aliens: Fireteam Elite is now stepping in to rectify the absence of an action-focused Aliens title and should help fans to completely forget about the sins of Colonial Marines.
I recently was able to go hands-on and play the opening campaigns found in Aliens: Fireteam Elite prior to its launch next month and came away feeling hopeful. For the most part, Fireteam Elite is incredibly straightforward and places you and two friends (or AI-controlled companions) in a series of four campaigns, all of which will have you fighting off Xenomorhps by the dozen. Its structure is somewhat similar to that of Left 4 Dead, which has become the grandfather of PvE co-op shooters over the years.
The main difference between Fireteam Elite and something like Left 4 Dead, however, comes with a few different features. For starters, Aliens boasts a central hub that you’ll find yourself in somewhat often. This location is one that you’ll always return to when you’re not in actual missions and will give you a chance to buy new gear or chat with various characters. It’s a bit similar to the Tower from Destiny, to make a simple comparison.
The other big change comes with character classes. Rather than each character taking the form of a generic Colonial Marine in Aliens: Fireteam Elite, you’ll actually be able to choose between five different specializations, each of which has its own leveling system. Each class has its own unique abilities as well. For instance, the Doc class can serve as a support for the team and can drop a healing item that can regenerate health for your squad over time. Conversely, the Demolisher comes with abilities that allow you to more quickly dispatch any foes you might come across.
Speaking more to how you’ll have to gain new gear, it all comes back to playing through missions. Aliens: Fireteam Elite doesn’t give you every weapon or item in the game at once, and instead, you’ll have to accrue currency as you play so that you can then go grab the gun you’ve been eyeing once you have saved up enough. In addition, some weapons and other items can also be given to you once you complete levels.
“At the end of missions, you actually get rewards as well,” Cold Iron Studios’ head Craig Zinkievich explained to me about this process of gaining new items. “There are weapons and attachments that you can only get from doing missions. So there’s stuff that’s in the store, in the hub, but a lot of the attachments that you can get and a lot more of the weapons that you’ll be unlocking come from actually playing the different missions,” he said. This focus on putting gameplay first when it comes to unlocking everything also means that Cold Iron won’t be putting any microtransactions in the title.
The one other aspect of Aliens: Fireteam Elite that hardcore fans of this franchise will appreciate comes with the homework that Cold Iron has put in on this game. It’s clear that the studio is passionate about the Alien license and they’ve been sure to do their due diligence when it comes to crafting an experience that fits well in this world. Not only does that include a throughline story that evolves over the course of all four campaigns, but it also means callbacks to obscure lore from different Alien content outside of just the films.
Perhaps the best example of Cold Iron’s attention to detail that I found in my time with Aliens: Fireteam Elite comes from the sound of the M41A Pulse Rifle. While this might not seem like something to write home about, the unique sound of this gun feels like it was directly lifted from Aliens. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Zinkievich explained to me that the legwork that went into making sure that this notable weapon sounded exactly like what you would hear in the movies is something the team really wanted to nail.
“The iconic M41 sound is very hard to reproduce. If you go back and listen to every clip where the M41 is used in the movies (and we have), it’s a fantastic study on how movie audio is,” Zinkievich explained. “Our team here has had to do a ton of effort to mess around with the M41 sound to really get in there and make it sound like the movie, but also make it something that can loop and can be there for a long time. It’s something that we attacked because we love the franchise and want to make sure it’s as true as possible.”
Based on my time with Aliens: Fireteam Elite, this seems like the game that many Aliens fans have been asking for. While it’s not going to win many points for originality, and I do have concerns about how replayable it could be, at its core, this is a game all about blowing away Xenomorhps with some pals. And considering the fact that we have yet to receive an adequate game that meets this simple criteria, Fireteam Elite could very much be the game that many fans have been holding out hope for.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite is set to launch next month on August 24 and will be available across PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC. It also won’t retail for the standard fare and will instead only cost $39.99. Stay tuned to ComicBook.com closer to launch as we should have a full review of the game to share with you around that time.