Need to know
What is it? A co-operative swarm shooter set in the Aliens universe
Expect to pay: £35
Developer: Cold Iron Studios
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release: August 24
Reviewed on: Ryzen 7 5800H, Nvidia GeForce 3070 (mobile), 16GB RAM
Multiplayer? Yes, 3-player co-operative
Link: Official site (opens in new tab)
It’s tempting to hold up 2014’s Alien: Isolation as the standard against which all Aliens games should be measured—smart, distilled horror where the cold, sterile order of a space station gets torn apart by body horror and unknowable primal threats lurking in the walls. The reality is that in the intervening 40-plus years since the original movie, the series has been equally shaped by gung-ho action and a fair bit of shlock, and just as you can far more easily enjoy subsequent Alien movies without holding them up to the original, you can enjoy Alien games without comparing them to the masterful Isolation.
So with the right mindset, Aliens: Fireteam Elite is dumb explosive fun—a swarm-based action game that’s derivative of both Left 4 Dead and Gears of War, but with a few nice little touches of its own. It has that competent mid-budget feel that’s slowly becoming identifiable as publisher Focus Home’s house style, which is actually kind of refreshing in a videogame series that’s been so profligate in the past. It has sparse story and cheesy dialogue and NPCs who talk without opening their mouths (but not in that ethereal way that can be explained away as ‘artsy’).
Crucially, it’s also very co-op dependent, and whether you have a good time or not will be dictated by whether you play alongside real people or the grey, voiceless bots that stand in for them. It makes all the difference.
(Image credit: Focus Home Interactive)
The bots perform poorly too. Even on standard difficulty I found myself dragging them through the latter part of the campaign. And to top it all off, the online matchmaking system is torrid, only matching you with players who are at that moment entering the exact same mission on the same difficulty as you.
You can’t invite friends to missions that they haven’t yet reached in their own campaign either. Presumably this is for spoiler reasons, but that really gives far too much credit to a threadbare story that you can largely ignore (you also can’t play the Horde mode until you’ve completed the campaign). The matchmaking needs to be opened out in an early patch, because at this point the game is not ready for those looking to link up with randoms.
At least Fireteam’s most glaring problems seem fixable with some patches (and a couple of friends). Yes, it plays into the trashy rather than the artful side of its franchise, but it embraces it, doing a better job of capturing that action-movie intensity than most past efforts.