Video games based on the ever-popular Aliens franchise have been a mixed bunch, despite the premise put forth in the movies, particularly 1986’s Aliens, being absolutely perfect for gaming. At one end of the scale we have the long-in-gestation, huge disappointment that was Aliens: Colonial Marines – a game that was in development hell for six years before finally releasing as a buggy, unfinished and unsatisfyingly basic FPS that failed to justify its existence – and at the other, releasing just a year later, is 2014’s near-perfect, terrifying survival horror of Alien: Isolation. There’s plenty of other good and bad examples in the decades since 1979’s Alien made such a huge impact on film audiences of course, but those two stick out as the most notable examples at the top and bottom of the quality scale.
With Colonial Marines style action still never properly featured in a decent, modern game (or at least one that is Aliens-focused exclusively: the Aliens vs Predator games have successfully nailed the quintessential Aliens experience on several occasions, albeit with the other 20th Century Fox gory sci-fi horror franchise creatures thrown into the mix), the upcoming Aliens: Fireteam Elite, which is due for release in Summer 2021, has a lot to live up to.
Thankfully, it seems as if the developers of Aliens: Fireteam Elite have definitely got the right idea with their approach, which takes the multiplayer co-op, wave-based horror action of games such as Left 4 Dead and applies the formula to the Aliens universe. Colonial Marines take on the relentless Xenomorph hordes, with the squad made up of up to three players (AI filling in for the second or third team members if less than three humans are playing), across four different story campaigns that each contain three missions. There are five character classes to choose from, each of which is pretty self-explanatory: Gunner, Demolisher, Doc, Technician and Recon. There are five difficulty levels for players to tackle too, with the story seeing the players aboard the USS Endeavor, responding to a distress call from Weyland-Yutani’s remote colonies.
Though other specifics are thin on the ground, a prequel novel has recently been released (Aliens: Infiltrator – and it’s surprisingly not bad at all – my review is here) to set up the story leading to the game’s events. We also know that here are eleven different types of Alien, as well as synthetics and other type of enemy (presumably of the more human, perhaps corporate type) to deal with. Character progression and weapon customisation sounds like an excellent addition to the game too, which developers Cold Iron Studios have also said is intended to be highly modifiable – with the use of Challenge Cards to alter the game’s mechanics – and very replayable, again taking a leaf out of the Left 4 Dead playbook, as it features a small number of levels with an unpredictable, almost emergent-feeling AI enemy force. Cold Iron have also stressed that players should be able to play through at least a single mission, if not a full campaign, in one session – which is great news for the more time-poor Aliens fans out there.
Though it seems that some corporate shenanigans – not least the sale of Fox’s assets to the Disney multimedia empire – meant that Aliens: Fireteam Elite had perhaps spent some time in development hell, it does at least look like this time has been well spent on honing a satisfyingly exciting co-op experience. It doesn’t look like we have another Aliens: Colonial Marines on our hands at least – though that’s increasingly looking to be a very unfair comparison, no doubt more casual players are still stung by the bad taste the 2013 game left in their mouths. With Aliens: Fireteam Elite launching in a few months, it won’t be long before we get to find out for ourselves.
The game’s trailer is below:
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