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Aliens: Fireteam Elite hands-on preview: They mostly come at night... mostly

Cold Iron Studios has prepared a new third-person shooter take on the iconic sci-fi franchise.

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Ever since James Cameron’s Aliens debuted in cinemas way back in 1986, the sci-fi action classic has inspired countless knockoffs in movies and tv shows. It also served as a muse for an endless number of video game developers who have produced experiences that draw heavily from the Space Marine action from the hit movie. The team over at Cold Iron Studios is now stepping up to the plate to offer a fully licensed take on the Aliens universe in the form of Aliens: Fireteam Elite.

I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit

The setup for Aliens: Fireteam Elite is pretty simple. Take a trio of hardened Space Marines and drop them into a variety of tension-filled missions where they attempt to clear Xenomorph infestations without losing their limbs or lives to the alien threat. Played from a third-person perspective, the game follows small teams of roughnecks through tight corridors and facilities that draw heavy inspiration from the movies.

Players start off by selecting one of five classes: Gunner, Demolisher, Technician, Doc, and Recon. Each of these classes offers unique weapons, gadgets, and abilities that will help in dealing with Xeno foes. The full game promises 30+ weapons in total with up to 70 different mods and attachments. As they progress, players can take advantage of special perks or use Challenge Cards to mix up their mission parameters. This card system offers some additional replayability for those who plan on racking up countless hours amongst the dark corridors and suspicious air ducts.

I spent some time on an early mission with fellow Shacknews Editor Donovan Erskine and we attempted to retrieve a data transmitter from a doctor hidden somewhere in the level. Our group had to scour some rooms to find a map of the facility and then restore power to the building. The HUD marks objectives clearly and helps guide parties to where they need to go next. Getting there in one piece is easier said than done, though.

Our party was almost immediately attacked by smaller xenomorphs that would pour out of vents and other openings. The encounters with the aliens were tense and full of the wonderful pulse rifle sound ripped straight from the movie. I noticed several unique xeno variants, including one that spits acid and another that just seemed to be jacked up on steroids. I was able to shotgun this brutish xenomorph while he was occupied stomping a mudhole in Donovan. Thankfully, you can pick up teammates when they are downed and the action subsides. There will be as many as twenty unique enemy types and eleven different xenomorphs in the full game.

One of the side tasks in our mission offered one of the oldest tropes in action gaming. Originally perfected in Half-Life 2: Episode One when Gordon and Alyx had to wait on an elevator while fighting off countless mobs in the dark, this type of game mechanic is constantly reused in other games because it is super effective at building tension (and offering a release should you manage to survive). In Fireteam Elite, you toggle a switch to start a timer counting down and then aliens predictably swarm from all sides for the duration of the countdown. Yeah, I’ve done this a hundred times, but it was still the highlight of the demo for me.

Game over man! Game over!

Aliens: Fireteam Elite hopes to capture the magic of Aliens and spread it over the course of multiple co-op missions. In the time I spent playing, the foundation for a fun time was definitely there. How the various weapon attachments and mods interact with higher-level xenomorphs will play a big part in determining just how effective the game will ultimately be. From the small portion I saw, it certainly looks and sounds the part. Aliens fans will be able to find out for themselves when Cold Iron Studios finally launches Aliens: Fireteam Elite on August 24 for Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and Steam.


This preview is based on an early PC build supplied by the publisher. Aliens: Fireteam Elite is slated to release on August 24, 2021, on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

Contributing Tech Editor

Chris Jarrard likes playing games, crankin' tunes, and looking for fights on obscure online message boards. He understands that breakfast food is the only true food. Don't @ him.

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