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Monday, August 23, 2021

[Review] In Chaotic Shooter ‘Aliens: Fireteam Elite’ It’s Cooperate or Collapse

For a franchise with such inconsistent efforts as a movie series, one would have to call the Alien video games “on brand” for being just about as unpredictable over the years. Aliens: Fireteam Elite has the unenviable task of coming after a broken mess of a shooter in Colonial Marines and a beloved horror that deserves a sequel it isn’t getting in Isolation. But Fireteam Elite stands on its own, free from both the comparisons to Colonial Marines and the looming shadow of Isolation thanks to its own hellishly fun pacing and moody levels that combine for a worthwhile, if somewhat shallow, co-op experience.

In Aliens Fireteam Elite, there’s no Ripley, no Dallas, no one like that at all serves a starring role. Instead, each player will design their own character, assign them a class with unique skills, weapons, and cosmetics, and work to level them up mission by mission, xenomorph by gunned-down xenomorph. Played in third-person, Fireteam Elite is designed for three-player co-op. In fact, should you try to play with fewer, bots will automatically fill out your team. 

The bots handle their own well enough when called upon, even if they’re not ideal. Still, you’ll be glad someone’s got your back, because Fireteam Elite is enjoyably tough as nails. The game’s 12 levels are split across four campaigns and each unfolds at a similar pace. These 30-minute chapters feel roller coaster-like, with steady climbs and intense slopes trading off every few minutes. Those highs can be brutal at times, with dozens and dozens of xenomorphs scurrying on the floors, walls, and ceilings at once. Among them are always a few special kinds of Xenos too, like a Prowler, which stalks from a shadowy corner and pounces on players, or a Burster, which charges at players and explodes like an acidic kamikaze. 

These specially-classed enemies aren’t new, and in fact, you’ve probably seen a few of them in different forms across half a dozen other co-op horde shooters over the years. Nonetheless, I found their inclusion a welcome ingredient in the chaos, though they’re not as easily identified, as they lack adequately distinct screams and gurgles like fans of the genre may be used to, helping them plan for their attacks. Levels mostly play out in an A-to-B fashion. Board this spaceship and get to the end where you’ll extract a VIP. Head into these ruins and rescue this group of scientists who were stranded some time ago.

In these moments, the game’s AI director can react to play styles. It seems to especially love throwing more waves of xenomorphs at any players who stick around in one area for too long. The game wants you to keep moving–until it doesn’t. The best parts of each level are the scenes where players must hunker down and get ready to fend off waves upon waves. 

Conveniently, these scenes are always staged in rooms with spare health kits and unlimited ammo crates, and you’re going to need everything you’ve got. Placing turrets and traps, applying special ammo, and using your skills on cooldown are all pivotal to surviving these change-of-pace gunfights. They’re by far my favorite parts of this game because they’re relentless. In a lot of co-op horde shooters, teamwork is stressed but not actually required. In Aliens Fireteam Elite, those who play selfishly will doom their teams every time. The waves are just too overpowering and the aliens too numerous–end-of-level stats routinely put body counts around 500+. If you don’t have the group’s wellbeing in mind above all else, you won’t get far and you’ll bring everyone down with you. 

That element is extremely satisfying. Since successes reward much more XP than aborted missions, the game will quickly make a team player out of any would-be lone wolf. All that, however, is supplemented by an unlock system that delivers enticing upgrades with diminishing returns. Your career and class levels are split, and it’s clear, according to both game and achievement design, that Cold Iron wants players to stick around and continually level up multiple characters, unlocking everything they can for each class by playing the same 12 levels over and over, in any order once they’re each beaten once.

While this is a modern idea and will capture some number of players who can’t resist endgame content, the allure of daily and weekly challenges fades fast due to the game’s costly time demands. I loved leveling up my first character, a medic. But I didn’t care nearly as much to jump back in and do it all again with another class of Colonial Marine. With just the 12 levels, the six-hour campaign falls shy of its target of becoming a compelling grind. 

While barely present story content and the absurd number of downed xenomorphs in each level combine to betray some of the franchise’s staples–three people can take down 600 xenomorphs?–others are kept better intact. Namely, the music is excellent. It’s so authentic to the franchise that I thought it was taken from the movies. I only happened to catch sight of an interview with Austin Wintory that revealed to me the brilliant composer is–yup–still brilliant. 

Along with that, I love the variety in levels and scale in Fireteam Elite. The first of four acts takes place on board a dark, claustrophobic ship, not unlike those we often see in the movies, but the game doesn’t keep players there. Instead, eventually, players will explore impossible caves that open to reveal gorgeous vistas, fight off aliens and synthetics alike while the whole battlefield is overshadowed by a bust of an Engineer, and more. Fireteam Elite regularly pays homage to the storied foundation on which it’s set, and while it doesn’t add much at all to the universe, it’s still a bit fun to seek out collectibles so you can unlock more easter egg-heavy dialogue back at your base of operations.

The long line of Left 4 Dead successors continue to struggle with keeping players around, even as each team tries to resolve that issue with a different set of rewards and challenges. It’s odd since Left 4 Dead itself didn’t really offer anything of the sort and is still played by many today. But a modern audience expects modern mechanics, and Fireteam Elite‘s intentional loop of meaningful upgrades and new cosmetics doesn’t have the legs of some games like it because its missions don’t feel as repeatable. It’s certainly a game I loved seeing through, and with a dedicated team and at least a year of support already planned, your post-campaign mileage may vary, but in an increasingly crowded genre, Aliens Fireteam Elite feels like one that genres fans will play, enjoy, and quickly move on from.

Aliens: Fireteam Elite review codes for Xbox provided by the publisher.

Aliens: Fireteam Elite is out August 24 on Xbox One/Series X/S, PS4, PS5, and PC.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3679498/review-chaotic-shooter-aliens-fireteam-elite-cooperate-collapse/

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