There’s a moment in the 1986 Aliens film when Bill Paxton’s character, William Hudson, turns to his crewmates and says, "Man, it's a shooting gallery down there." After playing though the preview of Aliens: Fireteam Elite, I can say it feels like the developers really took this line to heart. Like, really.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite is an online, co-op, third-person survival shooter from Cold Iron Studios, and it’s been in development for the past six years. Cold Iron was actually bought and sold four times starting in 2018, bringing its mysterious Alien-based game along for the ride. In the end, Cold Iron has cut a deal with 20th Century Studios to self-publish Aliens: Fireteam Elite, and it’s due to hit Steam, PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series consoles on August 24th, priced at $40.
I had the chance to play a preview build of Fireteam Elite that included access to two of the four campaigns, and four of the five character classes: gunner, technician, demolisher and doc (the final class is recon). Each campaign consists of three missions filled with AI-powered Xenomorph hordes, with three difficulty levels unlocked from the start. Every mission requires three players, and empty team slots are filled by bots named Alpha and Beta, which honestly end up functioning more like mobile turrets than actual teammates.
So, after playing hours of the preview with friends and bots alike, here’s my conclusion: Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a generic survival shooter with old-school arcade DNA. Fireteam Elite feels like an online, updated version of light-gun games like Area 51 or House of the Dead, complete with repetitive environments and sloppy hit boxes. The game is competent, but not dynamic. To put it simply — man, it’s just a shooting gallery down there.
To be fair, that’s what survival shooters are all about. Enter a new area, prepare your defenses, kill the swarm, rinse and repeat. The thing is, Fireteam Elite deploys this formula in such a rigid structure that missions quickly become predictable, no matter how many bugs show up. What’s more, the generic sci-fi environments blend together after a few playthroughs, and tricks like falling ceiling panels and sudden bursts of steam lose their effectiveness well before the first mission is over.