Aliens: Fireteam Elite review — A tremendous treat for fans of the franchise

"We didn't leave earth to be safe."

Aliens Fireteam Queen
(Image: © 20th Century Studios)

Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a third-person, co-op, class-based, cover shooter with looter elements. Now, I know this might seem like nothing more than a bunch of buzzwords crammed together. However, after playing this compelling title set in the grizzly Aliens universe for about a week so far, I'm here to tell you that there are plenty of reasons to be excited, even if titles like Outriders, Marvel's Avengers, or the infamous Aliens: Colonial Marines have burned you.

Admittedly, I'm a sucker for co-op shooters, especially when they've got some horror flair, so I was probably more optimistic than most after the game's reveal. I was mentally and emotionally prepared for disaster, given the gaming industry's shaky history with licensed iterations of beloved franchises. However, I wasn't expecting Cold Iron Studios to come out swinging with one of the best co-op shooters of the year. If you're a fan of Aliens, Prometheus, or just want to squash hundreds of slimy Xenomorphs with friends, this isn't a title you should cryo-sleep on.

Aliens: Fireteam Elite — What you'll like

Aliens Fireteam Elite Statue

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

One element I found myself constantly in awe of during every Aliens: Fireteam Elite session was its incredible atmosphere and environment design. Cold Iron Studios meticulously crafted iconic locations and set pieces straight from the Alien films and successfully introduced its own unique biomes that managed to nail the distinct feeling of this established universe. Witnessing the stunning, towering architecture of the Engineers from Prometheus for the first time was a genuinely magical moment. As an enormous fan of the Alien films, I was thoroughly impressed by the level of care and subtlety that went into recreating the diverse locations highlighted for each of the game's four chapters.

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TitleAliens: Fireteam Elite
DeveloperCold Iron Studios
PublisherFocus Home Interactive
GenreCo-op Shooter
Xbox VersionXbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Game Size15GB
Play Time15+ hours
PlayersMultiplayer 1-3
Xbox GamePassNo
Launch Price$40

The team's attention to detail didn't stop with just the environments either. Many of Aliens: Fireteam Elite's sound effects come straight from the movies. From the motion tracker to the distinctive blare of the pulse rifle, or even the domineering hiss of a Xenomorph Drone, the audio experience for players who enjoy the films is nothing short of nostalgic bliss. Even the game's gorgeous orchestral soundtrack screams authenticity and successfully produces a soundscape fitting of the iconic franchise. Hearing the tense strings and dramatic music while Xenomorphs poured from every orifice was a tremendous treat as a massive fan of Aliens and Prometheus.

Aliens Fireteam Elite Character

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

While fundamentally, I understood what to expect from the co-op-focused, third-person, class-based shooter Aliens: Fireteam Elite, I honestly wasn't anticipating as much player and class customization as this title delivered. Not only are you offered the freedom to create your own Colonial Marine, but an engaging gear system and customizable class perks added some refreshing depth to the overall experience.

Like many of its looter-shooter contemporaries, players can equip new cosmetic items as well as emotes to express their individuality. Some soft looter elements also incentivize stage exploration with hidden caches of gear as well as decorative items. In addition, players can unlock new weapons, weapon attachments, and class perk upgrades with increased gear ratings. I had a blast experimenting with the five different classes in the game and their diverse kits. As a Doc, I was able to heal my squad's wounds and keep us in the fight, while as a Demolisher, my powerful arsenal of explosive weaponry took out Xenomorphs with ease.

Aliens: Fireteam Elite does a remarkable job keeping each of the four chapters feeling fresh by consistently introducing new threats along the way.

With run-and-gun combat revolving around slaying thousands of Xenomorphs being the primary focus here, I went in legitimately concerned with how the team might handle enemy variety. The Aliens universe isn't necessarily known for an incredibly diverse collection of creatures, but Cold Iron Studios managed to cram an impressive array of enemies in. From established horrors like face-huggers or the Xenomorph Queen to original creations like the Xenomorph Bursters, Aliens: Fireteam Elite does a remarkable job keeping each of the four chapters feeling fresh by consistently introducing new threats along the way.

While impressive character customization, enemy variety, and engaging classes are essential components of a successful modern shooter, it doesn't mean much if the gameplay doesn't feel tight, responsive, and, most importantly, fun. Thankfully, Aliens: Fireteam Elite checks every single one of the boxes. Mowing downs hordes of Xenomorphs with shoulder-mounted rockets or witnessing a Synthetic explode into a pool of white bio-ooze after blasting it with a shotgun always felt amazing. Much like Left 4 Dead or Gears of War, the moment-to-moment gameplay is engaging, stressful, and beautifully chaotic. If you're looking for a damn good co-op shooter to play with a couple of friends, this isn't one to skip.

Aliens: Fireteam Elite — What you won't like

Aliens Fireteam Elite Gunplay

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Overall, I left thoroughly impressed by the production value of Aliens: Fireteam Elite, but certain elements sadly highlighted its "budget-title" limitations. While key characters were fully voice-acted, adding personality and nuance to the game's story, you often sit staring at their blank expressions while dialogue plays during many weighted moments. There were no facial animations, which felt distinctly out of place considering how high quality most of the other aspects of the game felt.

Other minor inconsistencies like low-quality explosion textures or jarring framerate differences between fire animations and the core gameplay were also quite tricky to ignore compared to other high-quality particle effects on display in Aliens: Fireteam Elite. These complaints didn't seriously hamper my enjoyment of the game, but they did leave me wondering what this title could have looked like with some additional resources.

If you're hoping for some more objective variety, you may end up slightly fatigued after a few stages.

While I loved the gameplay loop in Aliens: Fireteam Elite, it's worth mentioning that some players might find it somewhat repetitive. Despite the diverse locations and wide range of enemies to destroy, every stage plays out in precisely the same fashion. Run from point A to be B blasting Xenomorphs along the way and then defend point B in a horde-mode manner to progress. Much of the experience revolves around posting up and eviscerating hordes of enemies. If you're cool with that, you'll have a fantastic time, but if you're hoping for some more objective variety, you may end up slightly fatigued after a few stages.

Much like its obvious inspiration Left 4 Dead, Aliens: Fireteam Elite must be played with a squad of three. Whether with a few friends in online co-op or alongside AI companions, you can't survive these missions alone. In my case, I played most of the game in online co-op, which provided plenty of challenges even on Standard difficulty. I also spent a fair amount of time playing solo with AI allies. On lower difficulties, the game's Synthetic AI teammates were able to hold their own against the Xenomorph hordes. Unfortunately, if you're looking to face the higher difficulties in Aliens: Fireteam Elite, the AI allies don't cut it. Even with high-level gear, the experience with human players was night and day on any difficulty above Standard.

Aliens: Fireteam Elite — Should you buy?

Aliens Fireteam Elite Stages

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

With major releases like Back 4 Blood right around the corner, Aliens: Fireteam Elite had a great deal to prove in the horror co-op shooter space. While for fans of the Alien films, this might be an easier decision to make, I understand the hesitations of those unfamiliar with the source material. The true success of Aliens: Fireteam Elite is that Cold Iron Studios managed to deliver a title that stands firmly as a great shooter simply on the merits of its gameplay without relying entirely on nostalgia (although it certainly helps). I can confidently say this is one of the best co-op games I've played on Xbox or PC so far this year.

Aliens: Fireteam Elite genuinely caught me off guard. I was excited about the idea of playing another co-op shooter in the Aliens universe, but I wasn't confident it would be a quality title worth spending a great deal of time with. However, my squad and I are already strategizing our loadouts for the more extreme difficulties. Despite my initial reservations, I'm fully expecting to spend the next several weeks playing Aliens: Fireteam Elite with friends.

If you're looking for a rock-solid shooter packed with player customization, engaging gameplay, stunning locations, and outrageous amounts of alien gore, Aliens: Fireteam Elite is totally worth your time and money. Grab a few friends, your trust plasma rifle, and send these bugs back to hell with a massive smile on your face.

Miles Dompier

Miles Dompier is a Freelance Video Producer for Windows Central, focusing on video content for Windows Central Gaming. In addition to writing or producing news, reviews, and gaming guides, Miles delivers fun, community-focused videos for the Windows Central Gaming YouTube channel. Miles also hosts Xbox Chaturdays every Saturday, which serves as the Windows Central Gaming weekly podcast.