For fans of the Alien movies, specifically the second one, Colonial Marines seemed like a prime opportunity to translate the memorable sci-fi action of Aliens into an equally exciting video game. Developed by Gearbox Software, who were already nearing peak popularity after the fan and critical success of the first two Borderlands games, Colonial Marines offered players and their co-op partners numerous encounters against human mercenaries and the titular extraterrestrials. But even with the promising partnership between an acclaimed developer and a beloved IP, the game suffered due to a myriad of technical issues, many of which affected the enemy AI, and a lackluster presentation that didn’t line up with what was shown in pre-release gameplay. Whether the tumultuous six year development cycle or the shaky relationship between Sega and Gearbox is truly to blame, Colonial Marines has gone down as one of the more disappointing IP adaptations among modern video games since its release in 2013.
Although the following year did see the release of the more well-received Alien: Isolation, its focus on survival horror has done little to fill the gap left by Colonial Marines and players who still yearn to mow down hordes of Xenomorphs with their gaming friends. Enter Cold Iron Studios, which was founded six years ago and is nearly ready to debut their first title, Aliens: Fireteam Elite. Simply called Aliens: Fireteam at its reveal back in March, Fireteam Elite has similar aspirations to what Colonial Marines attempted to pull off eight years ago, but with fresh ideas of its own. Its greatest strengths seem to rely on variety, both for player characters and the enemies. Squads of up to three players will be able to choose between five different classes: Gunner, Demolisher, Technician, Doc and Recon, offering a wider variety of playstyles and ways to strategize for players looking to form the best fireteam. Meanwhile, solo players won’t be left to fend off threats on their lonesome, as the other squadmates can be controlled by AI.
At launch, Fireteam Elite will offer players four unique story campaigns that each have five levels of difficulty, both making the game more accessible to casual players and encouraging replayability for players seeking to master the tougher challenges. While the traditional Xenomorphs will make an appearance in most, if not all of the twelve missions, the game boasts twenty different enemy types, including synthetics and never-before-seen varieties of the alien creatures, such as exploding Bursters and others that the studio is keeping secret for now. While it remains to be seen how truly unique each of these enemy types play out from one another, the potential of encountering a brand new type of alien for the first time inspires both excitement and fear, hearkening back to the horror roots of the first movie. In between missions, players will be able to customize their weapons and upgrade their character classes, adding an additional layer of progression beyond simple mission completion.
With all of these clear, distinctive features and a welcoming forty dollar price tag, Fireteam Elite has plenty of opportunities to establish itself as a completely separate experience from any other attempts at transforming the Alien IP into a video game. But with such a dropoff between pre-release expectations and the final product, the lingering effects of Colonial Marines may still inspire caution from players who hear of a new co-op shooter in the Alien universe. Ultimately, Fireteam Elite will need to back up its additional depth with strong core gameplay in order to give the game its best chance at long-term success, as the team has already discussed plans of post-launch DLC. If Cold Iron Studios can capitalize on the promise of the original premise inspired by both past games and the original movies, then the game has an opportunity to restore faith in this franchise that’s still beloved by fans all these years later. Aliens: Fireteam Elite is set to launch on August 24 for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC, PS4 and Xbox One.