The Aliens franchise has had many ups and downs with rocky crossovers, disastrous films, and widely-panned games, but the new Aliens: Fireteam looks to right some wrongs. The new three-player co-op shooter blends the likes of Left 4 Dead with the beloved sci-fi franchise and will hopefully redeem some of the series’ previous efforts at mixing action and horror gameplay. Despite technically being announced as an untitled Alien game in 2018, this is the first time there have been any real public details.
During a preview session of Aliens: Fireteam, CEO of Cold Iron Studios Craig Zinkievich talked about how the third-person shooter aimed to reflect James Cameron’s more action-oriented take on the franchise but would still bring some of the survival horror introduced by Ridley Scott. This won’t be anything along the lines of the terrifying Alien: Isolation, but it will be something that certainly adds a level of intensity and dread that one might expect from something like Valve’s aforementioned co-op zombie game. It may not be that level of fear that makes a player not want to move forward or causes a sudden scream to erupt involuntarily from their mouth, but it’s one that causes panic and can lead to critical mistakes.
Cold Iron officially labeled Aliens: Fireteam as a “survival shooter,” approaching it like an action-horror game – think Resident Evil 6 (in a good way), not Resident Evil 7. Ideally, it’s the kind of game Alien: Colonial Marines should’ve been. This was heavily showcased in the gameplay demo Screen Rant was shown where 3 marines were fighting through an orbital refinery at the end of one of the first missions of a campaign. Aliens: Fireteam has 4 campaigns with 3 missions each, all with an interweaving story, sort of borrowing from the structure of Left 4 Dead where each campaign takes place in a new location with new things to experience and explore. The game takes place 23 years after the original film trilogy where aliens are no longer mythical, they’re well-established but outbreaks are rare.
As the demo began, the devs showed off what made some of the 5 classes (Gunner, Demolition, Recon, Doc, and Technician) unique. Some are more well-equipped for large hordes, boasting big guns to thin the herd, while others are clearly using brains over brawn. The trio progressed through the refinery, encountering a lot of standard Xenomorphs, but it was noted that there are over 20 different enemies, including 11 aliens as well as the incredibly disgusting yet instantly recognizable crab-like facehuggers. Cold Iron even had a chance to create some unique new enemies, but none of these seemed apparent in the demo that was shown.
The biggest thing that stuck out during the demo was the choice to go third-person as opposed to previous video game adaptations, which leaned more towards first-person. In Aliens: Fireteam, the aliens will still be incredibly versatile and mobile, but in order to make the game fun, Cold Iron believes it had to do a third-person POV. Another reason for third-person was because the team is very keen on customization if Aliens: Fireteam. Players can customize their marines with a variety of gear and there’s a heavy focus on decking out guns. There are over 30 weapons to unlock, each with their own individual levels similar to recent Call of Duty titles. The customization runs pretty deep with over 80 attachments for weapons, giving a lot of options to all kinds of players. On top of all of that, there are also special ammo types, mines, and other pieces of gear that will be crucial to survival.
Despite the focus on creating beefy weapons, it’s clear Aliens: Fireteam won’t just be a run-and-gun game. It’ll require proper teamwork, as the devs even got downed and ran low on ammo, but didn’t appear to be on some sort of extreme difficulty. By the end of the demo, there was a massive stampede of aliens rushing the trio and it was clear that even though they made the game, even they were a bit nervous.
Players can also play solo if they’d like, and the game will fill out the other open spots with AI teammates. Cold Iron noted how the team put an emphasis on the AI in Aliens: Fireteam to ensure this wouldn’t be mindless slaughter. The aliens are quite smart and won’t just run right up to players to take them down, they have a number of strategies. Some will hurl acid at the player, cutting off a path briefly which could either trap them or prevent them from getting to an objective or a downed teammate. Others will group up and swarm the player, while another variant will hide or scramble to the ceiling. Given Xenomorphs are typically depicted as somewhat primal, yet very crafty and persistent beings, it seems like they’ll be well-served in this game.
If players aren’t feeling challenged enough, they can raise the stakes by accessing one of the 5 different difficulty options or by adding a challenge card, which are like the skulls in Halo. Cold Iron wants to ensure there’s plenty of replayablity with Aliens: Fireteam and has implemented a number of features to try to keep players coming back for more. Challenge cards will have modifiers like a headshots only mode, where body shots do no damage. There are also less tortuous ones such as a noir mode, which changes the visuals of the game. Missions will also play out differently with variations in encounters and objectives, meaning it won’t be something players will totally be able to prepare for each time they play.
Cold Iron wasn’t ready to talk about pricing, so it’s unclear exactly what Aliens: Fireteam will cost at launch. That said, it was confirmed there would be no microtransactions in the game. All in all, it may not be the terrifying follow-up to Alien: Isolation that fans may want from the IP, but it seems like it’ll pack in a lot of fun and value.
Aliens: Fireteam is currently planned for a summer 2021 release on Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, PS5, and PC. Screen Rant was invited to an online demo session for the purpose of this preview.