102 Minutes with Aliens Fireteam Elite
Aliens Fireteam Elite is one I’ve sort of cast a side-eye over the past months since it entered my awareness. Right from the get-go, it seemed to be wearing its AA budget on its sleeve. Mostly in the arena of animations. The aliens didn’t quite have that mix of cat and serpentine-like grace. They looked, in a word, janky.
Still… It’s Aliens. And a co-op horde shooter. And it comes out before Back 4 Blood- heck, it in fact came out today.
Reviews on Steam as I write this are ‘Mostly Positive’ at 79%, but the two reviewers I tend to trust most — ACG and Skill-Up — both released their reviews today and came away with almost opposite perspectives on the game. One of the things I noticed, though, was that in all of Skill-up’s video, he was playing with friends. In ACG’s video, part was dual AI bots, and part was with a single other player and a bot. I suspected this might’ve shaped their respective views, so, given there seemed to be interest in my friends’ discord tonight — and the fact to match the AA budget is an AA price tag, I decided to jump in and take a look for myself.
Skill-up said something which resonated with me, and has held true with my experience of the game so far, “It’s unambitious in the best possible sense of the word.”
The game director was seemingly ruthless in cutting out any spend on things that wouldn’t directly enhance the moment-to-moment in-mission play. And I’m sure some of those cuts would’ve been painful to make. But — so far, at least — the sacrifices seem to have paid off.
I’ve completed the first… campaign? Chapter? I’m not sure without jumping back in to look at the in-game vernacular, but I’ve done the first set of three levels that make up the first storyline that, upon completion, will eject you back to the hub. (You can choose to go back to the hub between any mission, though.)
I ran through as a Technician, capable of placing down a turret on-demand (I love placing turrets in almost any game) and throw electric field grenades which slow xenomorphs that pass through the area of effect. Weapon-wise, the Technician packs a handgun and a CQC weapon slot — which, while starting out, is a rather fun to fire and use shotgun.
We played the first chapter on Standard difficulty, with one AI bot (second friend’s internet isn’t the best — still downloading. *sigh*)
Standard, for the most part, did feel a little on the easy side — although having said that, I must hasten to admit at one of the end-of-level ‘stand fast’ portions, we *almost* had a wipe. I went down; the AI went down, my friend was on very low health and had no heal kit available. But, he was playing as a demolisher, and between emptying enough smart-gun bullets to end a small war and his skill deploying a trio of rockets, he was able to clear enough of a path to first res the AI and then fight their way back to me, so we could beeline toward the now open elevator.
I think perhaps the best praise I could shower on the game at this early juncture, is that 102 minutes was all I could take before literally needing to step away and take a blast of my asthma inhaler. No joke. I am sick at the moment but thought a little bit of fun might just be what the Dr. ordered. (It wasn’t- he ordered more antibiotics, inhalers, steroids and rest, but hey.)
Even at this somewhat ‘easy’ difficulty, there was enough flow of excitement and raised voices (alright, a series of very manly shouts of surprise) that I just had to stop and rest.
I did take a peek into the sorts of progression available in the form of weapon upgrades and character development though and liked what I saw. You can unlock things through ranking up (weapons, classes, and yourself as a player all gain XP on mission completions), you can purchase certain unlocks with in-game currency from a vendor back in the hub and they all seem to interlink in what appear to be satisfying ways.
Perks can hook into skills and add new effects to them. e.g., I saw one that would also make it so that Xenomorphs affected by my Technician’s electric field grenades would deal less damage as well as moving slowly.
Upgrades for weapons can simply raise a selection of stats, or giving you stacking buffs for meeting certain criteria.
Classes have some overlap in their weapon classes, so you can carry a levelled weapon into another class to ‘boost’ the starting experience of jumping to a class you haven’t played, or haven’t played as much.
It’s still very early days yet- but I liked what I saw and I’m looking forward to being well enough to more fully enjoy it, manly-shouting with friends without worry my lungs will flip me the bird for doing so!