Two years after the successful Aliens: Fireteam Elite, the tough and talented hombres at Cold Iron Studios have completed the circle by releasing the game on Nintendo Switch. This newest release includes all patches and content, including the Pathogen DLC expansion with new weapons and missions. While the game exists on Steam Deck as well, there are those that simply prefer Nintendo Switch or are unable to attain a Steam Deck. To that end, Aliens: Fireteam Elite makes a strong debut on Nintendo Switch, bringing the classic action/horror experience of the movies to the handheld and being one of the better examples of cloud-based games on the platform.
On the edges of the Frontier lies a desolate world with a terrifying nightmare that has been unearthed On orders from Weyland Yutani and Colonial Marine Command, the USS Endeavor synchs in orbit above the planet LV-895. The marines of the Endeavor awaken from cryo-stasis with the confirmation that a xenomorph infestation has been confirmed. The Xenomorphs have engulfed the installation on the planet and the orbiting laboratory, The Katanga. Survivors are among the infestation and it’s up to the Colonial Marines to rescue survivors and terminate the infestation. What begins as a simple rescue mission becomes anything but.
Another Fine Day In the Corps
Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a co-op third-person shooter that can be played solo or with up to three additional players. Players race through seven different campaigns, each with their own objectives to complete, with the primary goal of eliminating xenomorphs and survival. As a co-op shooter, players rely on each other to make it through each mission as the mission dynamics and enemies continuously change.
The Xenomorph is a biological foe that learns and changes to adapt and eventually overcome its enemy, whether through assimilation or elimination. While the marines are armed to the teeth, they need more than that to overcome the enemy. Coming out of cryostasis, players meet with various members of the crew from the commander to the intelligence officer and quartermaster. Members of the crew help with intelligence gathering, mission selection, and securing new items for weapons.
Players customize their marine’s appearance, from gender to hairstyle. These changes aren’t permanent and can be adjusted later on. Players are able to choose from one of several classes. This includes Gunner, Technician, Doc, Demolisher, Recon, and the two newer classes Lancer and Phalanx. Each class possesses different weapons, perks, as well as individual abilities and team-shared abilities.
During my playthrough, I chose the Lancer class. The lancer class uses a primary heavy weapon, primarily the Smartgun. This is accompanied by the use of a Plasma burst and onslaught ability. Onslaught skips reload and refills the clip during combat. This is effective when a large wave approaches and tougher enemies ambush the team. There are many abilities to use between the classes and Aliens: Fireteam Elite offers plenty of variety for players to suit their combat preferences.
Keep this handy for close-encounters
The gunner is the most common class and a good entry-level for players unfamiliar with the game. The gunner class prefers the M4A1 pule rifle. The iconic rifle is easy to use and understand during combat. The gunner also has various abilities, with the team’s shared ability being the Overclock. Overclock ramps up the fire rate for all weapons, allowing Marines to dish out more firepower in a short amount of time.
Each class has its own special ability to utilize. Working in unison with the other Marines, these are lifesavers in combat as hordes of xenomorphs descend on the players’ position. During each mission, each marine can acquire special items such as shock ammo to electrocute enemies and mines that can destroy clusters of enemies.
Most Marines can interchange with different weapons. Aliens: Fireteam Elite has a strong variety of weapons to choose from, as well as options for customization. Not every Marine can use every weapon. The weapon customization isn’t just cosmetic but also affects the stats of each weapon. Barrels, scopes, and rifling all make a difference for each weapon. Additionally, this can affect the combat rating of any one Marine. The higher the rating, the more lethal the combatant.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite gives players the tools they need to get the job done, as well as the options to customize their combat preferences. At the end of each level, Marines level up; levels increase rank, which increases various stats. Additionally, there is a perk puzzle. Shaped like a microchip and arranged like tetrominoes, players can customize their perks. This ranges from increased accuracy to faster cooldowns.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite can be played solo or with several other Marines. Players playing solo will be given combat synthetics that will accompany the player with their A.I. capabilities. These companions get the job done but shouldn’t be relied upon on higher-difficulty settings. They are effective in eliminating enemies but can also receive damage. The synthetics also lack the type of coordination and quick reflexes of a live player. Players starting the game are recommended to play on casual to understand the ebb and flow. Higher difficulties may allow success with one synthetic on the team, but it should be recommended to bring live players, as the power of teamwork isn’t to be underestimated in Aliens: Fireteam Elite.
Players can take a sufficient amount of damage and heal themselves with a health kit but can be downed eventually. Aliens: Fireteam Elite allows players to be healed when downed. When playing solo, the synthetics prioritize the player and will make all haste to rescue the player. On lower difficulties, this rescue can happen an infinite amount of times but the higher the difficulty, the more limited it becomes. Once that counter reaches zero, the player is eliminated for the remainder of the mission. Furthering the horror are the limited numbers of health packs. Players may have to sacrifice their health packs if it means making sure other members of the team live to fight another day.
When the acid and bullets start flying, Aliens: Fireteam Elite becomes an immersive action-packed experience straight out of the movie. Shooting and engaging enemies is satisfying and oftentimes overwhelming. Battling xenomorphs is enthralling and exciting, with the small details and sounds accompanying the horror action experience. The flash of and sound of pulse rifle fire evokes that horrifying feeling of battling a relentless and remorseless enemy.
The screeches of Xeno reminds players they are facing an enemy that is smart and cold. Xenomorphs aren’t zombies. They do not aimlessly run into danger. Xenomorphs coordinate and wait for their victims, ambushing them when they least expect it. They are bio-weapons that are programmed to destroy and grow the hive, as well as evolve into different forms. This makes them dangerous and formidable throughout the game.
Shooting is enjoyable and immersive as well. Each weapon handles differently from the next. The pulse rifle has the classic reverb sound effect straight from Aliens and features an under-barrel grenade launcher. Using the Smartgun automatically locks onto moving enemies. Secondary weapons such as shotguns and small machine guns assist in the action as well. If players run out of ammunition, their trusty sidearm can get them out of a pinch with its infinite ammo. There is a melee attack that the player can utilize but it should be reserved when enemies get far too close for comfort. Players use the environment and take cover behind structures. Occasionally, there are weapons crates with special types of perks from incendiary ammunition to drones that increase damage to enemies.
A Perfect Organism
Aliens: Fireteam Elite does mix things up. The Xenomorphs come as drones but other variants exist. Spitters lob projectiles of acid. Some become irradiated and become malformed, making them burst into a shower of acid upon death. Others are the larger Warrior types that take plenty of damage and can cause significant damage to the player. Other species include ambush types that lurk in waiting and hold the player down as well as Praetorians that grab the player as well. Rogue synthetics, owned by Weyland Yutani, get into the mix and are essentially enemy robots. The synthetics aren’t pushovers as they are resistant to enemy fire and possess superhuman strength. If players aren’t careful, they can get caught and take damage as a damaged synthetic can explode.
The sound design compliments the harrowing fear and action taking place. Orders are shouted and the pings of the handheld radar keep players on their toes. The screeches of enemies heighten an environment that is constantly unsafe. Even moments of quiet have small details from random thuds to metal clangs.
Visually, the game looks really good, even amidst the chaos. Larger areas, such as the hangar, feature the classic Colonial Marines Dropship. Armor plating is jagged and dented. The weapons are bulky and detailed, appearing as if they have been assembled by a cacophony of machines. The campaign missions take inspiration from the Aliens franchise from the first Alien movie to Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. The odd choice with Aliens: Fireteam Elite is the lack of facial animations with the characters. Players interact with many characters on the Endeavor. While they speak, neither their face nor mouth move.
We’re in the Pipe Five by Five
Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a strong and solid game, but it must be mentioned that this is the Nintendo Switch Cloud version that is being reviewed. Nintendo Cloud versions have been controversial for various reasons. The constant need to be connected to a strong internet does defeat the novelty of a handheld game console that can be taken everywhere. Most notable was the controversy of porting the Kingdom Hearts franchise to the Nintendo Switch as the publisher chose to use a Cloud version for decades-old games as opposed to a native port on a cartridge. That particular release was universally panned with video clips showing combat being constantly interrupted and lag inundating a combat experience that requires speed and reflexes.
My time with Aliens: Fireteam Elite on Nintendo Cloud is far more positive than expected. The team has worked hard to create an adaptable experience for Switch goers. Playing solo was comparable to playing the PlayStation 4 version of the game. The game looks sharp and plays responsively, with a few stutters here and there. Playing on a handheld was enjoyable and the production values all presented themselves in good condition. When the connection works, Aliens: Fireteam Elite is a joy to play and works well. I was able to connect successfully to many matches and engage in intense online co-op.
Some Fire Raining Down
However, it isn’t all smooth sailing for the Cloud version. Some of my playthroughs involved a significant amount of lagging and performance issues related to insufficient internet. On several occasions, I noticed an increase in lag between 5 pm and 7 pm initiating connection and lag problems, perhaps due to the time of day and the fact I live in a small city. I took advice from a member of Cold Iron Studios to use the 5G internet connection and did see some improvement.
Another time, I took the game to work and played during lunch, having a more stable time but I experienced occasional input delay and lag. Aliens: Fireteam Elite does try to maintain that connection as best as it can. At times a message reading “Low-Performance Mode” shows the game working to stay alive and would reduce certain qualities to maintain that connection.
Better After Launch
After the game went live, I tried again and can confirm the crossplay online works incredibly well. In fact, it makes the experience even better as the more familiar players, with more seasoned Marines, are able to take part. This made for a significantly more enjoyable experience as different classes and their weapons make for an interesting variety.
Furthering this is the challenge cards that can add an extra challenge to a mission but greatly increase the rewards should the team be successful. It should be recommended to be sure that players have strong and up-to-date internet connection, with a mesh network. Alternatively, using an ethernet connection is preferred for online play. Finally, players should play and complete the campaign on casual before tackling the other difficulties as completing the campaign unlocks the ability to play quick matches with any player on any mission regardless of platform.
With friends or strangers, Aliens: Fireteam Elite is incredible and a wonderful addition to the Switch library. The presentation and gameplay are exceptional with respect to the source material. While this is a Nintendo Switch Cloud version, this is one of the better examples of how to do it right as the game is able to function with minimal technical challenge. There is a bevy of content to enjoy and plenty of friends to make as the game provides an exciting experience across a multitude of challenges.