The following article contains spoilers for Alien: Fireteam Elite and Prometheus.
Remember Alien: Covenant? No, me neither… most of the time, anyway. I’ve tried to forget about it, not because it’s a bad film but because, as a die-hard Alien fan, it undermines most of the Xenomorphs’ mystique. It also takes the dangling plot elements from Prometheus, a film I thoroughly enjoyed, and punts them into a black hole.
So, having evicted Covenant from my brain space and with no chance of a “proper” follow-up, I was surprised to discover that Aliens: Fireteam Elite is the Prometheus sequel I’ve been craving. Sure, Ridley Scott’s movie put Guy Pearce in old-man makeup to become the CEO of the Alien franchise’s sinister corporation, but Aliens: Fireteam Elite goes to the effort of tying the two worlds together in a largely coherent manner.
Admittedly, I didn’t expect much in the way of story from this squad-based shooter. It’s essentially Left 4 Dead with Xenomorphs, and while the former had plenty of interplay between its characters, its narrative was next to nonexistent. And if you’re not paying attention, you might think the same of this outing.
But Aliens: Fireteam Elite does a couple of rather sneaky things with its story. Firstly, rather than risk alienating (sorry) those who just want to blast their way through the alien hordes, it initially shunts its story to side briefings. If, after completing a mission, you want to dive right back in, you can go ahead. If, on the other hand, you’re curious to discover what shady scientist Dr. Hoenikker was up to, you can seek out the ship’s synthetic and she’ll fill you in after each mission.
Secondly, while it makes reference to a mutagenic pathogen, you’re not entirely sure whether it’s talking about Prometheus’ infamous goo or something else entirely. Maybe Cold Iron Studios, the game’s creator, is trying to imply a connection to Prometheus but is worried about stepping on Ridley Scott’s toes. And you know what? I would have been absolutely fine with that. But then you hit Fireteam Elite’s halfway point, and you’re well into Prometheus territory.
Watching Xenomorphs skitter across Prometheus’ giant stone heads left me with a big grin on my face. Then I hit the Engineer ship, and just roaming the corridors proved so distracting that I really had to concentrate on not being murdered. You can still check in between missions to flesh out the story, and there’s a prequel novel, Aliens: Infiltrator (which The Escapist has reviewed and is also surprisingly terrific). But by this point in the game you can engage with Aliens: Fireteam Elite’s tale just by listening to the chatter that comes through your earpiece.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite doesn’t explain away the origins of the alien, but it capitalizes on their fear factor by asking, “What would happen if you used the black goo on a Xenomorph?” The special aliens you encounter are the result of these experiments, and while the game does let them loose a little too frequently, it makes an already terrifying species even more lethal.
That might sound like mad science, but it’s been established that Weyland-Yutani, for reasons that have yet to be fully explored, believes bio-weapons are where the big money is. Yes, this is Umbrella Corporation-level stupidity, but greed can be a powerful motivator.
As for the Engineers? You never encounter a living one in the game, but you really don’t have to. One of their number may have smashed Old Man Weyland’s head in, but Aliens: Fireteam Elite understands that his menace was fleeting and it was Prometheus’ goo-inflicted body horror that had people shifting in their seats. It sets up the same kind of high-stakes nightmare scenario, that of a fully stocked Engineer ship making its way to Earth. What’s especially unsettling about this is that it implies Prometheus’ alien vessel wasn’t the Engineers’ only attempt at annihilating or terraforming Earth.
It also eclipses the dire Aliens: Colonial Marines a hundred times over. True, Fireteam Elite may not have Michael Biehn, but given how unpleasant his Colonial Marines experience was, I doubt he’s in a hurry to make another Aliens video game regardless. It helps that Cold Iron Studios didn’t take the money and subcontract the game out to another company.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite doesn’t tackle Prometheus’ big question, which is, “Why did the Engineers want to nuke Earth from orbit?” but that wasn’t what I was holding out for. I wanted something that would build on Prometheus’ established lore, folding it into the Alienverse without diminishing either. And short of confirming that the Engineer ship was the same vessel from Prometheus, Aliens: Fireteam Elite delivers.
Now, if only someone can get cracking on Aliens vs. Blade Runner.