Independent video game developer Cold Iron Studios has pulled back the curtain on its latest game, a third person survival co-op shooter set in the Alien universe.

Craig Zinkievich, CEO and co-founder of the San Jose-based studio known for massively multiplayer, shooter and action games, and creative director and co-founder Matt Highison introduced Aliens: Fireteam in a media presentation. The game, which will be self-published by Cold Iron in collaboration with Twentieth Century Studios, takes place in the year 2022, where players take on the role of a colonial marine fighting threats 23 years after the events of the Alien trilogy.

There are four playable story-driven campaigns in the main arc, each occurring in a different location — which may be familiar to fans of the franchise — with three missions and a host of new enemies. “A cool part of our game is that [in] all four of the campaigns, all 12 of the missions, there’s an arc story across all of them,” Highison tells The Hollywood Reporter, “for a cohesive narrative.”

An evolving xenomorph threat looms as the game progresses, and Highison teases that one is filled with acid sacks and explodes into much larger and more dangerous pools of acid than a standard runner xenomorph. “When we realized that that burster was going to be crawling on the ceiling and being killed right above us and raining acid down on us and we had to roll out of the way to dodge it, that kind of confluence of cool function from the IP and something new that Fireteam adds and a unique, scary experience that you only get in a survival shooter like this — it just felt like a great win to have all of that come together,” he says.

There are over 20 different enemy types, each with their own unique abilities and behaviors.” Zinkievich says that there are also a lot of different goals for different players. “Obviously there are going to be people that come for the fact that it’s an Aliens game and they want to hear the new story that we’re telling and experience that,” he says. “There are going to be new gamers who are survival shooter aficionados and want to come for that challenge and the replay-ability, and there are going to be people who come because they want to experience an RPG game, those elements — they want to create a colonial marine and live in this world. We tried to make sure that there were avenues for people to bring their own goals to the experience, but also to keep that laser focus [on] what’s going to be the core of this: you are colonial marines fighting this overwhelming threat.”

Among the challenges, Zinkievich identifies the need to sometimes “pare down” their ideas. “We’re such fans of the universe and love the movies and read the novels and comics as soon as we got the license,” he says. “We were just overjoyed and then consumed as much as we possibly could. And then we were like, ‘oh, we can’t do everything we want to do.’ You have to make sure that you’re providing a really focused experience.”

Highison adds, “We knew that we didn’t want to be a tourism game, where you’re recreating the scenes from the film and inhabiting one of those characters. We wanted to tell a wholly original story and give players a chance to inhabit their own marine in a franchise that we would love to live in, despite all the horrible things that happen in the films. We would love to be one of those marines on a spaceship getting ready to go on a bug hunt and kick ass. That’s kind of where the core narrative started from, and then we saw where we could expand from there.”

Playable characters in the game are fully customizable. “You’re not playing pre-created characters, you’re creating your own marine,” Zinkievich outlined during the presentation. As you advance, cosmetic rewards including new armor sets and headgear can be earned.

When revealing the game, the team focused on how setting the title in the Alien universe actually makes it a better video game. “It gives us the mandate, really, as a survival shooter, to have enemies on walls and on ceilings and really have that full 360 combat experience,” Highison tells THR. “It gives us the mandate to have xenomorphs with interesting AI routines where they will come out of a vent, attack you, and when they know that they’re in danger, they run away just to harass you again later in the mission. All those challenges and things we knew as fans of the franchise we had to put into the game.”

There are five difficulty levels, with each mission having variations in enemy encounters.”It’s not a walk in the park,” says Zinkievich, adding that the easy mode is for players who want to get in and experience the world. “Friendly fire becomes more of a thing as you increase the levels,” he says, while resources such as ammo become more scarce.

The game will be available in the summer of 2021 on consoles and PC via Steam.

Cold Iron Studios was established in 2015 and acquired by San Diego-based developer and publisher Daybreak Games last August.

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