GAME REVIEW: How Good Is the “Pathogen” DLC for Aliens: Fireteam Elite?

Title: “Pathogen” DLC for Aliens: Fireteam Elite
Developer: Cold Iron Studios
Publisher: Cold Iron Studios, Focus Entertainment
Release Date: August 30, 2022
Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Steam

In August, the developers at Cold Iron Studios celebrated the one-year anniversary of Aliens: Fireteam Elite. What better way to celebrate than by releasing new campaign missions as part of the “Pathogen” DLC? Now that the new content has been out for a few weeks, we want to ask our readers, Just how good is the “Pathogen” DLC?

New Campaign

What’s killing all the Xenomorphs? The fireteam must find out.
Image: Aliens: Fireteam Elite

The following section contains spoilers for the DLC storyline. If you want to avoid these, skip down to “New Game Mode.”

The Pathogen DLC features a new campaign, “Promise of a Flower,” which comprises three missions. As many already know, these missions are a significant increase in difficulty compared to the base game. The increased difficulty has been welcomed by the passionate fan base and is evidence that the devs at Cold Iron Studios know their audience. (Players of Aliens: Fireteam Elite value replayability; showing off the legendary Nostromo Cap is the ultimate badge of honor for those who have completed the base game on Insane Difficulty.)

The story for the “Pathogen” DLC is one that stays true to the canon of the franchise while offering exciting new gameplay experiences. The first mission, “Promise of a Flower: Scout,” sends the Colonial Marines back to the surface of the moon as intel shows large groups of Xenos from Pala Station attacking an Engineer ruin. During the mission, the fireteam finds scattered Xenomorph bodies that have been brutalized in combat.

The ruin explored by the fireteam is full of Engineer artifacts.
Image: Aliens: Fireteam Elite

During the second mission, “Promise of a Flower: Approach,” the Colonial Marines push deeper in the Engineer ruin and discover a strange new breed of Xenos, ones affected by the infamous Pathogen. These Pathogen Xenomorphs are white like the other Pathogen creatures faced in “The Gift of Fire: Boarding.” At one memorable moment, players can see a single Xenomorph warrior taking on a group of Pathogen Xenos. The fight is brutal and quick as the warrior falls.

In the final mission of the DLC, “Promise of a Flower: Strike,” players press into the heart of the Pathogen hive. The level is a series of mazes which randomly generate each time players embark on the mission. As a result, the team at Cold Iron Studios masterfully capture the feeling of exploring a Xenomorph hive, where the walls are alive with danger, and there’s no clear way forward.

The atmosphere of the Pathogen hive is dangerous and intriguing.
Image: Aliens: Fireteam Elite

The mission culminates in an epic boss battle, the first of its kind for Aliens: Fireteam Elite. The final mission of the base game does feature a Xenomorph Queen, but it is a survive and escape kind of encounter. For the past year, fans have been clamoring for a true Queen fight and Cold Iron Studios delivers in a big way. The battle against the Pathogen Queen is the most difficult fight in the game and easily makes mission 5-3 the hardest in Aliens: Fireteam Elite, replacing 3-3 and 4-1 as the levels most challenging (or frustrating?) to beat on Insane.

It’s worth noting that the suggested combat rating listed on the intense difficulty is 750, the only mission with such a recommendation and one that is well above the highest possible rating a player can achieve. In short—you’d better work together because your skills and loadout won’t be enough.

New Game Mode

Keeping with the spirit of difficult challenges, Cold Iron Studios has added the ultimate bragging rights feature: Hardcore Mode. This mode features 50 unique levels of difficulty as players start with a new recruit and are forced to earn all weapons and perk board options before being able to use them. If a player dies on a mission, they lose nearly all progress and must start over with a new marine. (Players can pay credits to get access to previously unlocked weapons, but will have to re-earn experience levels.)

Image: Aliens: Fireteam Elite

The difficulty levels are broken down into 5 tiers:

  • Hardcore 1-10 = Casual Difficulty with harder hitting enemies and stronger acid
  • Hardcore 11-20 = Standard Difficulty with harder hitting enemies and stronger acid
  • Hardcore 21-30 = Intense Difficulty with harder hitting enemies and stronger acid
  • Hardcore 31-40 = Extreme Difficulty with harder hitting enemies and stronger acid
  • Hardcore 41-50 = Insane+ Difficulty with harder hitting enemies and stronger acid

Because Hard Core mode features permadeath, players cannot use matchmaking to play with random people online. This is likely an attempt to prevent trolling and players intentionally killing off those who have poured hours into the game mode.

Final Score

The “Pathogen” DLC for Aliens: Fireteam Elite is fantastic. While some might feel frustrated that the new content is only a single campaign with three missions, it’s important to remember that Cold Iron Studios is a small team. Their work is clearly done with care and passion. While not everyone would agree, I know that I and a lot of other passionate fans would gladly pay $15 (USD) for a new set of missions. Every time.

It’s also worth noting that “Pathogen” released around the same time that Titan Books released Alien: Inferno’s Fall, a new novel that focuses on the Pathogen and Engineer lore. Ever since Disney purchased the rights to the Alien and Predator franchises, there seems to be a larger plan at work for these beloved storytelling universes. Cold Iron Studios has demonstrated a keen awareness of the fan base and the lore they’ve been entrusted with.

The “Pathogen” DLC for Aliens: Fireteam Elite earns a full five stars from our team.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

To see our review of the base game, click here.

David Lasby is the Editor-in-Chief for Boss Rush Network. His favorite video games are The Legend of ZeldaMetroid, and the Aliens franchise. You can find him on Twitter to talk all things Nintendo, sci-fi / fantasy, and creative writing.

Featured Image: Aliens: Fireteam Elite

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