I was given a chance to play an early build of XDefiant this week ahead of Ubisoft’s announcement of what to expect from the game in the future. I found a surprisingly slick shooter that feels like fan service for various Ubisoft franchises while also adding a little more personality to the factions I’d encountered in separate games in the past. Although this seems like Ubisoft’s attempt at taking down your goto game for deathmatch, it stands more of a chance of creating a niche for a new type of multiplayer shooter.
Ubisoft is the developer and publisher behind some of the biggest games, from Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs to The Division, Far Cry, and so much more. Each franchise packs in hundreds of hours of experiences where you fight alongside or against powerful and memorable characters, but those characters are restricted to their series or universe. XDefiant seeks to change this by pulling factions from across Ubisoft’s various universes and pitting them against one another in all-out warfare.
There’s no denying that Ubisoft has thrown everything and the kitchen sink at XDefiant. The game will feature several factions at launch, including Echelon from Splinter Cell, the Cleaners from The Division, DedSec from Watch Dogs, and the Wolves from Ghost Recon Breakpoint. Each one has a few loadouts to choose from, meaning the sheer range of play styles on offer right out of the gate is almost overwhelming.
There were a few modes available when I played XDefiant, and the two that didn’t work, the deathmatches, didn’t fit because they’re built for a game more like Call of Duty. Capture the Flag and Escort were far superior, forcing teams to change their loadouts to the situation and push for a win with more than just bullets. The game modes that work for Call of Duty don’t work for XDefiant because they’re built around a two-gun loadout with killstreaks. XDefiant is far more strategic, and once you figure that out, it clicks and feels like an engaging game.
Each faction has abilities based around the franchise they’re from without breaking character completely. So if you want to be sneaky, you can play with the Echelon faction and use their active camo. On the other hand, you could roam around as a mad binman with a flamethrower if you choose the Cleaners from The Division. DedSec feels suitably alternative with its combination of interesting fashion choices and phone applications, but every faction is grounded by solid shooting mechanics.
You can switch your loadout mid-match, which is a breath of fresh air in a game as tactical as this. What I think I love the most about XDefiant, though, is the way it’s trying to give these throwaway factions from past Ubisoft epics a voice and personality. Sure, it’s a violent mashup of universes that makes no logical sense, but it’s nice to see some continuity between Ubisoft’s very separate worlds.
The best game I played in XDefiant was an Escort match where my team had to push and protect one of the drones from The Division 2 across the map. We were hammered by the enemy at first but soon found our footing and drove them back. Checkpoints around the map at certain progression thresholds made it easier to push the objective, but I never felt like I had an unfair advantage over the enemy because they could always rush our position and pin us down. The end of this match was a brutal shootout across various levels, with the drone moving what felt like inches every time one of our teammates got close to it before dying. It was suspenseful and genuinely thrilling, and well worth a try if you want something unique from your next free-to-play addiction.
Gluing all the seemingly random elements from across the Ubi-verse together in XDefiant is the uncompromisingly slick and mechanically concrete shooting engine. This game has the best shooting I’ve seen in years, and it’s been designed for almost parkour levels of mobility. Sliding underneath fences, popping up to kill an enemy, using your active camo to escape and capture a point, then launching a grenade to score a few bonus kills, is all easy to do and encouraged. It’s an almost punk-style of shooter that suits the reject feel of the factions and characters in a way that The Suicide Squad would be on board with.
The tactics required to play make XDefiant better than any other free-to-play shooter. If you jump into this game and treat it like a shooter, it’ll push back, and you won’t enjoy it. Like Rainbow Six Extraction, XDefiant makes you use your brain and trigger finger. Every character and faction can be countered by another in the game. Spread your mastery across a few, and you’ll be unstoppable. Ubisoft has taken the traditional shooter formula and added a new layer to it, but that layer is spread throughout its structure, so you can’t ignore it.
Ubisoft has outlined how it plans to support XDefiant moving forward with a ridiculous amount of additional content. From new factions and battle passes to weapons, characters, maps, and more. Providing the game is supported as well as the company is making out it will be, XDefiant could easily carve out a niche between Overwatch 2 and Call of Duty that offers a strategic experience you can master through skill, not pay-to-win mechanics or choosing the best character from the current meta.