Ubisoft’s big, crossover first-person shooter XDefiant isn’t out until later this year. However, a short open beta is currently being held until June 23. And after playing a few hours of Ubisoft’s new Call of Duty-like shooter, I’m surprised by just how much I like it. But I’m also concerned that it might not stand out enough in a sea of high-quality, already-popular PvP shooters, such as Epic’s Fortnite or even Ubisoft’s own Rainbow Six Siege.
First announced back in 2021 as Tom Clancy’s XDefiant, Ubisoft’s upcoming shooter seems almost inevitable in retrospect. The game mixes various Ubisoft franchises like Ghost Recon, Watch Dogs, and FarCry, into a single shared universe online FPS. In an era when everything in entertainment seems to be merging into one giant blob of content, it’s not surprising that Ubisoft — a company that is no stranger to these kinds of crossovers — is jumping into the multiversal stew like Disney and Marvel before it. Even Ubisoft’s Rabbids and Assassin’s Creed franchises are a part of XDefiant, though only as in-universe decorations. (No, you don’t get to shoot Rabbids as Ezio, not yet anyway.)
Anyway, after numerous closed online tests, Ubisoft has finally opened up the game to everyone in this recent open beta.
📢 Open Session is now live! 🚨
Anyone on Xbox Series X|S, PS5, and PC can now download and play our Open Session! 🎮 pic.twitter.com/qH15Wh1rn1
— XDefiant (@PlayXDefiant) June 21, 2023
What is Ubisoft’s XDefiant?
The basic setup of XDefiant is that different Ubisoft franchises are split into different factions. So all the Splinter Cell people are in one group and all the Ghost Recon people in another, etc. Each of these factions has their own abilities and equipment. Then, once you’ve picked a faction, you pick a loadout consisting of some weapons, gear, and attachments. At any point in the modes I played in the beta, you can respawn as a different faction or swap out your class. It’s odd that teams can be made up of characters from various factions, but it also lets you freely play as who you want.
On one hand, all of this flexibility is nice, as it allows you to experiment and try out everything the game has to offer. On the other, it has the effect of making all of the factions feel hard to distinguish. This is especially weird because once you get into a match, they all just sort of look like soldiers or secret agents in kevlar and jackets and that makes it hard to tell at a glance if that person can throw down a shield, shoot off a fire drone, or turn invisible.
However, over the course of a few matches, I did get better at spotting differences in character models and learning who does what. But the only reason I even invested that much time into the beta is because of the shooting and combat. It’s really, really good.
Guns are loud, players move quickly, maps are built so you are always funneled into action and the time-to-kill feels long enough that you can escape fights, but not so long that every battle is a slog. That feeling tends to be especially tricky to nail, and a big point in the beta’s favour.
XDefiant is a lot like Call of Duty, but in a good way
For me, my favourite era of Call of Duty was around the time of Black Ops II and Advanced Warfare. I felt like those games struck the perfect balance between fast-paced combat, neat abilities, and items to use during matches, and none of it felt too over the top or too grounded in boring reality. Later Call of Duty games have become so slow and heavy that I just don’t enjoy them. XDefiant doesn’t feel like this at all, and instead harkens back to older, faster-paced Call of Duty games.
I keep bringing up Call of Duty, because, well, this game is very Call of Duty-like. It’s impossible to ignore. From how maps are laid out, to some of the modes — like domination — and even in how you build classes and level up guns; it all feels a lot like CoD. But, not modern CoD, as I mentioned. It’s more like that 2009-2014 era of Activision’s popular shooter.
It almost feels too similar for its own good. Modern shooters are primarily made up of battle royales and extraction-type games. This doesn’t play like that at all. It’s also not a hyper-tactical shooter like some of the most popular games on Steam or a big, wild Battlefield-esque shooter, either, à la BattleBit.
Instead, XDefiant feels tailor-made for people who once enjoyed the simpler and faster era of Call of Duty or similar military shooters of the era. And that’s great for me and people into that, but will that type of arena-like, lane-focused shooter built on loadouts and fast gunplay still be able to succeed in 2023? I don’t know. And I’m not sure loading XDefiant up with Ubisoft franchises will help it much in the long run. But at the very least I’m happy Ubisoft is trying to make this kind of shooter again after most other big studios have seemingly moved on. We’ll see how it fares when the full game lands this summer.
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