xDefiant isn’t the first attempt by Ubisoft to enter the free-to-play shooter space, but it is perhaps the best opportunity they’ve had to succeed in it, especially when compared with recent battle royale failure Hyper Scape failed to move the needle.
What Ubisoft has always been strong with is their existing IP, the worlds and characters that have become staple franchises over the years, with fans all over the world, and xDefiant leans into that fully, playing like a greatest hits for the publisher as it pulls in characters, locations and gear from some of its most popular series. Combine that with some slick looking shooting action, and they could genuinely be onto something here.
After a deep dive preview where we got to check out xDefiant behind closed virtual doors, it’s clear that the inspiration for this shooter is a bit old school, focusing on a classic fast-paced FPS experience, with fast and clean movement that isn’t too complex. They want to keep things simple and let the player skill shine, bringing back more distinct playstyles, focusing on classes and attachments.
Where it adds a clear point of difference to other shooters on the market is its reliance on Factions, with each specialised group pulled from another Ubisoft property, all with unique abilities and ultra attacks. Those factions available initially include The Cleaners (The Division), Libertad (Far Cry 6), Echelon (Splinter Cell), and Phantoms (Ghost Recon Phantoms), but we also got to check out Dedsec from Watch Dogs 2 that will be available when the game launches as an unlockable faction.
“…every ability, loadout and ultimate has a counterplay, so the game rewards skill.”
Each of those factions have different skillsets based on the games they come from; Echelon are super spies who use subterfuge, useful for lone wolves or flankers, or anybody who likes the element of surprise. The Cleaners are more aggressive, using fire to deal high amounts of damage, with incinerator drones and firebombs for more chaos. Libertad use “bio beta therapies” to keep themselves alive in battle for longer, while Phantoms are ex-Ghosts; tanky, rolling well with allies and with strong defense. Dedsec, of course are hackers who can disrupt.
This focus on factions and tying in some of their trademark abilities and playstyles is a smart choice for xDefiant; as a player of all of those franchises, I instantly know what to expect from each of them, and they seem smartly balanced between one another, which of course is crucial in this competitive setting. They noted that every ability, loadout and ultimate has a counterplay, so the game rewards skill.
It’s worth noting that you can change faction or loadout during the game as well, so you’re not locked in for a whole match; the team is very focused on player-centric design, taking feedback through their Insiders program over the last several months to refine the experience, which bodes well.
Maps are also inspired from the games, like post black Friday New York from the Division, a fishing village from Yara in Far Cry 6, and a mix of original settings too like amusement parks, playgrounds, and research facilities with upper and lower floors to add some verticality into the mix. There will be 14 maps at launch.
Game modes are what you’d expect from a classic shooter of this style; Domination and Occupy are variations on taking and holding territory, while Escort and Zone Control give the attacker and defender roles. Hot Shot sounds like one of the more unique additions, where you pick up bounties dropped by fallen enemies, and the player with most bounties gets score multiplier and buffs, but you show up on the map as a target for others to take down.
xDefiant is promising a strong lineup of content from day one, but promises that new maps, modes, factions and limited time experiences with each season, scheduled for every 3 months. With ongoing support, it’s intriguing to think about what other Ubisoft worlds could feature in this live shooter, especially if the community really gets behind it.
Despite a questionable name, xDefiant looks like it has all the tools to make a successful multiplayer shooter experience, leveraging Ubisoft’s biggest brands to great success.
We don’t have to wait any longer to check it out for ourselves; the closed beta kicks off today and runs until April 27th, and while you will not be able to keep your progression at launch, you will be able to keep up to 10 exclusive cosmetic items at release. You can register for the closed beta here.