XDefiant Preview – RCycled
What the world desperately needs right now is another free2play multiplayer shooter. Perhaps a simple Call of Duty clone, slated for the mid or late 2023 release, gently colliding with Counter-Strike 2. The developer of the said shooter must make sure their game doesn’t even attempt to break any new ground or surprise you in any way. Better yet, it should recycle visual assets from several franchises under the same IP holder’s umbrella, building its identity as a corporate compilation. Does this plan make any sense to you? Apparently, it does for Ubisoft.
Yet, XDefiant is fun, at least when played in short, controlled bursts. I had the opportunity to try closed beta for a few days and I can honestly say that you can do worse in the multiplayer shooting space. It doesn’t try to challenge the juggernauts of Battle Royale or reinvent the wheel in the hero shooter arena. Instead, XDefiant offers few multiplayer modes comparable to classic Call of Duty. Is there even a market for that? It seems so, considering the popularity of closed beta streams.
Sustainable asset recycling
XDefiant is the crossover mix of all Ubisoft franchises based around modern firearms and combat gadgets. Libertad (Far Cry), Phantoms (Ghost Recon), Echelon (Splinter Cell), Cleaners (The Division), and DedSec (Watch Dogs) gun down each other in various 6vs6 modes. The entire construct is very similar to Call of Duty: Black Ops III, but instead of specific, named soldiers, classes exist as generic faction operatives. They differ by special, ultimate, and passive abilities, combat gadgets, and looks (of course).
Before each match, besides selecting the operative, you’ll have the opportunity to pick one of two abilities/gadgets which operate on a short cooldown. Echelon, for instance, can go with an Intel suit (shares the location of nearby enemies with your team) or Digital Ghillie Suit (Makes you semi-invisible, with a Predator-like shimmering effect). Echelon operatives also have a powerful passive ability of not appearing on enemy minimaps. Cleaners, being the pyromaniacal lot, have equally deadly passive – their shots place a burning DoT on you. For the active ability, they can choose between an incendiary drone or a firebomb.
Ultimate abilities are slow to build up but potentially quite useful. Phantoms can deploy Aegis, a spherical plasma shield, equipping the player with an electric scatter gun at the same time. Cleaners get instagib flamethrower; DedSec can scramble everyone with Lockout, temporarily disabling enemies’ HUD, minimap, and abilities. Libertad has Médico Supremo, a med backpack that provides large health and healing boost. It all works extremely similarly to BLOPS III, with the notable absence of scorestreaks or killstreaks.
A modest selection of guns
Individual weapon loadouts aren’t faction specific. Rather, they are universal and, yet again, extremely comparable to any modern Call of Duty game. You have a modest selection of assault rifles, shotguns, submachine guns, battle, and sniper rifles. You can level up firearms by using them, and unlocking a variety of attachments. There is a massive selection of optics, grips, muzzles, barrels, stocks, etc for you to gradually unlock. Again, absolutely nothing new under the sun here. At least guns have proper names, contrary to the latest Call of Duty cheap fallacy. I like my Kalasnikov as AK-47, not “Kastov”, thanks.
The closed beta had four multiplayer modes – Escort, Zone Control, Domination, and Occupy. In escort, you either help the cargo robot reach the target by tagging along close by or try to stop the escorting team. Zone Control is a Rush from Battlefield played on smaller maps. Domination is, well, domination, and occupy is Hardpoint from Call of Duty. You played everything on offer here before. There’s a weird absence of simple Team Deathmatch or Free for all modes, but I guess they weren’t ready for the beta. XDefiant closed beta had fourteen maps in total, some of which, like Echelon HQ, looked and felt really good. Most maps feel just right regarding their size and complexity. They were definitely the best part of the beta experience, at least for me.
Will it thrive or nosedive?
Whilst the beta had only a casual matching option, the full release will also offer ranked matches, catering to a more competitive audience. Crossplay is enabled by default, but it can be turned off if you prefer to play within your platform’s ecosystem. My experience with the closed beta was mostly positive. Save for matchmaking troubles in the beginning, everything fell into place after a few days. XDefiant is a very fast-paced multiplayer shooter, with extremely short TTK (time to kill) and rapid movement. It honestly feels like Call of Duty from four or five years ago, before they switched to a new engine. If you crave that particular feeling, you’ll definitely like XDefiant.
Is this enough substance for commercial success? Will XDefiant thrive or fade away? Will it survive the winter if Ubisoft releases it during the summer? I doubt anyone could predict its fate. There is a famous, Holywood-related quote by Willam Goldman, an American novelist, and screenwriter, which goes something like this. “Nobody knows anything… Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.” I reckon it’s the same with video games. My gut feeling says that XDefiant won’t suffer a horrific, screaming death like Crucible or LawBreakers. But I sincerely doubt it will take off and reach interstellar space in a glorious orgy of rocket fire and plasma streams. Only time will tell.
- Slick, fast-paced combat, comparable to Call of Duty games from four to five years ago.
- Excellent maps that feel just right.
- Plenty of unlockables to keep you engaged.
- Nothing even remotely new on offer here.
- Too few multiplayer modes.
- At times, the game feels like a forced attempt at “sustainable” asset recycling.