Tom Clancy's XDefiant could be the free-to-play shooter that Ubisoft have been trying to make for such a long time. It feels and looks great and most importantly, the fun factor is there too.
Ubisoft's new fast-paced hero shooter XDefiant has a horrible name but fortunately, it's a far cry from that gameplay-wise. xDefiant is fun and vibrant, has great maps and a solid selection of weapons and gadgets for many hours of fun.
I've played around ten matches of the currently ongoing cross-play insider session and can only say that with some extra polish and balancing, xDefiant could finally be the free-to-play shooter that Ubisoft has been unsuccessfully trying to make all these years.
Since I'm under a strict NDA, I cannot share any videos or screenshots from my matches but I'll do my best to describe my experience with the game, how it feels, plays and whether you should give it a go.
Factions, Heroes and Gadgets
In xDefiant, you choose your hero from one out of four factions that Ubisoft smartly borrowed from their existing franchises. Therefore you have Watch Dogs' cyber attackers Dead Sec, Far Cry 6's healers Libertad, Future Soldiers from the Ghost Recon franchise and stealth-focused spies of Splinter Cell IP.
While some would say this is a lazy design from Ubisoft, who couldn't bother to create new, original factions and heroes, I really liked how the developers implemented all these characters, which work really great with new gadgets and abilities.
Dead Sec can hack the enemy equipment, and use a tiny spider robot that stuns enemies by jumping to their faces in Facehugger style. Future Soldiers can drop electromagnetic barriers, blocking the incoming grenades and fire, Splinter Cell spies can reveal enemy positions on the map, and go invisible, while the Far Cry faction is all about healing.
There's still work to be done though, as some are evidently more popular than others, as can be spotted in the lobbies. This is mainly due to their overpowered abilities. For example, the Echelon faction has the ability to go almost invisible allowing them to go sneak behind enemy lines unnoticed and unleash chaos.
Echelon's ultimate ability is also way too powerful as it turns you into a deadly Sam Fischer-esque agent, allowing you to see through walls and kill enemies with only two bullets from a powerful silenced pistol.
I had a blast with this one but I'm certain Ubisoft will have to nerf the ability as every match that I played had at least five Echelon agents sneaking around invisible and using their ultimate skill to drop opposing players as flies.
Weapons and customisation
I'd say xDefiant's weapon pool is pretty standard for modern free-to-play shooters with Assault Rifles, SMGs, Snipers, Shotguns and Marksman Rifles. You can customize the weapons by adding various optics, under barrels, magazines, and barrels which affect your mobility, accuracy and firepower. Again, pretty standard stuff that we've seen in other shooters. XDefiant certainly doesn't feature the most detailed Gunsmith ever, so don't go in expecting a wide variety of attachments.
You can also choose from five grenade-type throwables including Stick, Flashbang, Frag and EMP grenades and Proximity mine. I've found grenades to be very odd as the physics don't seem to work as intended and the throwing angles seem off so you'll hit walls or other objects a lot of time while throwing grenades through tight spaces even if you're 100 per cent sure you got your aim right.
Also, they don't seem to have much impact so Ubisoft could perhaps increase their damage range to make them more viable.
Maps and modes
I got to plan on four maps with two of them being heavily inspired by Ubisoft's The Division and Rainbow Six Siege featuring snowy New York streets and a colourful theme park, respectively. I've enjoyed playing on most maps, except for one that featured a futuristic clean style, which didn't have enough clear space for fun engagements and simply has way too many obstacles that break the flow of run-and-gun gameplay.
Modes are various. I got to play classic zone control where you have to capture and defend random spots on the map to score points and Escord mode, where you have to escort a robot dog-like machine from one part of the map to other. The robot only moves if you're staying close to it, which can lead to some really adrenaline-rising gameplay sequences, especially if your team members actually play the objective instead of running all over the map like headless chickens.
Overall gameplay feel
Movement and gunplay are fine but I'd love to see a more polished experience in the final version since at times, movement felt stiff, which can be a serious issue in such a fast-paced shooter. Ubisoft did mention that many game features are not completed so changes are certainly expected.
As for gunplay, I think there's definitely a lot of room for improvement even though most guns do feel unique with different kicks, recoil patterns and so on. However, given that guns are an integral part of XDefiant, I think more tuning and optimisation certainly wouldn't hurt, just to get to that point where all weapons feel great to use.
Time to kill is perfect. It's not too long like in Halo Infinite nor too quick like in Call of Duty. Depending on your accuracy, you can take down the enemy players fairly quickly but it's not that easy to hit those headshots.
Apart from some desync issues and lag, which is understandable for a beta, I had a blast with XDefiant which is shaping up to be a proper hit if Ubisoft hit the right notes before the game's official launch.
XDefiant is fun, has cool mechanics and abilities and could finally be the free-to-play shooter Ubisoft have been trying to make for such a long time.