With familiar playable factions and locations, fast gameplay, a tricky balance between using classic weapons and fantastic unique skills, well-known game modes, and large, intricate maps that almost always leave your back open to make camping difficult, XDefiant has everything it takes to compete in the team-based multiplayer niche. That is, if all of the above works as it should. But so far, it doesn’t always work.

Гра XDefiant
Genre online shooter
PLatforms Windows, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S
Languages English, Ukrainian
Developer Ubisoft San Francisco
Publisher Ubisoft

For some reason, there is a gap in the world of fast-paced competitive shooters that various studios are actively trying to fill. XDefiant is an original attempt by Ubisoft, an arcade shooter with low TTK and at the same time with a class skill system and ultimatum skills. Frankly speaking, it is an interesting combination, and it is good that having a huge number of franchises and recognizable characters, the developers decided to abandon the Tom Clancy’s console and rethought the game factions a bit.

Thus, Ubisoft has its own multiverse, where characters from Watch Dogs 2, FarCry 6, Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon Phantoms, and The Division compete for… and this is where the first questions arise. Why have all these people from different worlds gathered together, and what are they fighting for? So far, there are no answers.

Players seem to be transported back two decades ago, when few people cared about such conventions, choose a character to their liking and go ahead. But it’s not the noughties anymore. Of course, no one expects Blizzard to be at the level of Blizzard, which spent eight months creating animated videos with the backstory of a single character, but it would be nice to get at least a little context to better understand what is happening on the screen.

But at least in terms of gameplay, the game is as clear as possible, and we have already seen the modes and even the unique skills of the factions in one form or another, so there are no surprises here.

There are five game modes: classic Escort, three variations of zone control (linear, moving across the map, holding three points at the same time, capturing a zone that migrates across the map), and Mastak, a reimagined Kill Confirm mode from Call of Duty, in which points will be awarded for collecting tokens of dead enemy (+1 point in the team score) and friendly (-1 point from the opposing team score) players. Players with the most tokens become “masters” with increased movement and reloading speed, and each token they collect brings 3 points to the team score. The downside? The position of the master is revealed to the enemy team, so the task here is to protect your best player and hunt for the opponent’s master.

Each faction is actually a character class. Libertad are medics, Ghosts are tanks with energy shields, Echelon are assault troops, Cleaners are, well, cleaners, responsible for clearing the territory of enemies and their devices using drones and firebombs, DedSec are engaged in debuffing – their homing robot spiders chase and neutralize enemies, and hacking devices, respectively, hack enemy equipment, or should be in theory. In addition to active abilities, factions have passive ones, such as healing, incendiary ammunition, increased health, or the constant production of devices (grenades, mines, etc.).

New weapons, as well as new characters, are unlocked by fulfilling certain conditions, such as “heal X units of health” or “kill X enemies with a well-aimed headshot”, nothing too complicated, in fact, after 30+ hours of playing I had only four characters and one type of grenade locked, everything else was unlocked during the game without any additional effort. Except for the DedSec faction, I got it for buying the founder’s set, which would have actually taken quite a while to get through the game. But as of now, DedSec is relatively weak – spiders are helpful, but hacking doesn’t work, because you are usually killed immediately by the players whose devices you hack.

And here we come to the first serious problem – the imbalance of skills. As we’ve already mentioned, the game’s TTK is quite low, you die from a couple of hits, and the availability of skills implies the possibility of getting some benefit from them in the medium term. The benefits of energy shields and the dome as an ult are obvious, and the same goes for invisibility and the ability to see through walls for the entire team in Echelon. Drones and firebombs of the Purifiers? Well, that’s a situational story. Libertad’s BioVida healing jars? Nothing at all from the team’s point of view, situations where they can actually heal someone at the point being stormed and thus save lives are so rare that this skill is actually perceived more as a personal first aid kit. Given that health is automatically restored quite quickly, it’s not the best choice either. We have already talked about hacking.

That is, as of now, XDefiant is more of an arcade shooter with *some* skills, because it’s often easier to keep shooting than to spend time using some situational skill. But the good thing is that it is possible, necessary, and, most importantly, not difficult to counter some pretty powerful ultras. See the enemy dome? It will take you a long time to disassemble it, but no one prevents you from going behind the character’s back (the front is vanshot) and just killing him. The flamethrower has a limited range, and the maps are quite confusing, so use it. The rest of the ultras are well countered by a headshot.

We’ve got the skills figured out, but what about the weapons? You know, it’s hard to say. Theoretically, we have assault rifles, submachine guns, shotguns, handguns, small arms and sniper rifles as our main weapons, and only five pistols as our secondary weapons. The pros and cons of each type have been known to you since the first Call of Duty and Medal of Honor. As you level up your weapon, just like in Call of Duty, you get access to modules, and there are seven slots for installing them – muzzle, barrel, front rail, optics, magazine, rear grip, and buttstock, but you can use no more than five at a time.

Moreover, the modules significantly improve the characteristics of the weapon, a rifle that seemed impractical in the basic version can look completely different with the right modules. And yes, the game already has meta kits that are worth farming to improve your performance.

What about the balance? There is none. The sniper TAC-50 is better than anything at medium and long distances if you have your hands in the right place. Alternatively, you can take any of the rifle barrels instead – SGD or MK 20 SSR, at short distances the P90 is the best, and if you really want an assault rifle, then look at the AK-47 or M16A4, everything else is trivial. That’s about it. Yes, we can say that this will all be fixed with patches, but Ubisoft will have other things to do before they start patching weapons.

For example, to patch the network code and buy more servers. Because the current state of the game is ridiculous. Do you remember the good old days of Call of Duty before state and frame synchronization? You know, the days when you could shoot half a magazine at the enemy, then die and find out on the replay that you didn’t actually have time to shoot at all because you were killed by a headshot before you even saw the enemy? That’s XDefiant in 2024, except there are no replays, so you have to wonder why the hell the game showed you a registered hit on the enemy, and moreover, here’s an animation of his model burning from your incendiary ammo, but you died and the enemy has 100% health. And, just to make it worse, have a tasty death around the corner in a game where the walls are not shot through. And these are not isolated cases, it happens all the time. In every fucking game.

The developers boasted that they received 8 million players in the first week. I’m very happy for them, it’s a great figure. Can we now make sure that these 8 million are somehow evenly distributed between matches? I love the challenge, of course, but I’m a little tired of playing with an incomplete team against six enemies on a regular basis. I would appreciate it. And most importantly, avoid XDefiant on PC for now if you don’t like the cheaters. The day before I wrote this article, I decided to check if the situation had improved and literally in the very first match I ran into some local Flash with a hundred kills. Thanks, but no thanks, I’m back to Xbox.

But if it’s so bad, why has the game already developed such an active fanbase? Firstly, because the game is really promising in terms of gameplay, it has prospects. Secondly, perhaps all competitive shooter services now use SBMM (skill-based matchmaking) in one form or another. This system allows clustering players by skill level, thus providing a more… comfortable level of play for the vast majority of the audience. An ordinary player does not get into matches with pro players who can dismantle the entire opposing team on their own, but plays instead with other players of their own level.

There are no crushing scores, but there are also no significant challenges, just run and shoot. Yes, it will take you longer to improve your skill, because you seem to be doing well, and there is no additional challenge, but you are good, you are in first place on the scoreboard. This helps to reduce the outflow of players disappointed with losses, generates more season passes sold, and everyone is happy.

Well, almost all of them, because at the same time, strong players are grouped with the same opponents and can no longer have fun doing 360 no scope in a sandbox with preschoolers, they have to strain a little to avoid losing, which is not everyone’s cup of tea. And then the holy grail appears in the form of XDefiant, where SBMM is absent in an unrated game. Super fun for good players who record cool videos and advise everyone to just get better. Not so much fun for mediocre players who also don’t want to overachieve, but just decide to run a couple of matches before going to bed. It’s hard to establish who is right in this debate, I personally think that there should be options, and it’s good that old-school fans have such an option, but we’ll see what happens to the user base in a year or two.

Since XDefiant is a free-to-play game, it has its own battlepack and cosmetics store, and as of now, the situation with them is such that you can safely continue playing the basic free version without spending any additional money. The alternative looks of weapons and characters are so subtle that you don’t really lose anything.

I would also like to mention the textual Ukrainian localization that the game received at launch. It is very good, with the exception of a few controversial moments, there is nothing to complain about, and we are talking about a competitive shooter, which has long formed its own slang among the audience. As for me, this is an outstanding achievement. Besides, this is Ubisoft’s first game with Ukrainian language, so it’s worth playing it a bit at least to emphasize that we care about the presence of our native language in the game, so maybe the next Assassin’s Creed will get Ukrainian.

To summarize, I’d like to say that right now XDefiant doesn’t look like a game that has reached release. There are few weapons, few factions, few game modes, there are serious problems with the registration of hits, it is impossible to analyze what went wrong because you do not see the replay of your own death (the developers are working on this now). It’s more like an Early Access game, which still needs a lot of work. However, matches here can be very dynamic and exciting if the stars align and everything works as it should. It’s a shame that it doesn’t happen very often yet.