XDefiant Review

Written by Vince Abella

This game had quite a lot working against it, from poor initial marketing to an underwhelming Closed Beta, but in the end, after a long time of confusion of whether or not it would even come out, it finally released. It does feel like the COD-competitor it has been marketed as, feeling like Black Ops 2 and 4 combined thanks to its movement, feel and abilities, but has the issues of other free-to-play titles with its painful and empty progression combined with more bad microtransactions.


Familiar Feeling

Something worth noting about this title is just how similar it is to many other shooters, from the game modes all the way down to the gameplay. The core structure is very similar to classic Call of Duty titles with its 6v6 matches and three-lane maps, and like Black Ops 4, there are operators that take the form of belonging to different factions from Ubisoft titles.


The Division, Far Cry, Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon and Watch_Dogs are the franchises represented in the game’s five classes on launch, with each of them having a certain specialty. Far Cry (6)’s class focuses on healing, The Division’s Cleaners deal fire damage, Echelon from Splinter Cell is reliant on intel and sneaking around, Ghost Recon’s Phantoms favor defense, and Watch_Dog’s DedSec prioritizes tech and gear. 


All of them have special abilities like Echelon being able to go nearly invisible or ping enemies nearby, while DedSec has a Spiderbot that can stun and even kill enemies, with a major special ability unlocking mid-match. It’s not quite unlike Black Ops 3 and 4’s operators, with their own abilities and special gear per character.


The classes are also reminiscent of modern Call of Duty’s Gunsmith, with up to 4 attachments available on some guns, and fewer on others, changing the way you use a gun by a little bit. Nothing quite revolutionary in these systems, but it all is functional, if very familiar. 10 classes with the usual primary, secondary and grenades fill up your loadout screen, and it can be easy to bounce around between guns if you want to experiment.

Weapons and how they function also aren’t anything new, but at the very least, they’ve managed to make them feel far better than in the closed beta. They’re responsive, but they do have a tendency to feel rather weightless. It works for the game’s fast and fluid movement, but they aren’t anything to write home about with regards to their design and functions.


Worst of the familiar feeling comes from the game modes, with a surprisingly limited number of them. The game was released with 5 game modes, with Occupy, Domination, Zone Control, Hot Shot and Escort. Anyone who has played Overwatch will be familiar with Escort, and the limited game modes leave players with very little to return to. The ranked mode doesn’t release for a few more weeks, but the lack of content is already easy to feel. One of the biggest things one would notice is the lack of a Team Deathmatch mode for example, so here’s to hoping they add more modes in the future.


There is also a training section that has a lot of references to other Ubisoft properties. Characters from not only the classes make appearances, but others as well, like the Rabbids in the training area. There isn’t a dedicated tutorial for the characters, but it really isn’t necessary given how easy the game is to pick up.


Maps are a little familiar but they have enough depth to them to be fun. There’s some maps like Attica Heights that have two layers to them with one part being above and another being under with players able to jump down into the middle, and others that are straightforward with three lanes and some elevated planes and parts. They’re all pretty nice to look at, with the aforementioned Attica Heights being pretty along with the cool design of Echelon HQ. 


Thankfully, it doesn’t take inspiration from the extremely open levels of Modern Warfare 2019, but more so the classic titles that everyone loves. There are 4 maps available for the Escort and Zone Control modes, with all of them being interesting enough to have fun in freely. While there already is a decent amount of quantity, it is good to see that the maps didn’t dip too much in quality.


Competitive Combat

It’s surprisingly tough playing XDefiant with all of the incredibly powerful abilities available and the rather quick time it takes to kill someone. Pretty much all of the weapons are very easy to utilize in a match, with LMGs for example doing very well to take out both enemies and support items like shields with its fast fire rate, and assault rifles being generally really reliable. The responsiveness of the controls also helps a lot, with its familiar feeling helping ease players experienced with FPS games into the title.

Where things get tough is how some weapons feel overpowered. The sniper rifles in particular are strong, with a lot of long corridors and maps allowing one to take opponents out from very far away. Spawns do also mess up sometimes and get you killed within 5-10 seconds of coming back to life. It’s not too difficult to deal with, as there is a lot of cover, but it is frustrating at times.


Not all of the classes are equally balanced, with one particular extreme outlier. Echelon’s aforementioned ability to go invisible is really hard to deal with because of how fast the gameplay is, and their other ability, being able to get enemy locations, is as busted as it sounds. Echelon isn’t a game-breaking operator, but they definitely make it a lot harder.


Dedsec takes a lengthy grind to unlock, which is already extremely annoying, but it gets worse once you realize that they’re not so good. They only have one good ability, the Spiderbot, which stuns and can even kill enemies, but the second one, the Hijack, isn’t so good. It may work when you need to hack an enemy’s ability, but given the state of the game, there’s not a lot of opportunities for that always, and it ends up being extremely situational.

The others are all powerful enough in their own way, with Phantoms in particular being popular with their shield-heavy approach, and it only gets worse when they’re shooting from behind said shields. Those are the only times you can really use the previously mentioned Hijack, but you likely won’t be using DedSec anyways, much less with that ability.


Ultra abilities work as you would expect them to, and they are all indeed very powerful, save for the one and only DedSec. The Cleaner’s flamethrower isn’t always reliably strong because of your health being the same, but it is still very powerful, but its utility is far and away above that of DedSec, which only stops you from using your abilities. It’s likely to do very little considering they can still shoot their guns, and the ability might even be on cooldown from being used given how often they’re pulled out.


Libertad from Far Cry 6 giving a big health boost helps a lot, and I’ve found myself firing away on someone only for them to tank a lot of hits with the help of healing boosts, ending up dead very soon after. Echelon once again proves to be powerful, revealing enemies and getting a two hit kill pistol to use.


Painful Progression

The game feels nice and it is definitely fun enough to hop on, but there is a certain stinking thing holding it back a lot. Mentioned was the grind it takes to unlock DedSec, with it requiring 700,000 total experience points to unlock. It took me so many games and far too many hours to unlock the class, and it’s made so much worse with how bad it is compared to the other available free ones.


Obviously, the fastest and easiest way to unlock DedSec is through paying money for it. Progression otherwise feels so sluggish, and once you unlock every gun there is, there’s not really a whole lot left. There’s obviously the individual weapons you can level up, but it’s easy to find a favorite very early on and run with it. I’ve stuck with the Double Barrel Shotgun for a lot of my time with the game, and the M4A1 is a consistently reliable pick.


Progression does feel a bit all over the place, as you have to complete challenges to unlock weapons instead of hitting a level mark. It’s a nice change, but sometimes they feel either too easy or shockingly difficult. It was hard to get 15 Marksman Rifle Longshot kills because of just how small and tight a lot of the maps are, while others include just having to sprint for 4 minutes in total with secondary weapons. It’s nice having challenges to complete, it’s just a shame that other than new weapons, Faction Characters and a Sticky Grenade are all you really get.


There’s not much motivating things to unlock after you get it all, with the game having a battle pass and in-game credits. What makes it worse is that you have to buy the second cheapest amount of credits to get the Premium Battle Pass, with the cheapest “XCoins” option falling 200 short of the battle pass’ cost. You can’t even buy the battle pass itself, so you have to pay more for it and have a few XCoins that aren’t enough on its own to buy anything.



XDefiant has quite a few things going for it, being something that serves as a sort of throwback for modern FPS players with its nice gunplay and map designs, but as a whole, it is severely let down by a lack of content, heavy microtransactions and really sluggish and generally unrewarding progression. It is fun and is very easy to go back to in the hopes of more content, but as it is, there’s quite a few things to iron out before a clear image of how long the game will last can develop. 


About the author

Vince Abella

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