Eight million people are said to have played the new online shooter XDefiant in its launch week. One of them was GlobalESportNews editor Kevin. Did he have fun?

I didn’t thinkXDefiantwould attract so much interest. When Ubisoft announced the multiplayer shooter in 2022, my curiosity was only moderately aroused.This was supposed to be the big attack on Call of Duty?

I now know: With over one million simultaneously active players at launch andsupposedly already eight million in totalthe free2play shooter is considered a success for publisher Ubisoft.I was also on the servers.

And what can I say:I really had fun with it!Of all things, this generic-looking 0815 off-the-peg shooter grabbed me – at least for a few days.

XDefiant vs. Call of Duty: The differences

XDefiant is free, so anyone can easily get an impression of the game for themselves. This puts XDefiant one step ahead of its biggest competitor and role model: Call of Duty. Yes, the comparison is a little off, because Warzone is also free. But that’s “only” the Battle Royale mode, other game variants are only available with the full-price titles.

The second difference between XDefiant and Call of Duty:There is no SBMM, i.e. no skill-based matchmaking.Instead of sorting by skill, XDefiant creates lobbies based on the input method, i.e. whether you use a mouse and keyboard or a controller. Internet speed and the region you are in also play a role in the creation of the lobby.

Call of Duty has SBMM, which means that in a CoD lobby you always play against people who are about as good as you are. This means you are constantly challenged and have to work hard to be victorious.

XDefiant wants to create a more relaxed atmosphere than CoD.So you sometimes play against people who are slightly worse than you. Or you can be the worse player and get run over. For a competitive game, of course, that would be complete nonsense. But XDefiant wants to be a casual game that you can play for two or three relaxed rounds

By the way, there is skill-based matchmaking in ranked mode for all those who prefer a challenge.The mode is still in the test phase.There is also a beginner playlist for everyone up to level 25. SBMM is also active here so that newcomers can compete against other newcomers and are not directly overrun and throw in the towel in frustration.

Five game modes for a casual audience

If you know Call of Duty, you also know how the rounds in XDefiant play out.On a total of 14 mapswe compete against each other in 6 vs. 6 battles. The maps are all relatively small, and there are no vehicles or destructible objects. There are no big surprises in the five different game modes. You have the choice between:

  • Escort, where you have to, well, escort a robot dog
  • Zone Control, where one team defends zones that the other team wants to take,
  • Domination, where everyone fights for three conquest zones,
  • Occupation, where there is only one conquest zone that keeps changing
  • Hot Shot, which translates very clumsily into German asKopfgeldkoryphäe. Here you collect coins that your opponents drop after a kill. The team with the most coins wins.

The relaxed approach of XDefiant is also noticeable in the gunplay.None of the 25 or so guns are particularly difficult to control. The automatic weapons in particular are real headshot machines. The shooter is designed for a different type of player than, for example, Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six: Siege.

This is particularly noticeable in the recoil.If I don’t move the mouse when shooting, the recoil in Siege is significantly stronger than in XDefiant. You can find that good or bad, depending on your own opinion. Ubisoft wants to appeal to a different audience with XDefiant than with Siege. So it only makes sense for Ubisoft to adapt gameplay elements such as weapon handling to the target audience

Balancing problems with the arsenal of weapons

However, Ubisoft needs to tweak the weapon balancing again.Shotguns and DMRs (Designated Marksman Rifles) in particular are still too weak. If the TAC-50 sniper rifle can kill an enemy instantly at all distances, even with a body shot, then the double-barrel shotgun should at least be able to do the same at close range.

Machine guns and assault rifles are usually the best choice. But since they all handle almost identically and differ only minimally in rate of fire, magazine size and damage at long range, it almost doesn’t matter which weapon I choose. I still need a bit more variety

New weaponsI get for completing simple challenges. For example, I unlock the MP7 through close combat kills with other submachine guns, I get a new machine gun by simply playing with other machine guns, and so on. It’s nicely done. These challenges aren’t particularly difficult or anything, and many of them are completed automatically if you just play along.

And I unlock new attachments by simply playing the respective weapon. However, this could be a bit quicker,you have to grind quite a bit Alternatively, there are also ready-made loadouts for each weapon type, in which the assault rifle, for example, already has a sight and a fast-loading magazine

How do the factions differ?

There’s more variety in the factions. XDefiant offers five of these, which are formed from different Ubisoft series. The Cleaners from The Division, the Phantoms from Ghost Recon, the Far Cry 6 rebels called Libertad, Echelon from Splinter Cell and DedSec from Watch Dogs.

Each faction consists of three characters that differ only in appearance. Yes, that’s right: which character you play from the factions is irrelevant. They are just different skins with different voices.All members of a faction have exactly the same active and passive abilities.

(All contents of the so-called preseason at a glance)
(All contents of the so-called preseason at a glance)

In addition, the factions do not compete against each other in the matches. The teams are a colorful mix. This naturally raises the question of why: What is XDefiant about anyway? Sure, the story is rather unimportant in multiplayer games. But CoD, Battlefield, Overwatch and even the in-house Rainbow Six: Siege all have their own setting anda reason why these battles take place

XDefiant confusingly doesn’t have that. Ubisoft advertised the factions in advance and now they neither fulfill a faction nor are they interesting.There aren’t even any known characters from the different series.With Splinter Cell I don’t care about Echelon as an organization, I only care about Sam Fisher – who isn’t in the game. Just as little as Nomad from Ghost Recon or Wrench from Watch Dogs.

(Why does everyone shoot everyone in XDefiant? Never mind!)
(Why does everyone shoot everyone in XDefiant? Never mind!)

Each faction gets one passive ability, one ultimate and the choice between two active skillsAll of them are really strong:Echelon has a wallhack, the Cleaners get incendiary ammunition, the Phantoms have more hit points and a shield and so on. But because all the abilities are so strong, they are also balanced against each other.

I’ve often found myself swearing about the incendiary ammunition, but shortly afterwards I’m knocking people down thanks to my wallhack. But it still needs a bit of balancing work, the Echelon faction’s ultimate is still a bit too strong, for example. Ubisoft wants to add new factions bit by bit

Beautifully dynamic, but constantly fidgeting

The movement of XDefiant is like the gunplay:beautifully snappy and fluid However, it’s not always clear where you can and can’t climb. That wall back there? Not an issue. That crate over there? Impossible. How can I tell? Try it out! Every now and then there are yellow markings, but elsewhere they’re missing and I can still get up there. This inconsistency is annoying

(You're moving fast, but the constant movement can cause motion sickness.)
(You’re moving fast, but the constant movement can cause motion sickness.)

In XDefiant, the image section wobbles endlessly. Whether I’m sprinting, sliding, changing weapons, reloading or even standing still,the picturewobbles. What’s more, there are always small doorsteps on the maps that my character stumbles over. So either I’m really playing a bobblehead character or XDefiant has built in realistic recoil after all

This wouldn’t be so bad if I could turn off the shaking, i.e. the screenshake. But I can’t do that yet. At least I can change the effects of glare grenades,so that the picture is not white, but black.Very pleasant, especially in the dark gaming room.

What is there to complain about?

XDefiant currently still has some server problems.Ubisoft needs to work on the match registration. It happens far too often that you are hit even though you have just disappeared behind cover. Or that your own shots are not registered correctly

And the fact that at the end of a round the characters continue to run on the spot looks ridiculous. Especially when the team poses super cool and then suddenly someone cheats their way in at the last moment.

This team line-up at the end of a round is intended to show the achievements of the individual players. Perhaps the player with the most kills is named “Best in the match!”, or the player with the most points is named “Best in the match!”. And if you don’t have such a good round, XDefiant just picks something: I was once the “Best in the Match!” – when it came to hits with flashbangs. Uh, ok?

Another shortcoming: The in-game speakers who commentate on the game babble on and on! Guys, please be quiet for a moment, I just want to play the game! Incidentally, each faction has its own commentator, which is cool. But their lines get old very quickly

Ingame store and microtransactions

XDefiant is a live service game, which means there are microtransactions. However, the store is relatively harmless. Yes, there are skin packs for 70 euros, but it’s just cosmetics for weapons and characters with no impact on gameplay. Besides, the game is Free2Play. You can’t buy game advantages with real money, only the DedSec faction can be unlocked a little faster for around ten euros

It’s a bit annoying that at the end of a round, the Battle Pass progress is displayed instead of the scoreboard. Of course, the large “Unlock 7 rewards now!” buttons should not be missing here. And although there is a new weapon in the Battle Pass, you can also earn it for free. So by modern standards, everything is still completely within reason.

(Weapons can be leveled up and embellished with skins. There is no Pay2Win)
(Weapons can be leveled up and embellished with skins. There is no Pay2Win)

What’s special: Ubisoft has actually managed to monetize the killfeed. When my character dies, I can, no joke, react to the kill with an emoji. Why? I have no idea

Yes, and what do I do if the emojis just can’t show my emotions properly? Right: I just buy a new emoji pack for real money. If only Ubisoft would put as much creativity into other game elements as they do into the monetization options!

My conclusion

XDefiant is a colorful multiplayer shooterwithout any great new ideas for game modes or abilities that has no interesting setting and whose weapons are neither particularly challenging nor varied.

The biggest arguments in favor of the game are the Free2Play model and the lack of SBMM in casual mode. However, it must also be said that the vast majority of people that XDefiant wants to appeal to probably don’t even know what SBMM actually is or don’t even care.

XDefiant wants to be a casual and uncomplicated shooter, nothing more. And it works!In doing so, XDefiant is neither particularly creative nor really challenging.Instead, Ubisoft has simply analyzed what works well on the current market and then copied it well.

The result is a fast-paced shooter with short rounds.In other words, what Call of Duty has been doing for years. I doubt whether XDefiant can really keep up with CoD in the long run, but it’s definitely worth a look, especially because it’s free to play.

The issue of long-term motivationcould soon become a problem. I’ve already unlocked all the weapons after just a few days of play and can still level them up individually, but what’s the point?

(Game modes, weapons, map design: all good average.)
(Game modes, weapons, map design: all good average.)

The standard variants are already very useful and, as I said, the weapons don’t really differ that much from each other. And with the factions, I can only unlock additional skins anyway. So if the actual core gameplay isn’t enough any more,what’s supposed to keep me motivated?

Write me in the comments what you think of XDefiant. Online opinions are very mixed, but on Twitch the game currently has around 50,000 viewers– more than Call of Duty: Warzone.

XDefiant has just found a gap in the Free2Play market and doesn’t fill it in a particularly creative or ingenious way, but the basic structure is solid enough to switch off your brain for a few hours and just play a bit.