XDefiant Preview: Tactical FPS Meets Hero Shooter in the Ubiverse

Can Ubisoft's shooterverse outgun an already crowded space? Here's our takeaway from time with an XDefiant preview build.

Can Ubisoft's shooterverse outgun an already crowded space? Here's our takeaway from time with an XDefiant preview build.

With so many games and media properties relishing the idea of interconnected timelines and stories, the mishmash of Ubisoft IPs in XDefiant is not a surprising idea. There are a lot of action titles under the company’s umbrella and quite a few of them involve using guns. In a recent hands-on XDefiant preview, I got a taste for the upcoming free-to-play FPS, and it was enough to leave me wanting more.

You wouldn’t be wrong to assume that XDefiant is meant for the biggest Ubisoft fan, as each of the available five factions — or classes — is based on Ubisoft’s different franchises:

  • Cleaners are from The Division
  • Phantoms are from Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Phantoms
  • Libertad are from Far Cry 6
  • Echelon are from Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell
  • DedSec are from Watchdogs 2

Although XDefiant is inspired by arena shooters and the in-game movement speed evokes that, I couldn’t help but see it as a mix between the familiar Ubisoft tactical shooter and a hero shooter. It’s difficult not to when each faction has both unique Activated Abilities and ultimates called Ultras.

Screenshot by GameSkinny

When you first drop into a match, you’ll be able to choose your faction and your loadout. There will be five factions to choose from in the final game; though only four will be available in the closed beta, we had access to all five in our XDefiant preview.

Each has an exclusive Ultra Ability and Passive Trait, as well as one of two selectable Activated Abilities. It’s a decent way to inject more strategy into the mix and help you choose something a bit more unique when taking the field.

Loadouts are available to any Faction. Along with preset selections, custom loadout slots are available, too, and I soon started creating my own so I could use new skins and any unlocked weapons and attachments.

You’re not stuck with whatever faction and loadout you choose, though. You can change them between spawns. Whenever I felt like what I had wasn’t working, I’d make some adjustments while I waited to respawn.

Sometimes that meant changing my Activated Ability, but sometimes, that meant changing into a different class and equipping a different attachment on my assault rifle.

Screenshot by GameSkinny

Many of the early games I played during the XDefiant preview period were dominated by the Libertad and Phantoms factions, so I gravitated toward the Echelon and DedSec classes the most before trying them all out.

Both Echelon and DedSec are some of the most unique factions in XDefiant, with Echelon favoring stealth and DedSec utilizing hacking abilities to impede opponents. Even though I found the other three classes much easier to make use of overall, each faction feels distinct and representative of the property they’re based on.

XDefiant has five different game modes that feel well-balanced around the factions, as well. All felt viable for each mode. 

  • Domination – Three zones are available to capture, with each one providing one point per second.
  • Escort – One team moves a package while another tries to stop their progress.
  • Hot Shot – Enemies drop bounties when killed and the player with the most is marked.
  • Occupy – One zone for either team to capture that moves after a certain amount of time.
  • Zone Control – The attackers venture further into the defenders’ territory to capture five zones.

When it came to Domination, I particularly enjoyed using the Mag Barrier ability from the Phantoms to shield my teammates. Hot Shot took place in much more constricted areas that felt perfect for either ability from the Cleaners faction.

Either strategy could easily be broken apart if an invisible Echelon was stalking with a shotgun. I can also attest that a DedSec-thrown Spiderbot climbing onto a teammate’s face can create enough of panic and chaos to open an opportunity to gain the upper hand.

Screenshot by GameSkinny

Both the gunplay and movement felt great during the XDefiant preview. The different abilities and Ultras are a big part of the dynamic, and yet they’re a lot more grounded than the spectacular abilities you’d see in other hero shooters.

From the name alone, I had assumed that Ultras would stick out too much, perhaps be too flashy, but I’m happy to say I was wrong. Most fit within the context of the world being built by XDefiant, with the most over-the-top being the Aegis Ultra from the Phantoms — even if a big shield and an electro-scattergun make sense for a high-tech faction.

As an F2P game, it should come as no surprise that XDefiant will have seasons and battle passes. My brief preview did include an exclusive Closed Beta Reward Track that served as a battle pass, which I managed to advance three levels in about two hours.

I would say that feels a bit too grindy, but I’ll also admit I didn’t do well in every match, so that could be why it leveled up so slowly. The separate Challenges system, which unlocks characters and weapons, was much more rewarding.

That being said, XDefiant felt fresh. The factions feel unique and the gameplay itself is fun. At first glance, this is an interesting way to bring together various Ubisoft titles in one title, but I feel confident that it accomplishes its mission so far. It walks the line between tactical and hero shooters very well.

My time with the XDefiant preview showed it’s on target and has a lot of potential to stand out. A closed beta starts April 13, 2023, and the game itself is set to launch in the future on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.

Featured image via Ubisoft.

About the author

Samuel Moreno

Samuel is a freelance writer who has had work published with Hard Drive, GameSkinny, Otaquest, and PhenixxGaming. He's a big fan of the Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil series, but truth be told he'd sell his soul simply for a new Ape Escape game.