XDefiant Hands-On Preview

Welcome to the Ubiverse!

by Matthew Kevin Mitchell
Image: Ubisoft

XDefiant is the new free-to-play multiplayer first-person arena shooter from Ubisoft. During my preview of XDefiant, I attended a 30-minute presentation by members of the Ubisoft team. The presentation went over why Ubisoft wanted to make XDefiant, the different aspects of the game, and their commitment to the longevity of the game. It became clear from the start that the Ubisoft team created XDefiant out of their love for old arcade shooters while taking inspiration from modern FPS shooters.

After that, I had unrestricted access during a two-hour hands-on preview. This allowed me to play all five of the Factions, all five game modes, most of the 24 weapons and associated attachments, and 14 different maps. The result was a surprisingly fun take on the genre that made me want more after my hands-on preview.


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The custom loadouts in XDefiant are of your typical variety. If you’ve built one in the last ten years, this will look extremely familiar. The one potentially negative aspect is the need to unlock different pieces of equipment through challenges and leveling before you can use them. This initial roadblock limits the loadout you can create but provides plenty of motivation to unlock everything.

XDefiant’s custom loadouts differ from other games because you can use your custom loadouts regardless of what Faction you pick. This means you can set your perfect loadout and use it whenever you change your Faction in response to how much is playing out. As a result, unlocking equipment through completing objectives doesn’t seem as bad now.

XDefiant Maps

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What I loved about XDefiant was its map design. So typically, with shooters, we tend to gravitate to a handful of favorite maps and hate the rest, but the ones I got to play on were all enjoyable. Whether the fast-paced and small Arena map, the massive Meltdown map, or the brutal multilevel Attica Heights map, each was fun to play regardless of the game mode. The overall design, aesthetics, and visual aspects of the map are hands down better than most other games on the market today.

Game Modes

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XDefiant takes game modes from popular first-person shooters like Call of Duty and Overwatch. For example, the Hot Shot game mode is the same as Call of Duty’s Kill Confirmed game mode. In this mode, you kill the enemy and collect their dog tags. You also have the chance to deny an enemy kill by collecting the dog tags of your fallen squadmates. Likewise, the Escort game mode in XDefiant is highly similar to the Payload game mode in Overwatch, where your objective is to escort a valuable payload from one side of the map to the other (or stop the other team from doing so).


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Where XDefiant shines over other first-person shooter games like Call of Duty or Overwatch is the creation of the Ubiverse and the game’s classes being modeled after famous characters from within the Ubisoft library. What is even more exciting is that Ubisoft has plans to release a lot more Factions based on their games every season.

The five launch day factions include:

  • The Cleaners are a faction of villains from Tom Clancy’s The Divison.
  • The Phantoms are based on the Specialist class from Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Phantoms.
  • The Libertad is a rebel group that fights the Castillo regime in Far Cry 6.
  • The Echelon is from Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell game.
  • The DeadSec is a hacking collective from the Watch Dogs video game series.

Near the end of my two-hour hands-on preview, I increasingly found that Libertad was the most popular faction. This is because three of the five players choose one of the two versions of Libertad in each match due to her overpowered self-heal and team-healing abilities. While it was amusing to be running around with a map full of Libertads, it was concerning about Ubisoft’s balancing of the five Factions (and additional Factions added later). If you or your team didn’t follow suit, killing the enemy and winning a match was hard because the other team could heal themselves or their teammates infinitely until they won.


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All of the weapons felt overpowered and overly tuned during my hands-on experiences. For instance, you could defeat an enemy using an SMG before the clip was empty. Likewise, when used in close quarters, you could one-shot an enemy with the shotgun.

However, I found myself partial to the sniper rifle and light machine gun, depending on the size of the map and game mode. You can also one-shot an enemy while performing close quarters, with no scopes or long-range scoped shots. The Light Machine Gun has a huge ammo capacity but a slow reload time. However, I found that the ammo capacity lasted for the duration of enemy assaults, and I could reload again before they regrouped and attacked again making the slow reload time not an issue.

It’ll be interesting to see if the weapons will remain overpowered with no negative tradeoffs when the game launches and if they will adjust weapon performance using player feedback during hands-on previews and closed betas.

Additional Content

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Along with unlocking equipment for your custom loadouts, you can do many additional tasks to keep yourself busy. This includes a seasonal Rewards Track where you can unlock exclusive Faction character skins, weapon wraps, equipment, and Faction characters. In addition, you can earn badges for performing specific in-game feats and complete challenges for every piece of equipment.

The Verdict

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During the presentation, my initial reaction was that XDefiant would find a niche market with players who consume everything in the extensive Ubisoft library because it includes characters from their popular games, but that wouldn’t offer anything groundbreaking to the genre for unfamiliar players. However, I was pleasantly surprised with my short hands-on experience, and I believe XDefiant can shoot its way onto the scene and go head-to-head in the FPS arena for a long time.

- This article was updated on April 14th, 2023

About The Author

Matthew Kevin Mitchell has been a contributing writer for Attack of the Fanboy and PC Invasion since 2022. Matthew primarily covers Manga like One Piece, horror movies like Scream, and survival horror games like Dead by Daylight. His favorite moment came during his first press event covering Scream 6 for AotF. He hails from Denver, Colorado, where he received his Bachelor of Science in Information Technology from Regis University. When he isn’t scaring himself silly or writing, he loves to play ice hockey, spoil his dog, and drink an unhealthy amount of coffee.