Xdefiant Early Impressions Review
Screenshot: Ubisoft

xDefiant early impressions review – A promising start

Ubisoft's latest online free-to-play shooter.

If you asked me what xDefiant was, I’d tell you to imagine what the Ubisoft cinematic universe looked like. Try to imagine what an Avengers-type film would be, but with Ubisoft franchises. It’s a very strange way to describe xDefiant, as I didn’t know what it was until booting it up. But this online first-person arena shooter has factions from five different Ubisoft franchises competing with and against each other. Sounds kind of silly, right? Well, after playing it for a couple hours during the short public test sessions, I can say that xDefiant looks like a promising start to a fun free-to-play experience.

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I’ll be honest upfront and say this isn’t the typical game I play. I’ve never really tried an arena shooter, although I do enjoy first-person shooters. In my first few matches, I really felt disoriented and confused, but it takes a bit of practice to learn what the game is all about. After starting to get the hang of it, I was having a lot more fun than I realized. If this were a game you’d have to pay for, I may think much differently. But since it’s free-to-play, I really think Ubisoft may have something enjoyable. Here’s my early impressions review for xDefiant after playing the PTS that showed me it had a promising start.

Xdefiant Early Impressions Review Arena

Screenshot: Ubisoft

Don’t knock it till you try it

For anyone thinking about trying this game out once it releases, it’s hard to say no. It’s free, so why not attempt to play a few rounds? In my opinion, you should give it more than a few rounds. Even after doing some of the training, I had to play a few unranked matches to get the hang of things. It can be quite overwhelming at first, not knowing what each Faction does, and what all the abilities do.

After I found my groove, I could see myself playing this game a lot more. There are currently five different game modes, and multiple unique maps. Anyone who has played a ton of Ubisoft games will probably enjoy this, seeing as the five Factions are based on five Ubisoft franchises: the Cleaners (The Division), Phantoms (Ghost Recon), Libertad (Far Cry), Echelon (Splinter Cell), and DedSec (Watch Dogs). There are three characters to choose from in each Faction, but they don’t really matter, since you can decide between two different abilities per Faction.

Figuring out which Factions and abilities I gelled with most took a few tries, especially since some abilities may not work exactly how you think. There are also a plethora of weapons to choose from, even your own choice of loadouts. There are a ton of combinations of Factions, abilities, and weapons to decide on, so while at first it may not feel great, you may not be playing your perfect build.

Xdefiant Early Impressions Review Fire Gun

Screenshot: Ubisoft

A balance of stiffness and smoothness

At some points, the movement felt a little too stiff for my liking. You can run, jump, and even slide. But sliding just doesn’t feel that good. I always compare sliding in games to Apex Legends, because I feel like that’s the peak of good sliding mechanics. xDefiant feels like it should feel smooth as butter when sliding under a door, but you only go a short distance, and you lose momentum quickly.

But then there are times when it does feel good to control your character. I never experienced any lag, framerate issues, or stiffness when it came to everything else. If you think you can jump over something, you probably can. Ladders are also there and don’t impede your movement too much. Everything but the sliding felt genuine to me, and I typically blamed my aim for my deaths rather than bad movement.

Speaking of deaths, I do like how quickly you can respawn after a death. It’s super fast, with typically a few seconds of cooldown, and you’re right back into the match. You may have to run a bit to find teammates or enemies, but overall I wasn’t bored waiting to respawn after death.

Xdefiant Early Impressions Review Shield

Screenshot: Ubisoft

Verticality and uniqueness of the maps

Something that I instantly took note of during my time with xDefiant was how good the maps were. Many maps in video games, especially shooters, may just rely on everyone being on a level plane. But in xDefiant, there were many areas to climb up to, or jump down to. Maps were packed with places to hide behind, and many open areas for you to look out into. There was never a place you could truly hide, you have to always be on your toes for spotting enemies.

I also thought each map was entirely unique from the rest. You can vote for the map you want before the match starts, which I appreciate. Some were a little bland in color, while others splashed with all shades of the rainbow. The variations in maps, alongside the freedom to vote, was nice to see. Also, the maps are places related to those Ubisoft franchises.

ubisoft shooter

Screenshot: Ubisoft

Cool abilities, but long cooldowns

There’s quite the variety of abilities and tactics you can use, depending on which Faction you’ve chosen. Since there are six players per team, you have a ton of options for balancing your team’s tactics. Libertad are the supports with healing items, DedSec has the helpful tech, Cleaners use deadly fire, Phantoms are your shielders, and Echelons can hide or track enemies. This can fit with a lot of playstyles, and I favored the Echelons, as I liked to scan for enemy locations nearby.

Although I enjoyed these abilities, I found the cooldowns to be way too long. For instance, as soon as I got my ability to scan enemies, it would last for a decent amount of time, but then it took around 25 seconds to come back. I often found myself dying too soon after using my ability, and it was wasted. Especially when it came to the ultimate abilities (which felt like I rarely got to use), the waiting time for using them felt extremely lengthy.

I would sometimes forget about using my ability, just because I forgot it had finished its cooldown. I’m not sure if other players share my sentiment, but I wish I got more chances to use those tactics. Nevertheless, I thought each Faction had a good variety of abilities with their own practical usefulness.

What the future holds

We’ll just have to wait for xDefiant to fully release to see how the public really feels. So far, from my research, it seems many players enjoyed playing the PTS, just as much as I did. It’s not the next greatest first-person shooter, but I think it has a promising future ahead. There were a few funny glitches during the PTS, but of course, it’s just a PTS. Hopefully, upon full release, xDefiant sticks with fans, because I overall enjoyed my time with it. Anything free is at least worth trying out once or twice.

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Anyka Pettigrew
Anyka Pettigrew has been a Staff Writer for PC Invasion since November 2023 and a Contributing Writer since February 2023. She is a Canadian graduate of a Bachelor of Arts degree who has been writing in games journalism for four years. Anyka is an avid guides writer but also enjoys writing anything from news pieces, to reviews, and even opinion pieces. Having a never-ending passion for video games for as long as she can remember got her into a plethora of genres like action adventure, RPGs, horror, survival etc. Some of her favorite franchises are God of War, Persona, The Last of Us, Zelda, and Resident Evil. She also enjoys reading fantasy and sci-fi books, as well as drawing digital art. Anyka also regularly listens to podcasts on gaming news from 'Kinda Funny Games', and 'Play, Watch, Listen'.