XDefiant is a strong arena shooter with or without franchise crossovers

Ubisoft San Francisco's free-to-play arena shooter's hook is that it crosses over a handful of the publisher's franchises, but even without that, it's just fun to play. Shacknews takes a first look.


Ubisoft's XDefiant has taken on a few forms since it was first announced years ago. It was originally meant to be somewhat of a Tom Clancy all-star shooter, spotlighting characters and scenery from the vast array of series titles. That's still the idea in a way, but developer Ubisoft San Francisco has since gone bigger. The arena shooter has opened its doors to more of Ubisoft's most recognizable FPS titles to create something with crossover appeal. However, even without all of those bells and whistles, XDefiant is shaping up to be a fairly competent arena shooter. Shacknews recently had a chance to jump in and check it out.

Facing off in a Far Cry 6-themed map in XDefiant

Source: Ubisoft

XDefiant allows players to select a soldier from one of five factions, each representing a different Ubisoft title. All of the factions have their own distinct abilities and gadgets to go along with standard firearm builds, whether they be assault rifle, light machine gun, submachine gun, shotgun, or sniper rifle. These are the crews that players can join:

  • Cleaners (Tom Clancy's The Division): The former sanitation workers of The Division know how to clean up. They can utilize Incinerator Drones that lay down carpet fire across an area and can also unlock a flamethrower capable of mowing down multiple targets.
  • Phantoms (Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon): The Phantoms of Ghost Recon specialize in futuristic warfare with a focus on defense. The Mag Barrier can prevent incoming fire and provide an opening for teammates to take out the opposition from a distance.
  • Libertad (Far Cry 6): The freedom fighters of Far Cry 6 have stocked up on drugs for this fight. The BioVida Boost can immediately heal players to full health and gives them a second chance to return fire. They can also unlock area-of-effect healing to assist their teammates.
  • Echelon (Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell): Sam Fisher may not be part of this game himself (at least not yet), but Echelon specializes in Splinter Cell-style deep cover, hiding in the shadows, and striking when the time is right. The Digital Ghillie Suit allows players to go invisible and ambush their targets when the time is right.
  • DedSec (Watch Dogs): As players have learned with the Watch Dogs series, DedSec fights with information and also through disruption. They can use their Hijack and other special abilities to disrupt the opponent's gadgets and put them at a severe disadvantage.

At its heart, XDefiant aims for the arena shooter atmosphere of days past while incorporating modern shooting mechanics, such as loadouts and special abilities. Even without the distinctly Ubisoft coat of paint, what I played felt like a strong arena shooter capable of standing on its own merits. Gunplay felt smooth, regardless of the weapon selected. Those who don't feel good about their faction or loadout can switch at any time to something they're more comfortable using. All factions, outside of the unlockable-via-gameplay DedSec, are available out of the box.

While XDefiant is at its best with traditional modes like Domination and Occupy, the game also features other specialty modes. Escort requires teams to push a payload forward, like something out of Overwatch and Team Fortress 2. Zone Control is territory control with a moving control point. Hot Shot, the most interesting mode we tried out, is a bounty mode that requires players to collect tokens from fallen corpses with bonus tokens coming to anybody who can eliminate the current leader.

Of course, with XDefiant being a free-to-play title, there's naturally going to be a battle pass system in place. Ubisoft is looking to incorporate free and premium battle passes with rewards that include gun skins, character skins, weapon attachments, and many more. No word on the battle pass pricing as of now.

Those curious about what XDefiant looks like and how far it's come since it was originally announced in 2021 may not have to wait too long. The closed beta launches today and will run through Sunday, April 23. Those interested in jumping in can either sign up on the XDefiant website or watch a partnered Twitch streamer for 30 minutes. Just make sure your Ubisoft Connect account is linked to Twitch first.

This preview is based on an early access Ubisoft Connect code provided by the publisher.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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