XDefiant review in progress: Snappy shooter a few updates from greatness

Nathan Warby
XDefiant cover art

Ubisoft’s XDefiant delivers a thrilling, fast-paced FPS that, with a few improvements in future updates, could go on to be one of the very best games the genre has to offer.

XDefiant‘s announcement and initial beta tests earned plenty of hype among FPS players, with many hoping it would be a free-to-play alternative to Call of Duty. But a handful of major delays and a rocky pre-launch test session dampened the excitement.

Now, after a lengthy wait, the game has finally arrived and it’s already shaping up to be a fast and fun way to blast through Ubisoft’s greatest hits, but there’s still work to be done before it lives up to its lofty potential.

Here’s our XDefiant review in progress based on the Preseason version of the game.

Perfectly balanced

XDefiant player shooting
XDefiant has a diverse roster of weapons.

After nearly a full week of grinding its launch offering of maps and modes, it’s fair to say that XDefiant delivers where it matters most – in its moment-to-moment gameplay. Each gunfight is as tense as it satisfying, thanks to the fast time-to-kill that makes every single shot count.

Although hit registration has been inconsistent since launch, leading to a few surprising deaths despite it appearing that I had made it to cover, for the most part, every match is a blast to actually play.

The launch lineup of weapons all feel distinct and suit different playstyles, whether you prefer to get up close and personal with an SMG like the MP7 or pick enemies off from afar with the TAC-50. It’s also refreshing that, in my experience, there isn’t one standout pick dominating the early meta. There’s no doubt that some options are stronger than others, but each gun has a place and time to shine.

A few tweaks needed

XDefiant gameplay
Each Faction comes with a choice of two abilities.

It’s mostly the same story when it comes to the five unique Factions available during Preseason, as they nearly all feel viable in their own way. That being said, though, certain abilities already feel less effective than the other offerings.

For example, Echelon’s Intel Suit and Low Profile passive are perfect for revealing enemy locations, but the Digital Ghillie Suit’s invisibility is nowhere near strong enough to make switching seem appealing. Meanwhile, DedSec, overall, is lagging behind its rivals as the ability to hack doesn’t have the same universal benefit as dropping down a shield or inflicting fire damage.

All that being said, one of XDefiant’s greatest strengths is that, unlike a game like Overwatch, the abilities are there to complement the gunplay – not replace it. While those who master a Faction’s skills and chain them together with teammates will see the victory screen more often, reflexes and accuracy are still the name of the game.

That becomes a double-edged sword elsewhere though, as while the maps are mostly well-designed and varied enough, not all of the modes are created equally. The standard arena shooter playlists like Domination and Occupy all work as well as expected, but Escort sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the others.

Heavily inspired by the Overwatch mode of the same name, the rapid TTK means matches tend to be a landslide victory for one team. This is because it’s too easy to pick off multiple enemies at once and there are no restrictions in place to ensure both teams have a healer, meaning the attackers can make up plenty of ground in the blink of an eye, or defenders can easily stop the robot in its tracks, eliminating the tug of war that makes this kind mode thrive.

Stress to progress

Weapon XP can be hard to come by in XDefiant.

Although I’ve enjoyed my time with XDefiant so far, there are still a handful issue of early issues that need addressing to ensure its long-term success. One of the biggest that both I and the community have noticed is that progression feels slow to the point of being unrewarding.

Weapons take a painfully long time to rank up, which is especially frustrating since the best attachments are often locked behind high level caps that reach well into the 40s. After nearly a full week of mixing and matching with all of the different options available, I’ve barely managed double figures with one single gun, so it’s likely to take dozens of hours of grinding to fully level up just one weapon.

This is likely due to the slender lineup of weapons included at launch, to ensure that players don’t run out of things to do too early. However, putting so much time and effort into earning XP for one gun is a slog, often making me think twice about changing class from match to match.

Battle Pass progression also suffers from the same slow grind, drip-feeding you with rewards at a snail’s pace if you don’t have any Boosters active. In fact, the only level that feels fairly balanced so far is your player level, but these don’t currently earn you anything except for bragging rights.


XDefiant is already an incredibly fun first-person shooter full of fast-paced gunfights and tense encounters. While its potential as the “CoD killer” remains to be seen, what’s here is an enjoyable and polished experience that’s already got its hooks in me.

It isn’t perfect, as the slow progression and a handful of minor balancing issues lead to occasional frustration. The lineup of weapons is also pretty slender, but these are all problems that could be addressed in the many post-launch updates that have been promised.

By building on this strong foundation, XDefiant could go toe-to-toe with not only MW3 and Black Ops 6, but the CoD series as a whole for years to come.

Sign up to Charlie INTEL for free and receive:
Fewer Ads|Dark Mode|Deals in Gaming, TV and Movies, and Tech