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XDefiant finds a perfect middle ground between Call of Duty and Overwatch

Key art for the GSK faction for XDefiant.
Ubisoft

When I first installed and started to play XDefiant, I didn’t think I’d like it. It looked like a random mishmash of Ubisoft IP. I didn’t think it would pull off the gameplay mix between hardcore military shooters like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and hero shooters like Overwatch 2. Thankfully, XDefiant proved me very wrong, and I’ve had a hard time putting the game down since I started playing it ahead of Season 1.

The aspects of XDefiant that I thought would be weaknesses ended up being its strengths. It provides the power fantasy of a hero shooter while also delivering the engaging mission types and intricate gunplay of a military shooter. Gameplay customization doesn’t just happen on a hero or weapon level, but both at the same time. Although certain areas of XDefiant’s presentation could be much better, it’s a fun celebration of the Ubisoft franchises featured.

From a gameplay perspective, XDefiant truly finds the middle ground between Call of Duty and Overwatch. Before a game starts, players choose a faction to play as. Each of these factions is based on a Ubisoft game and has three agents that players can choose and customize with unique skins. While individual characters don’t have unique abilities, the factions do. I ended up being drawn most to the Echelon faction based on Splinter Cell because its abilities let me temporarily go invisible or see an enemy through walls. That’s something that would get me banned in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, but feels perfectly balanced and accounted for in XDefiant.

XDefiant
Ubisoft

Other faction abilities feel equally powerful. Rainbow Six Siege’s GSK lets players place a trap over an objective, while Far Cry 6’s Libertad provides easier healing. By making every faction feel useful, with none feeling particularly weak, players are free to choose the one that fits their playstyle the best. That removes the pressures of role queue or always thinking about proper team compositions that typically permeate through hero shooters, although that is something probably worth considering when you’re playing Ranked mode competitively.

While those gameplay elements and modes like Escort feel pulled from Overwatch 2, the game feel is a lot closer to military shooters like Call of Duty or Battlefield. Call of Duty alumni helped create the project, and that can be felt with how fluid and intuitive XDefiant’s gunplay is, the attention to detail given to things like match voiceover being unique for each faction, and very rewarding per-weapon progression and loadout customization.

Typically, the weapon progression of Call of Duty is something I have a hard time getting into because those games have such a quick “time to kill.” I never feel like I get to spend enough time with a single weapon to make leveling it worthwhile because I always feel like I need to change my approach to fights. XDefiant has faction abilities and a longer time to kill than Call of Duty, though, so I had enough time to learn that I really like LMG weapons and have made a more active effort to upgrade and kit out my weapons.

XDefiant gameplay with UI.
Ubisoft

XDefiant perfectly mixes elements from shooters that I struggled to get into. Oftentimes, melting pot design like this can make a game feel creatively bankrupt; look at something like The First Descendant. Admittedly, XDefiant’s obtuse menus and user interface, poor battle pass full of relatively useless cosmetics, and lack of any coherent narrative premise do hurt it as well.

Still, its hybrid design makes for a multiplayer shooter that feels tailor-made for me. If this all sounds appealing to you, then I highly recommend checking out XDefiant if you’re looking for the next multiplayer shooter to add to your rotation, even if you initially thought it wouldn’t be for you like I did.

XDefiant is available for free across PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.

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Tomas Franzese
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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