XDefiant is Ubisoft’s latest multiplayer title, a first-person hero-ish shooter that throws together characters from its multiple franchises into one big arena. I got the chance to play XDefiant, and one impression I formed is that Ubisoft is hamstringing itself by keeping the game so Tom Clancy-flavored. While it’s no longer branded as such, XDefiant still carries a heavy Clancy vibe that smothers its charms.
Ubisoft first announced the game in 2021, when it was called “Tom Clancy’s XDefiant.” It’s a multiplayer first-person shooter, where each player selects a character from a faction based on one of Ubisoft’s franchises. These include the Phantoms from Ghost Recon, Echelon from Splinter Cell, Yaran rebels from Far Cry, Cleaners from The Division and DedSec hackers from Watch Dogs.
Each hero comes with their own abilities based on their home titles — Echelon spies can go invisible or use their goggles to spy enemies, for example. However, all of them felt similar during gameplay, and this is in part due to the fact that some of these characters are not from FPSes. They suffer somewhat in the transition. This also means that any differences between the factions, in terms of character and design if not gameplay, has been diluted.
For example, I thought while loading up the preview, “Hey, I like Splinter Cell. Perhaps I should try playing one of the Echelon spies.” I didn’t expect the gameplay to be exactly similar, but I was hoping it would at least have the same sort of vibe, for lack of a better term. And it doesn’t — the aesthetics, powers and shooting are all vastly different from that game’s home series.
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XDefiant needs to be more light-hearted
While playing XDefiant, I can feel a twinkle of hope for some of Ubisoft’s lesser franchises to get a little love in a cross-franchise shooter. Imagine being able to play as someone from Beyond Good and Evil or Prince of Persia? Fans of those games have waited a long time for them to get some love, and Ubisoft has pushed them further and further onto the backburner.
XDefiant has the potential to give those neglected franchises a breath of air, but it’s held back by a lack of one necessary ingredient: Whimsy. That’s the only way to make these franchises work together — a devil-may-care disregard for tone. But XDefiant doesn’t have that, and I blame that on the Clancy-ish design decisions embedded in the game so far. While it’s not entirely lacking in amusement, it has that dour, serious attitude so pervasive in works associated with the late author.
To put it another way, I feel there’s a version of this game where, say, Team Rainbow and the Assassins can be part of the same team and it’ll look and feel right. But the version I played during the preview and beta isn’t it. I look forward, though, to seeing what Ubisoft could do with XDefiant in the future as it adds more characters and maps. Perhaps there’s hope for some levity.
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