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XDefiant is Ubisoft’s latest multiplayer title, a first-person hero-style shooter that brings together characters from the various franchises in one big arena. I got a chance to play XDefiant, and one impression I got is that Ubisoft is paralyzing itself by keeping the game so Tom Clancy-esque. While no longer branded as such, XDefiant still has a heavy Clancy vibe that smothers its charms.
Ubisoft first announced the game in 2021, when it was called “Tom Clancy’s XDefiant”. It is a multiplayer first-person shooter where each player chooses 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 has their own skills based on their home titles. For example, Echelon spies can turn invisible or use their glasses to spy on enemies. However, they all felt the same during gameplay, and this is partly due to the fact that some of these characters don’t make it out of FPSs. They are having some trouble with the transition. This also means that any differences between the factions, in terms of character and design, if not gameplay, have been watered down.
For example, while loading the preview, I thought, “Hey, I love Splinter Cell. Maybe I should try playing one of the Echelon spies.” I wasn’t expecting the gameplay to be exactly the same, but I was hoping it would at least have the same vibe, for lack of a better term, and it doesn’t – the aesthetics, powers, and shooting are all vastly different from the home series of that game.
XDefiant should be lighter
While playing XDefiant, I feel a glimmer 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 been waiting a long time to get some love, and Ubisoft has kept putting them on the backburner.
XDefiant has the potential to bring a breath of fresh air to those neglected franchises, but it’s held back by the lack of one necessary ingredient: Quirkiness. That’s the only way to make these franchises work together – a diabolical disregard for tone. But XDefiant doesn’t have that, and I blame that on the Clancy-esque design decisions that have been embedded in the game so far. While it’s not entirely lacking in entertainment, it has that dour, serious attitude that’s so pervasive in works associated with the late author.
To put it another way, I feel like there’s a version of this game where, say, Team Rainbow and the Assassins can be part of the same team and it looks and feels good. But the version I played during the preview and beta is not it. However, I look forward to seeing what Ubisoft could do with XDefiant in the future as it adds more characters and maps. Perhaps there is hope for some levity.
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