XDefiant Review - Screenshot 1 of 4

Xbox 360 era Call of Duty was a special time for Activision's long-running FPS franchise. Call of Duty 4 burst onto the scene with unprecedented popularity back in 2007 — pairing smooth, fast-paced gunplay with a deep, addictive progression system — and most of the series' Xbox 360 follow ups built on the formula fairly successfully. Now, in a world full of bloated, self-serious COD games, Ubisoft has hired one of the series' long-time leads to create a proper competitor - one that mimics that golden era to a pretty successful degree.

Enter XDefiant, then, Ubisoft's answer to players hankering for some old-school FPS fun. This particular title takes what made the competition successful, throws in a bunch of Ubisoft IP, and brings it all together on the company's Snowdrop Engine for a more modern look. It all works rather well, and all we can say is we've had a very good time with this game so far - even if it isn't without fault.

XDefiant Review - Screenshot 2 of 4

For those wondering, unfortunately XDefiant doesn't have any form of story campaign to speak of - there aren't even any PvE modes at launch. This is a pure PvP experience right now, with the team electing to focus on that core first and foremost. We like the approach though, especially for a free-to-play title. XDefiant knows exactly what it wants to be and nails the brief right out of the gate, with a selection of objective-based game modes to get stuck into on day one.

You've got FPS mode mainstays like 'Domination' and the King of the Hill-inspired 'Occupy' here in XDefiant, alongside the Overwatch-flavoured 'Escort' mode and a couple of other novel additions - nothing crazy, then. We've spent a good amount of time in each mode so far and they all work well - we particularly like the classic Domination mode; it just works in spreading the action across the map and providing little pockets of combat wherever you turn.

What really makes the modes work though is the game's fantastic map design. Thematically the levels may be pulled from various Ubisoft IP like Far Cry, The Division and Watch Dogs, but design-wise they're singing from a classic FPS hymn sheet. Three lanes is the name of the map-making game, and this ruleset applies to pretty much every map here in XDefiant. None of them feel too similar though and they all have their little nuances and party tricks - 'Dumbo', 'Liberty' and 'Pueblito' are our top three picks so far, but every single one is playable and enjoyable which is a good sign of things to come.

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Combat is fast-paced in XDefiant, perhaps a little too fast, and this is probably our biggest area of concern so far. The game takes notes from more modern shooters in speeding things up and avoiding downtime - it can just feel a little overwhelming from time to time. All of the maps and modes present so far are specifically designed to get you into the thick of it ASAP, but we do appreciate those times where a little more patience and strategy can be applied in online FPS titles. To be fair, some slower-paced game modes or even just a basic deathmatch option would probably slow things down a little bit, and these are the sorts of options we're hoping XDefiant brings to the table down the road.

Our thoughts on the game's gunplay are similarly mixed. The bones of XDefiant are solid and you can absolutely see the inspiration from classic COD here - everything feels fast, snappy, deliberate. However, we'd definitely take a bit more 'weight' to the weapon feel if we were to nitpick. It's not the worst case of floaty-gun-syndrome we've seen in recent major FPS releases — that award would maybe go to Battlefield 2042 — but this is another area where there's room for improvement should the team wish to tweak things. From a pure gunplay POV, XDefiant definitely lags behind its contemporaries in The Finals and modern Call of Duty, but it still gets to job done to a satisfying degree.

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There's been some controversy surrounding progression and the time it takes to level things up in XDefiant around launch, and while we perhaps agree to an extent that levelling does feel a bit slow, we don't think it's a major issue. The team is already running its first 2x XP event this weekend, and we're bound to see more tweaks in this area as the game progresses. If Ubisoft gets what it wants out of XDefiant it should be sticking around for years to come, which will give us all plenty of time to level things up and unlock some of the game's late-stage gizmos, attachments and camouflage patterns. Patience, gold camo fiends!


XDefiant has been built to scratch a very particular online FPS itch, and the more bloated and complex AAA shooters have become, the more we've come to appreciate an experience like this. The game could do with a little more content, and some tweaks to gunplay and progression wouldn't go amiss, but we can't see why XDefiant shouldn't have a bright future ahead of it. Ubisoft has shown us all that it has the patience to stick around with online shooters if they have a solid community — just look at the near decade-old Rainbow Six Siege — so this should definitely be one title worth investing some time into. XDefiant isn't perfect, but this is a very promising start and we're already becoming invested in where Ubisoft's latest Xbox FPS can go.