XDefiant review in progress — The Ubiverse combines into one epic fps experience

1 month ago 60

Ubisoft’s new free-to-play first-person shooter has finally arrived! No stone will be left unturned this time around as we dive back into what I hope and feel is the next promising shooter experience. Obviously XDefiant has some big guns to compete against, but there’s a lot going on in Ubisoft’s latest that will surely leave a mark.

To start, the game is finally able to be played by console players. So far, we’ve only seen early access available on PC, but now people on Xbox and PlayStation can also hop in, with full crossplay and cross-progression between all platforms. Secondly, the game is completely free to play. You don’t have to fork out a pile of cash just to play, and the barriers of needing Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Network are torn down. Of course, this calls into question the game’s sustainability since it won’t be relying on game sales to make a profit, but as with any other developer of a free-to-play game, Ubisoft has a plan. XDefiant’s longevity will be supported by microtransactions, of course! Thankfully it looks like they’ve kept it simple, at least for now. There’s a seasonal battle pass (and a preseason pass going on right now) as well as a storefront where players can purchase cosmetics for characters and weapons. Hopefully they stick to this simple formula, but only time will tell.

The gameplay maintains that arcade shooter style that was popularized by earlier FPS games. While it is very chaotic and fast-paced, it still manages to maintain balance between that chaos and still being incredibly fun to play. The biggest thing for players to remember while playing XDefiant is that playing the objective is a must, you can’t win your matches strictly by kill count (unless you’re playing Hot Shot, but you still have to collect those bounties as well).

We have a clearer picture of the different modes and the maps they can be played on. There are ten starting arena maps for head-to-head matches of Domination, Occupy, and Hot Shot. There are also four linear maps for Escort and Zone Control, for both of which you are trying to advance the objective while the enemy tries to stop you. Unfortunately there’s still no word yet on if/when single-life modes will be introduced, though we did hear that they’re certainly on the table. There’s just something about single-life modes, like Search & Destroy. Are they entirely necessary in an arena shooter? Overwatch would say “No,” but I’m on the bus that would love to see them introduced to XDefiant’s lineup. I think it would be nice to add a classic Team Deathmatch mode as well.

In Unranked, you’re able to pick from any of the modes available and hop straight into a match for that particular mode. However, there isn’t a Quick Play option that rotates all modes, except the Welcome Playlist, but that’s only for players under level 25, and it only has 3 modes in it; Escort, Domination, and Occupy. Quick Play is a staple for FPS games across the board, so for it to be absent in this one seems a little strange. In place of Quick Play, you are able to make your own custom playlist. Once you’ve selected the modes you want to play, you can launch it and the matchmaking system will find matches that fit your preferences. I still feel like it would be better to have an actual Quick Play option, however. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to figure out how the custom playlist option actually worked.

There’s also a ranked playlist, though the ranking system isn’t currently in play until the start of the first season. Ranked really isn’t that different from Unranked based on what I’ve seen. In Ranked you engage in 4v4 matches with “competitive rules for competitive players”. What those rules are exactly remains a mystery, however, as there’s nothing there to explain how the Ranked system works, whether it includes specific modes, whether or not there’s abandon penalties, etc. The only major difference I’ve seen thus far, aside from it being 4v4, is that there’s map voting in Ranked.

Something that will be immediately noticeable, especially to veterans of the FPS scene, is the lack of Skill-Based Matchmaking. Skill-Based Matchmaking (SBMM) is a system put in place to make sure players are paired up with and play against players of a similar skill level. We touched on this a little in the preview last year as well. It is completely absent in XDefiant, meaning players really do have to “get good” while the game also allows higher-level performers the opportunity to have a more casual experience. This is a return to how competitive shooters used to always be. There’s no more hiding behind the skirts of a matchmaking algorithm that punishes players who’ve taken the time to master the craft. I’m certainly not one of those players (I’m exceedingly average at best), but I feel like the game is far more enjoyable when each match really is a wild card, never knowing what will be thrown at me next. The only place SBMM really belongs is in Ranked, which I hope is fully implemented as it makes much more sense to have skill-based lobbies when your rank is at stake.

Something we didn’t have a chance to mention in last year’s preview are the Ultra abilities for each faction. Each faction an ultra ability that can change the tide of a match in a heartbeat or get your team that clutch last-second victory. If you’re as exceedingly average as I am, it’ll take a bit to get those Ultras charged up — there have been plenty of matches I’ve played where I never got to use it. Set the enemy team ablaze with the flamethrower, put up the ultimate defense with the AEGIS plasma shield, or give your team the health boost they need to keep going. They’re fun to use if you can manage to execute them before someone interrupts you.

A couple of fun things they’ve included for player-to-player interactions are the post-match high fives and death emojis. At the conclusion of a match, you’ll see your team lined up with whatever their contribution was. Some of the highlights you’ll see are who had the best Kill/Death Ratio, the most objective time, and the most healing, but then there’s also “Ran Around” and “Moral Support” for those who maybe didn’t do as much as they probably could. I got “Moral Support” once after joining towards the end of a match. On this screen, you can also click on a teammate’s contribution highlight to give them a high five, giving you 100xp and the recipient 200xp. For the death emojis, when you die you can select from a handful of emojis to react to the death, which shows up in the kill feed alongside your death. Give a thumbs up if it was a well-earned kill or a mad face if you’re getting curb-stomped. The high fives and death emojis are a silly little addition that I feel aim to put a little smile on one’s face.

Progression in XDefiant is a well thought out system, whether it be for simply leveling up your battle pass or unlocking new faction characters or weapons. The preseason battle pass is live and features 50 tiers of goodies, including cosmetics and XCoins, the in-game currency. Initially, gaining tiers feels a bit sluggish, but with only 50 to unlock, it’s really not that bad. Again, just get good and you’ll unlock those tiers faster.

Unlocking characters and weapons goes beyond simply leveling up. Instead of being based on an experience point system, you unlock new characters and weapons by completing weapon class or faction specific challenges. For example, to unlock the ACR 6.8, you have to get 10 longshot assault rifle kills (>30 meters). To unlock Seleste from the Libertad faction, you have to heal 5,000 health for allies using El Remedio. It’s still a very simple system that also encourages players to step outside their comfort zones and hone in on specific skills. Once you’ve unlocked the weapons you want, you can gain weapon mastery by leveling it up, which unlocks different attachments as well as weapon mastery tier skins (bronze, silver, and gold). There’s no hoop jumping there.

If you’re wanting to learn about or experiment with different loadouts or factions, you can head to the Practice Zone. It’s a work in progress still, but you can visit the Firing Range inside to test out different guns and then head over to the Assault Course to test your skills in a time trial. There’s also an Abilities & Ultras section, however that section is still under construction, or the Rabbids broke it. Yes, Rabbids! The Practice Zone is the big Easter Egg dump of XDefiant. There’s a Rabbid stuck in the barrier that blocks off the Ultras & Abilities section. You’ll find references to a lot of Ubisoft’s IPs like Assassin’s Creed, Immortals Fenyx Rising, Rabbids, Far Cry, The Crew, Just Dance (DDR style), Rider’s Republic and others. However, even though the Rabbids broke the Ultras & Abilities area, you can still unleash them in the concourse.

My biggest gripe with the game has been the lack of in-game explanations to understand how some things work. The fact that I can’t read anything about how the Ranked system is going to actually work, or the fact the custom playlist looks more like an afterthought in the matchmaking menu, is a little off-putting. We know Ubisoft’s studios are capable of putting out some amazing games, including their shooters, so to not have all of these systems fully fleshed out is a little disappointing.

Of course, there will be much more to see once the first season officially launches. I’m curious about what new characters and factions will be added with each season, as well as any new maps and modes. That being said, stay tuned to GamingTrend.com and our YouTube channel for our final impressions, coming soon!

Cassie Peterson is an Editor for Gaming Trend but also a sporadic content creator and exceedingly average Rainbow Six Siege player. She goes by MzPanik on Twitter and Twitch and all of the gaming platforms.

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