Ubisoft’s latest bid in the live service space comes in the form of XDefiant, a free-to-play first-person arena shooter. That might sound pretty run of the mill, but in a bid to stand out, it features maps and factions inspired by some of Ubisoft’s most popular franchises, like Far Cry and Splinter Cell, and mashes them all into an arcade Call of Duty-esque experience. Last week we were able to get some hands-on time with a PC build of the game, and the question on our mind remained throughout our entire session: is this enough to break into an already crowded live service market?

Truth be told, it is nigh on impossible for a publisher to bring out a truly original and attention-grabbing live service game in this day and age. In a world filled to the brim with titles like Fortnite begging for your undivided attention, how do you break through the noise? Ubisoft has fallen victim to the brutal live service market before, and it will be hoping to avoid those mistakes here. Although across our time with the game, XDefiant felt more like Hyperscape than Rainbow Six: Siege on the potential hit scale.

At its heart, XDefiant is an arena shooter inspired by the likes of Halo with just a dash of Overwatch in there too. Teams of six will face off in arena battles, where both the factions you play as and the maps you play in are inspired by Far Cry 6, Ghost Recon Phantoms, The Division, Splinter Cell, and Watch Dogs 2. Ubisoft is crafting up what it calls the “Ubi-verse”, and what we have at launch is just the beginning. It’s a pretty niche selling point, but if hacking your way through a match as a Deadsec operative from Watch Dogs in the tropical setting of Yara from Far Cry 6 sounds like your kind of thing, then maybe XDefiant is for you.


The mix and match nature of Ubisoft’s various franchises does give XDefiant a vibrancy that’s missing in most modern shooters. Thankfully, it isn’t all just aesthetics either, as map design was a particular highlight during our play session. With 14 maps arriving on launch, Ubisoft has taken a classic approach to design, with ten of the maps featuring the infamous three-lane arena layout. We didn’t get to try out all of the 14 arenas, but the ones that we did shoot our way through felt unique in their own way. They wouldn’t feel out of place in a peak Call of Duty entry, with big explosive areas to fight over, plenty of choke points, and even a splash of verticality.

This classic design philosophy seems to have carried over into the gameplay too, which has a fast-paced arcade feel, with decent time to kill and a specific yet controllable feel to each weapon. Ubisoft said it wanted to attain an easy to learn yet difficult to master style of gameplay, and with the variety of weapons on offer we imagine that will be the case. We primarily focused on the assault rifle, SMG, and shotgun, but you can also expect marksman rifles and snipers. Each weapon is said to have close to 40 attachments too, allowing you to fine-tune your loadout — although with our limited time, that’s not something we really got to test out.


Taking player customisation that one step further is the aforementioned factions. Each of the five factions, which will be available on launch, come with their own perks and abilities. For example, The Cleaners from The Division can activate a deadly incinerator drone, whereas the Splinter Cell Echelon spies can utilise a digital ghillie suit to effectively become invisible. Each ability will have a counter ability too, so players are going to want to try to find what Ubisoft called the “meta-combo”, mixing both abilities and weapons. Overall though, there's nothing new or special with these faction abilities. Phantoms are your tanky support players, Libertad are your healers, and Cleaners are your aggressive pushers. If you’ve played anything from Apex Legends to Destiny, you’ve experienced a variant of these archetypes before.

But let’s get into the real meat of this subject: the live service angle. Ubisoft was incredibly keen to emphasise just how hard it's going for post-launch support with XDefiant. Taking into account that the game will launch with 14 maps, 24 weapons, 5 factions, at least 4 modes, --and again, it will be free to play — it's already starting on a pretty solid foundation.


Not long after its launch the first season of content will bring a 4v4 ranked mode, battle pass, new maps, weapons, and even a new faction. And this will supposedly be the case with each new season, every three months. So on the content front, players shouldn’t be getting bored if the central gameplay loops manage to reel them in. But that’s the big gamble, and brings us back to that integral question: is it enough?

It’s hard to say for sure, but XDefiant didn’t feel like a revolutionary attempt at the FPS genre, and the “Ubi-verse” selling point feels misaligned considering that it's pulling from games that are nothing like XDefiant itself. Is a fan of an open world third-person hacking series really going to commit themselves to a live service first-person arena shooter? Perhaps, but it’s not a bet we’d like to make ourselves.

Ultimately, it’ll just be a waiting game to see if XDefiant finds its audience. It's shaping up to a fun and snappy arcade shooter, and although it lacks any truly unique aspects, it’s still refreshing to have a fully-fledged PvP experience that isn’t a battle royale, or another Call of Duty. And hopefully, Ubisoft’s post-launch commitment should give it plenty of room to grow. While we weren’t entirely won over by XDefiant, we still have our fingers crossed that it'll be given a fair shot.

Do you think XDefiant sounds like it could be another win for Ubisoft? Or does it have another potential dud on its hands? Let us know your own thoughts down in the comments below.