XDefiant Review – A Welcome Throwback

For quite some time, many Call of Duty fans have been building animosity towards the series. With each entry, it seems they step further from what made people fans in the game’s heyday. Between new modes and mechanics that attempt to capitalize on trends to skill-based matchmaking and microtransactions, Activision has tarnished much of its goodwill with fans. That’s probably a huge reason why so many games are labeled Call of Duty killers. Usually, that term doesn’t mean much, but XDefiant may be the first game under that umbrella to put its money where its mouth is.

On This Page

XDefiant is the new first-person competitive shooter developed by Ubisoft San Francisco, and it’s already been blowing up in gaming media as of late. Originally announced in 2021, the game garnered a lot of attention and the “Call of Duty Killer” moniker almost immediately. It’s a free-to-play title that sees two teams of factions across Tom Clancy games face off in typical competitive shooter fashion. It’s almost as if Overwatch and Call of Duty merged under Ubisoft’s collection of properties. The effect it will have on Call of Duty is yet to be seen, but it is shaping up to be a possible hit.


If you’ve played a first-person shooter over the last 15-plus years, you should have a slight idea of what to expect from XDefiant. Games take place under a handful of game modes, ranging from Control to Escort missions a la Overwatch. While no form of basic deathmatch is available yet, a mode similar to Call of Duty’s Grind mode exists, focusing solely on collecting tokens that enemies drop. Instead of dropping them off somewhere, you collect as many as possible. The match’s top player becomes the “Hot Shot”, granting them buffs at the cost of being visible. Things like this make XDefiant feel like the old Modern Warfare games while switching things up enough.

The classic arcade feel immediately takes me back to high school.

Movement and combat feel almost decent, but I’d be lying if I said some things didn’t feel stiff at times. Still, the movement has enough going for it to make the matches fast and full of action. The main factor that helps keep the pace up is the existence of factions, which also encourages a diverse set of playstyles. Each one has two passive moves to choose from, as well as primary and passive abilities. Loadouts are carried across factions, so you can tweak your setup to match your exact style or need.


The rebel tech group from Watch Dogs uses knowledge of technology to hack enemy equipment and gain the upper hand. Their ultra-ability prevents nearby enemies from using any ability for a limited time. They can also disrupt enemies’ heads-up displays and summon a small robot to attack enemies. This is the only faction that is locked at first, but it can be unlocked by earning enough XP.


Essentially the Third Echelon branch of the National Security Agency from Splinter Cell. The Echelon focuses on recon and stealth. They are unable to be seen on enemy maps and have the ability to be invisible for a limited time. Their ultra ability allows them to see through walls and equips them with a pretty strong silenced pistol.


The Phantoms are from the Ghost Recon game of the same name, and their focus is defense. Phantoms are capable of using shields and barriers to allow them and their teammates to have some extra cover for attacking and capturing respectively. They are very effective especially when controlling the map is your goal.


The Division’s Cleaners are the most aggressive of the factions. They’re capable of dealing heavy amounts of fast damage with their flame-based abilities and ammo. Their active abilities are a flaming drone and firebombs, and their ultra ability is a straight-up flamethrower. They even have access to incendiary rounds. This entire faction is an especially dangerous one.


Far Cry 6’s freedom fighters from the island of Yara are a faction tailor-made for support players. They can boost regenerating health for themselves and nearby teammates, as well as make objectives safer zones with the use of special gas canisters. They are effective allies that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Graphics and Sound

I’d be lying if I said the graphics and sound in XDefiant were groundbreaking. I’d also be lying if I said they were ugly. However, one thing this merging of worlds does have that makes it stand out is its mesh of different styles. Each map comes from one of the factions’ universes. Maps like Echelon HQ look dark and mysterious while maps like Nudleplex look like you’re fighting in a literal shopping center playground. The use of art style ensures none of the characters stand out too much, no matter the arena.

The sound is not too groundbreaking either, though it is nicely designed and mixes the different layers of effects well. It’s just typical sound design for an arcade first-person shooter. But that’s more than enough for a game that seems to want to disrupt Call of Duty’s place in gaming. In all honesty, the end result is exactly what I had expected. With that end goal and the fact most factions are from Tom Clancy titles, it isn’t hard to know what to expect graphically and audibly.

If it weren’t for parts of the hud, many of these screenshots would look like they were ripped straight from a Call of Duty title.


This factor alone may be what makes or breaks XDefiant. The competitive nature of this game may be what draws in hardcore Call of Duty Players. On the inverse, the existence of true casual connection-based matchmaking could keep the casual players coming back. However, that same focus on a handful of multiplayer playlists could tire out both sides of that coin. So many factors at play can heavily impact replayability for any given player.

Personally, I can only see myself playing it for a few hours per week for some quick gameplay. I’m not so into the grind of modern competitive shooters anymore, though I do like to casually enjoy such games. XDefiant appeals to that side of me, while still providing enough for those players to enjoy. So I must give it credit where credit is due. It’s like a slightly healthier alternative to the junk food that is the Call of Duty franchise.

For some, there’s only so much you can unlock before the gameplay loop starts to get stale.


XDefiant takes the typical FPS multiplayer formula and makes an easily digestible, fun free-to-play title. This, along with the inclusion of so many Ubisoft franchises, makes for a pretty entertaining game. As a free-to-play alternative to Call of Duty, it works well too. It feels closer to an earlier Modern Warfare or Black Ops game, and that works in its favor. Some of the lesser enjoyed elements like microtransactions do exist, though. Still, everything can be unlocked through challenges at the moment, so it isn’t pay to win. Plus, that’s just part of the free-to-play business model. As of now, its weakest parts don’t outweigh its strongest, and if it can improve upon both, XDefiant just may achieve the longevity it needs.


  • Classic first-person shooter gameplay
  • Free-to-play
  • Combines iconic Ubisoft games


  • Repetitive gameplay loop
  • Lack of deathmatch modes


A Decent Competitive FPS

XDefiant is like a blast from the past. It capitalizes on the part of the Call of Duty fanbase who miss the older formula. The free-to-play aspect is definitely going to benefit this game in the long run.

Trevor Walker
PS5 Reviewed