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XDefiant needs to embrace its beloved franchises before its too late

After a disappointing time in the recent XDefiant beta, I need Ubisoft's much-delayed FPS to come out of the gate strong on PS5 and Xbox.

XDefiant launch date consoles: An image of the Cleaners and Echelon factions in XDefiant.

Conceptually, XDefiant sounds like a superb FPS. It merges some of Ubisoft’s most beloved franchises into a melting pot of scintillating shooter chaos, utilizing each factions’ strengths to rise above your foes victoriously. Yet, the most recent beta left me cold, despite playing much stronger builds in the past. I want the shooter to become a multiplayer staple, but the arrival of the XDefiant launch date could be a make-or-break moment.

There’s just something missing from XDefiant, or at least there was in my most recent experiences with Ubisoft’s forthcoming FPS game. Despite multiple builds of the gaming making their way into the hands of PS5 and Xbox players, it doesn’t feel like there’s a tangible evolution underway. Instead, gameplay comes across a regression of its formerly fast-paced, sleek feeling gunplay. Firefights are often hindered by de-sync and latency issues, or just purely unbalanced encounters.

I can’t count the amount of times in the beta where I was killed around corners, despite making it into adequate cover. Furthermore, my internet connection is more than capable of handling multiplayer games, but there were times when XDefiant was so broken I had to hot-spot off my mobile phone to even match-make properly. When the game did decide I was worthy enough to participate, navigating its menus did little to inspire me for the battles ahead. We typically look to combat as the bread and butter of shooters, but finer details like UI design are just as important.

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It’s why recent Call of Duty games like Modern Warfare 2 and Modern Warfare 3 are an absolute eyesore to boot up. Does anyone actually like those seemingly endless arrays of Netflix-like tabs? Using a game’s menus should set the tone for what lies ahead, as well reaffirm the aesthetic atmosphere the developer is going for. Embark Studios does this exceptionally well with its rival shooter The Finals, wearing its game-show setting proudly in every facet of its existence. Diving into any multiplayer mode gets you and your squad hyped, too, with a slick intro cinematic showing your descent into the arena.

XDefiant doesn’t need to necessarily copy that, but it could at the very least embrace the diverse XDefiant factions heading the game’s roster. After all, Ubisoft has teams based off the Splinter Cell, Watch Dogs, and Ghost Recon franchises to play with. At present, XDefiant’s visual design lacks the level of polish that Ubisoft has afforded to its other multiplayer titans The Division, or dare I say, Skull and Bones? For all of its quadruple-A blunders, at least it looks the part.

The flourishes of a good time are there, though, which is the must frustrating part of playing XDefiant. Sweaty skirmishes push me to harness my chosen operator’s abilities to their fullest potential, or send back to the lobby to refine the best XDefiant loadouts until my weapon is ultra-efficient. Roaming around as the Echelon class can genuinely elicit some memorable moments, reminding me why I fell in love with the Splinter Cell games all those years ago.

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The game’s maps are easily the greatest strength of XDefiant so far. Unlike the game’s uninspired UI, each locale succeeds at giving you a taste of the franchise it’s drawing inspiration from. Each of them becomes familiar quickly, making me feel like I know them like the back of my hand. In my previous chat with executive producer Mark Rubin, he assured me that the game’s maps will go to places “you wouldn’t expect” further down the line. That’s part of the game’s ethos to stray away from the directions of its rivals, as Rubin believes XDefiant isn’t out to be a ‘Call of Duty killer’ when it launches.

However, despite those noble intentions, it will have to compete with its competitors regardless. XDefiant has a chance to provide a rejuvenated vision of familiar shooter elements, but it can’t shy away from what makes its multi-franchise approach exciting.

Remind us why Ghost Recon is beloved, why The Division is captivating, or why Watch Dogs showed promise in the past. Right now, the only thing the game is defying is its own potential.