Sullying Tom Clancy’s name might not be XDefiant’s only problem
Ubisoft it is in the midst of a major transition. Once a bastion of content-rich single-player games in multiple different genres, from Ghost Recon to Assassin’s Creed, the company’s portfolio is quickly becoming almost exclusively a selection of “live service” multiplayer experiences, a change in strategy likely brought on by the immense commercial success of Rainbow Six: Siege and The Division. And earlier this month, Ubisoft announced the imminent arrival of another of the same type: Tom Clancy’s XDefiant.
Hardcore fans of Tom Clancy’s video games, who have traditionally relied on military realism and tactical gameplay, already seem annoyed by XDefiant. Its debut trailer, which hasn’t had a positive reception based on its like / dislike ratio, showcases a fast-paced arcade shooter complete with Overwatch-like abilities and colored by an equally bombastic lineup of hero personalities. . These are all on trend and honestly predictable design choices for a contemporary shooter, but none that represent Tom Clancy’s hallmark in any way, shape, or form.
When you consider the celebrated lineage of Tom Clancy’s games, which were original stories but still felt authentic and genuinely connected to the author’s beloved universe, it’s not hard to understand why some perceive XDefiant as a betrayal of all that it stands for. for a game. affiliated with the Tom Clancy brand.
Of course, Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy games, over the years, have slowly drifted away from hardcore military simulation to, well, whatever sells: The Division was designed to take a share of the looters and shooter market, and Ghost Recon was sucked into a similar game. Initiative focused on RPG. Splinter Cell is not considered lucrative enough to exist. But clearly, to some, XDefiant feels like a step further: it seemingly abandons any belief that marking a game as part of the Tom Clancy universe means more than just increasing sales.
I can see where they come from. Even the name itself, XDefiant, which is a silly game on the “XD” emoji, was almost certainly suggested by a man who was wearing a very expensive suit and trying to be smart. I imagine him now, sitting in a big armchair smoking a cigar and smiling to himself about his hip and his idea. Tom Clancy would roll in his grave …
Then there’s the aesthetic, which tries to differentiate itself with vibrant colors and a kind of dystopian punk theme, but somehow manages to look incredibly generic in the process. So do his absurd-looking heroes, whose various designs and superhero powers seem ripped from the pages of a comic rather than a military novel. All of this has already been done by other video game franchises, and there’s nothing remotely “Tom Clancy” about any of it.
However, you would be lying to claim that any of this is likely to make a big difference to XDefiant’s prospects for success. I’m sure most of the younger audience who inevitably download and play XDefiant aren’t too concerned about the nuances of the Tom Clancy brand. For them, as now for Ubisoft, apparently, all that Tom Clancy’s distinction means is that it is a blockbuster shooter made on a blockbuster budget.
The broader and more relevant question, then, is how XDefiant actually plays. And from what I’ve seen so far, the big takeaway is that Ubisoft is targeting a new corner of the FPS market, one somewhere between Counter-Strike and Overwatch, but one that is still not quite as tactical as something like Valorant.
Ironically, if ever there was a template to copy for forging a Tom Clancy game with hero play, Valorant would have been appropriate. It’s a very tactical, demanding teamwork and precise weapon game reminiscent of the Rainbow Six games of yore. Instead, however, XDefiant seems to put much less emphasis on those values. With its precision laser, running, and shooting weapons, and emphasis on utility-intensive use, it looks a lot more like something like Call of Duty with a hero game, something that comes as no surprise when you realize that its executive producer is Mark. Rubin, who worked on Call of Duty: Ghosts.
However, in reality, if there was only one game to compare XDefiant to Apex Legends, it is not the Battle Royale mode, but the new Arena game, which recently saw its player base resurface. It amazes me that Ubisoft seems to be intent on grabbing a new slice of the FPS market by trying to adopt a similar formula with its own standalone product.
Whether that chunk is big enough to hold up XDefiant is a huge question mark and will ultimately justify Ubisoft’s decision to slap Tom Clancy in front of his name or watch the entire effort fail spectacularly.