For the past few months, there have been whispers about a classic respawn game with a transparent development team that could rival Call of Duty. That game is XDefiant, and after the beta went live in April, tons of the FPS community was able to see the potential that the game has.
After some controversy over the Season 3 update in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, there was no better time for the XDefiant beta to go live. It has all the features that classic COD players have been clamoring for since Modern Warfare 2019 and now the community has dubbed this the next great hope for a respawn shooter. But this is not the COD killer that players think it is. XDefiant won’t kill Call of Duty.
Call of Duty Has Fallen as We Know It and XDefiant Wants to Save the Day
Before getting into why this game will never take down the FPS franchise that just never seems to stop, we should start with where COD went wrong and why the Ubisoft shooter is now picking up speed.
After Black Ops 4, the philosophy of the COD franchise changed entirely, starting with Modern Warfare 2019. The games were far more realistic, maps catered to camping playstyles, dead silence was a Field Upgrade, red dots were gone on the mini-map, and Ghost was overpowered. All of these changes fed into a gameplay system where players camped like they are playing Escape From Tarkov.
On top of the complete change in gameplay design, other core elements were removed such as the Prestige system. These changes continued, more or less, all the way up until Modern Warfare 2. Maps and designs improved slightly over 2019. In the process though, movement was entirely hindered. I don’t just mean slide canceling either. Jump shots and sliding have delays on ADS, while strafing is slower than ever. The movement has become so slow that snaking is more prominent than ever.
Enter XDefiant. What are the main selling points of the Ubisoft shooter? Well red dots are on the mini map, footsteps can’t be heard across the map, there is no prone position, prestige systems are supposedly on the way, Ranked Play will be live on release, and movement has reduced penalties. These are all the changes that players in COD have been clamoring for, which were all present in the “golden age” of the Call of Duty franchise.
Even the developers are incredibly transparent, while some of the ex-COD professionals and developers have joined the team as well. In essence, XDefiant is designed to steal away all of the tired Call of Duty players, but are these changes enough?
XDefiant Isn’t All Sunshine and Rainbows
I’ll be as blunt as possible here: the Call of Duty community and streamers alike are getting way ahead of themselves. Everything the Ubisoft shooter has displayed has been fantastic in theory, in terms of utilizing features that COD has forgotten. But there are some glaring issues as well.
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For one, the servers are having some serious issues, and I don’t want to focus on that too much because it could be fixed by release. Every developer says that though, so it’s worth being skeptical. If the servers aren’t fixed by release, the game will be dead on arrival. Players are giving XDefiant far more grace on their mistakes than they would any other game because it has the potential to be a COD killer. If this were any other AAA FPS, the game would be getting roasted for the server issues.
Bugs and server issues aside, those are fixable. It’s some of the designs that could bring the game down, namely the factions and classes. Time and again, classic respawn shooters have flirted with the idea of having heroes and abilities in their games. It almost never works, and when it does, the heroes have limited abilities. Some have cited Black Ops 3 as a good example, but most of those characters had one major ability that was focused on some cheesy weapons. Yes, I know abilities like Kinetic armor existed.
Factions in XDefiant Could Prove Detrimental
XDefiant features characters can go invisible, that can heal, or that can place down shields from which one side can shoot. These aren’t limited abilities either, they appear in under 30 seconds. Unless some major changes happen, you’re going to see tons of players flocking to a few options and spamming those abilities, effectively altering the flow of the game.
In the past, when games like Battlefield or Call of Duty have tried to force too many abilities, it becomes a detriment or a distraction to the main idea.
On top of the factions, there is an entire debate over aim assist. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 certainly has some overpowered aim assist, but XDefiant clearly has some issues. It’s not that aim assist is how it should be, it’s that it doesn’t work the same on every platform. Players on PC and PS5 have repeatedly reported having different aim assist strengths, and I can see that the developers are actively working to figure out the settings. I personally don’t mind the aim assist as it is, but I can tell that the stick feeling is off in XDefiant.
Only Call of Duty Can Kill Call of Duty
Let’s say XDefiant balances all their factions, fix the servers and fine-tune the controller settings. Even then there is one more issue. It seems like gamers might have moved on from this style of game. How will XDefiant retain players in a respawn shooter after the first week or two of fun is over? Some will say Ranked Play, but that’s not the majority of the player base. Others will say SBMM will make the game enticing, and casuals don’t care about that either.
Think about why Call of Duty changed in the first place. The idea of respawn shooters had been failing and the series was losing interest. COD had already killed the idea of the franchise that the community held for so long. Call of Duty won’t go back because the game keeps setting records and has garnered new interest beyond the hardcore players.
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XDefiant now has a massive stage to prove people like myself wrong. I actually enjoy XDefiant as a long-time COD player and would love some competition to the franchise. If the game does well, it could prove to other AAA companies that arena and respawn shooters are back. Will it be a COD killer? No, it won’t, and it will take some drastic action to bring that franchise down. But this could be the window to a new era of FPS and Call of Duty that we’ve been waiting for.