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People are hating on MW3, so does that mean XDefiant actually has a chance?

Could Ubisoft’s free-to-play arena shooter fill COD’s boots?

A character from XDefiant is shown beside an image of Ghost from MW3
Image credit: Ubisoft/Activision

Right now, it’s safe to say that the campaign of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’s 2023 reboot is going down like a lead balloon with critics. The consensus seems to describe MW3 as being a pretty dull offering. Its new innovations aren’t executed well, and much of its campaign feels reused and recycled from previous Modern Warfares.

Of course, there’s still plenty of time for MW3 to shine via its multiplayer and zombies modes. With any luck, it’ll impress and entertain its players (cheating problems aside), but right now, things don’t look all that promising for tomorrow’s official launch of MW3. With that in mind, a few of us have been wondering if the disappointment MW3 could cause among FPS vets might pave the way for other live-service shooters to thrive. Namely Ubisoft’s arena-shooter, XDefiant.

XDefiant has been through a few playtests so far, both open and closed. It’s had its fair share of technical issues for some players, but a recent delay has given some hope that Ubisoft is prioritising taking good care of its game. The free-to-play arena shooter is undeniably fun, with rigid, customisable weapons and a roster of characters from Ubisoft’s IPs. Its movement is a little janky here and there, and there is a bit of a skill ceiling involved, which fans of shooters will no doubt take pride in obliterating. There are also overpowered spider-robots that explode on enemy targets' faces, and they’re brilliant.

As live-service shooters begin to feel increasingly stale and repetitive, could there soon be a gap in the market for a shooter like XDefiant to take the industry by storm? Of course, we still have popular shooters like Overwatch 2, Valorant, Apex Legends and CS2 - all of which will seemingly never slow down - but, sooner or later, there has to be a game that can directly attempt to give COD a run for its money. Or at the very least, one that gives Activision some stiff competition to actually be afraid of.

To say XDefiant could be that game is very hopeful. While its use of characters and maps from popular IPs, rigid gunplay, and highly customisable loadouts are fun to play around with, it doesn’t actually do anything to alleviate FPS fatigue. It’s a perfectly serviceable shooter and a barrel of laughs with the right team, but it’s arguably still got a way to go, despite having amassed one million players. While that recent delay inspires hope, because we all know that a delayed game that works is better than a released game that’s broken, this is still Ubisoft we’re talking about. The main issues that plagued many players during beta tests involved connectivity and latency, as well as some balancing problems with its roster of heroes. If Ubisoft irons these out and a little more hype is regenerated before its launch, XDefiant could impress us all. That said, I still don’t think that XDefiant has enough going for it to compete with COD, but there is definitely room for it in the FPS space.

It’s also worth mentioning another upcoming free-to-play shooter that has been impressing players recently: The Finals. This vibrant game-show shooter has been undergoing its own playtests recently, and looks a lot more like a game that could grab the shooter genre by the scruff of the neck. Not only do you need to be able to move quickly and aim your weapon steadily, but you’re tasked with manipulating your environment and using it to your advantage to get ahead of other players.

There’s certainly a gap in the market for a strong arena shooter, but to say XDefiant or The Finals will be giving COD some competition is a bit of a stretch. After all, MW3’s multiplayer mode launches tomorrow for everyone to experience, and maybe it’ll be everything players want and more. If not, someone has got some big shooter boots to fill in the coming months and years.

Those who prefer rigid gunplay and intense skirmishes could find XDefiant filling the COD-shaped hole in their gaming schedules, while those who prefer a more arcade-feel to their shooters will flock to The Finals. They’re both games that are worth players’ time, and could certainly compete with MW3, but I think I’ll be sticking to CS2 for the foreseeable. What do you think?

Modern Warfare 3 releases tomorrow on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC. Here’s when the game will unlock for you, and how to preload it.

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