As has become its habit (opens in new tab) in recent years, Ubisoft announced a new multiplayer FPS (opens in new tab) this week. This time, Ubisoft is taking aim at Call of Duty with a free-to-play 6v6 arena game with classes based on other Tom Clancy properties. It's got character abilities, customizable loadouts, a fast time-to-kill, and the early gameplay looks pretty fun.
Oh, and it's called XDefiant (opens in new tab). Yes, that is really the name. Sorry, I should've ripped off that band-aid earlier.
Ubisoft's ridiculous name has, predictably, been the subject of many internet reactions in the hours since the reveal. Collin MacGregor over at FanByte pointed out (opens in new tab) that XDefiant sounds like some sort of cheap antivirus software that comes stock on a Dell laptop from 2009. Others confused it with the kids television network DisneyXD (opens in new tab) for obvious reasons.
IGN's Tom Marks also thought about Disney when he heard the name, but reckons XDefiant sounds more like a 1998 Disney Channel original movie (opens in new tab) about a band of extreme sports friends. "Tom 'XD' Clancy and his crew live the way they ride – to the MAX. But when the gnarly MegaBucks corp. threatens to turn their park into a mall, it's up them pop shove-it back through the power of skating! They are: the XDefiant."
It took me longer than it should've to realize the name is a play off the emoticon XD, which speaks to the game's self-proclaimed style of "fast-paced shootouts meet punk rock mosh pits."
I think Ubi is just trying to say XDefiant (bad mouthfeel) won't be as self-serious as a traditional Tom Clancy game, but they chose a really goofy phrase to do so. As 10 Second Ninja X game director Dan Pearce noted, it didn't help that the trailer included a pause and an audible "swooosh" before "punk rock mosh pits." Dramatic and funny in all the wrong ways.
I can't stop thinking about the little woosh sound between "it's fast paced firefights" and "meets punk rock mosh pit." Whoever edited this trailer needs to apologize to them. pic.twitter.com/xXocGydAgRJuly 19, 2021
There is no shortage of colorful shooters out there nowadays. XDefiant's art style is different enough that I don't think anyone will genuinely confuse it with Apex Legends, Overwatch, or Valorant, but I saw that dude with the gas mask in the key art and instantly remembered that Dirty Bomb (opens in new tab) was a thing. And before that, remember Brink (opens in new tab)? I guess Splash Damage was mixing punk rock and shootouts long before Ubisoft.
The most common reaction to my eye has been one of general skepticism. You don't have to look far on Reddit threads (opens in new tab) or gaming forums (opens in new tab) to find folks unenthused by Ubisoft's next leap into free-to-play multiplayer shooters, especially after Ubi's dedicated battle royale game Hyper Scape came and went last year with little fanfare. A common sentiment is that, even without the funny name, XDefiant looks a bit generic. "I love me some GAAS, but this looks very very uninspired," user Ghost of Jhoto said in the trailer's ResetEra thread (opens in new tab).
I do agree that Ubisoft's reveal trailer focused on all of its least original ideas. Bubble shields and flamethrowers are well-worn territory in FPSes. What I want to know is why XDefiant's shooting (a subject executive producer Mark Rubin kept bringing up) feels better than what's out there. In fact, the glimmer of potential I keep coming back to is the small snippets of gameplay that Ubisoft shared with the press. Instead of slow-pan shots of a soldier holding a laser shield, we get brief glimpses at what looks like really fluid combat.
Less common, but still definitely out there, are the folks like me that are always willing to try the newest FPS on the block. "Terrible name, but I'm completely onboard a f2p, fast-paced arena shooter. Looks similar to [Black Ops 4] when it comes to team abilities, but mostly being able to run and gun solo," said SecondNature (opens in new tab) on ResetEra. As someone who doesn't always want the stress of Rainbow Six Siege or battle royale and isn't feeling the latest Call of Duty (opens in new tab), there aren't many worthwhile alternatives.
The loudest voices by far, though, are coming from the Tom Clancy traditionalists. Many fans feel burned by Ubisoft for slapping Tom Clancy's name, a label previously associated with realistic, tactical military games like the original Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon, on an arcadey arena shooter. Considering Ubisoft teased the announcement by saying a new Tom Clancy game is in the works, the reveal of a very un-Clancy game stung even harder.
"Not sure how I feel about this game having Tom Clancy in its title. Why not just call it XDefiant instead if all the characters there are new and made up? It's as if they just slapped it on there for marketing," said Reddit user Jindouz (opens in new tab).
They're definitely right that the Tom Clancy name is purely there for marketing. It's important to remember that Clancy had no involvement in most of the series that bear his name, including the three games XDefiant is using for its classes—Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, and The Division. The Clancy label was only ever a signal that said, "Hey, this is a modern military game with a tactical edge."
Now the popularity of straight-laced military fare has fallen in favor of more colorful, personality-driven worlds, and Ubi is bringing the name it bought along for the ride.
For what it's worth, Tom Clancy's son Thom Clancy, a chill guy that sells books and streams on Twitch (and says he isn't affiliated with Ubisoft at all), thinks XDefiant looks fun (opens in new tab). Though he "could do without the X."
Couldn't we all.