Hood: Outlaws & Legends

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Sumo Newcastle
Release Date: May 10, 2021

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PC Review - 'Hood: Outlaws & Legends'

by Andreas Salmen on June 4, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Hood: Outlaws & Legends is a multiplayer PvPvE heist game where you gather your team of Outlaws and attempt to steal treasure from an oppressive government in a dark and violent, medieval world.

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The tales of Robin Hood are probably some of the best-known English legends around, and there's rarely a decade without a movie or show that interprets his merry adventures anew. However, there is a distinct lack of decent Robin Hood video game adaptations. Hood: Outlaws & Legends doesn't quite go that far, but it takes the principle of robbing the rich and spins it into a refreshing take for an online multiplayer game. The idea is intriguing and the presentation is solid, but the game fumbles due to a lack of content at launch and the encounters feeling slightly unbalanced.

Hood is a PvPvE multiplayer title for current- and last-gen consoles and PC. A stronghold full of treasure is guarded by the state, and two teams of four players infiltrate the edifice while fighting NPCs and each other. Each round has three distinct phases: The key has to be stolen from the sheriff's waistband, you have to locate the treasure room, and you carry the treasure chest to an extraction point and use a winch to bring it to safety. You'll likely start a match stealthily, but it devolves into a more intense phase that likely ends up in an all-out brawl over the winch.

For me, Hood works best in the stealth sections. Sneaking inside a castle with three other players feels pretty great; you slowly move forward as your mates take down NPCs left, right, and above. It also feels good to execute a last-moment takedown before being detected or prevent a teammate from being hit. Stealth is done in a way so that it is not mandatory but beneficial if you want your team to succeed. If you've played any stealth game before, Hood should feel familiar. Hiding behind objects or in large bushes is the main way to stay hidden, so you can sneak up behind a guard or enemy player to sever a few vital arteries. The game is also reasonably vertical; its castle walls and some multi-level areas are helpful for the sniper class to take down enemies.

Hood enforces and entices stealth in a few ways. If you're spotted, the current area is locked down. Doors close and enemies are on the lookout for you until you re-enter stealth or flee. Furthermore, being discovered marks you on the enemy team's map, so it's easier for them to find and eliminate you — or they can execute their game plan if they see that your team is further away.

Another tactical advantage is capturing spawn points, which can be found across the map and are worth considering before extracting your chest. If a spawn point is nearby and in your possession, your chances of winning are much higher. You may even choose an extraction point (there are multiple) that is as close as possible to your natural spawn point to fall back on.

NPC characters are fairly easy to handle and don't pack a punch. The only exception is the sheriff, who holds the key to the treasure chest and is an invincible one-hit kill force to be reckoned with. At best, you can stun him for a short period, but otherwise, he isn't incur damage, so he's quite the obstacle, although he's sluggish as a snail.

Grabbing the key is where you'll be most sneaky because of the sheriff. Locating the treasure chamber also requires stealth, so you don't give away the key or chamber location. This is often where matches devolve into an all-out brawl between both teams. If it doesn't happen at that point, then the extraction of the treasure chest is a sure thing.

However, the combat mechanics are less enjoyable. One-on-one combat is clunky and imprecise, and it's difficult to battle a melee character with a ranged unit. Since those situations organically appear, they can feel frustrating since both the sniper and rogue classes cannot block and counter normal attacks. When caught in a skirmish that you cannot flee, you'll often wind up dead due to a lack of viable options. It's a minor complaint, but it doesn't end here. The game also lets you assassinate player characters by sneaking up on them. It's hugely satisfying to catch an opponent off guard, but you can often execute these attacks in mid-combat. That means you may be involved in a tense one-on-one battle, and someone else can insta-kill you out of nowhere. It's logical since you are otherwise occupied, but it isn't much fun to be on the receiving end. Executing it feels significantly better because you're not the one dying, but at the moment, it feels like an exploit.

What's perhaps most frustrating is how some matches can feel like the rug was pulled out from under you. You can obtain the key, find the vault, and extract the chest, but if the opposing team manages to wipe out you and your team before you're done, they can win, which negates the work that you've done up to that point. This is a very subjective opinion and one of the biggest gripes I have, but Sumo Digital has since posted a developer update stating that, statistically, the team that completes all objectives prevails most of the time. It's a small consolation, but if your team has done most of the heavy lifting, you'll likely go home with most of the progression and XP rewards. It doesn't change the feeling of being robbed when the opposing team swoops in and benefits from your hard work, though.

This brings us to the characters in Hood, who are derived directly from the tale. You take control of either Robin, Marianne, Tooke, or John. Robin is the obvious sniper, who's armed with a bow and deadly at ranged combat. Marianne is the stealthy rogue character, best for up-close executions and decent short-range crossbow damage. Both of these characters are most effective from a hiding spot. Tooke and John, on the other hand, are out in the open and deal damage most of the time. John is a hammer-swinging tank that deals and receives a decent amount of damage, with a special that amplifies his damage output. Took can deal good damage from medium range and is the party's healer.

As character classes go, they look and play very differently, so each is a viable choice and can have different advantages. John as the close-quarters combat class is the easiest one to get the hang of at the start, and you'll always want him in your party because it's a huge detriment to play without John's damage-dealing prowess.

A group doesn't need to have each character present. While you can be victorious with any composition, having a full team with all characters always felt the best for balance. The individual character classes have other distinct qualities, such as John's ability to open doors that are too heavy for the rest of the party. There's also a decent bit of character progression, which eventually lets you choose from a variety of perks for each character so they're easier to play in certain situations. After each completed match, you'll receive XP to rank up your current character and a decent amount of gold that you can split up in Robin Hood style. After each match, you can decide the amount you'd like to give away, which levels up your camp, and how much you want to keep for yourself. It's an interesting mechanic since it forces you to split up your winnings almost evenly to progress, unlock new items, and buy new skins and weapons for your group. Your camp also doubles as a training arena, but it was underutilized since matches are the best way to get accustomed to the characters and game mechanics.

One of my biggest complaints about Hood involves the amount of content. There are currently four characters, five maps, and two game modes: online heists and a strict PvE mode. While I found the general gameplay loop to be refreshing and fun, I burned out on the five maps pretty quickly. Since the game hinges on decent communication, playing solely with random people online isn't always the best experience. Hood has a decent ping system, but it does not compensate for having voice chat with a few friends who know what they're doing. The repetition and limitations when playing with strangers turned me off quickly, but its unique gameplay kept luring me back for a few quick matches. If the game delivers on the promise of more content — such as a new playable character and map relatively soon — Hood could have a promising future, but that heavily hinges on whether it can get its community to stick with it for a longer period. It's too early to tell if that is the case, but given the very open communication that Sumo Digital has practiced thus far, I'm hopeful the game will get better and more fleshed out over time.

Beyond the regular gameplay, Hood ran mostly well on PC. Some facial animations could use additional work, and animations are generally stiff. The graphics are dark and gritty, but they work for this interpretation of the source material, and they're pretty to look at. There are a few cut corners here and there, but that makes sense given the smaller development team size and the game's $30 price tag.

We had some issues with lag shortly after the game's initial release, which seemed to be entirely server-related and has since improved. Hood also had to battle with some ridiculously long matchmaking times, which have been significantly shorter in recent sessions after a handful of updates. While I mention the issues, they seem to have been mostly resolved or improved. The last thing that I'm not excited about is the game's current 60fps cap, which is related to a bug that appears when playing at higher frame rates. I hope this can be resolved and lifted with a future update, since a multiplayer title on the PC should be able to run without a cap.

Overall, Hood: Outlaws & Legends is a strong effort that has a lot going for it. It's different and often fun, and when it works, it works. The current experience is dampened by a lack of meaningful content and a few balancing issues that frustrated me to a point where I had to stop playing — but I always came back for occasional matches. If Sumo Digital manages to keep the momentum going with much-needed updates and additional content and if the community stays active, Hood could be a very fun multiplayer title across the board. Until then, I'll wait to see which direction Hood takes over the coming weeks.

Score: 6.9/10

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