Hood: Outlaws & Legends
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Genre: Action, Heist, Strategy
Platform: Xbox One (Also available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S)
Age Rating: PEGI 18
Release Date: 10/05/2021
A code was provided for review purposes.
So Far, So Hood
On May 10th, after a weekend of early access for those who had preordered, Hood: Outlaws & Legends was released. This PvPvE title combines elements of action, strategy and stealth to create a unique new experience centred around the Robin Hood myth. You’ll join Robin Hood’s band of merry men, helping to steal from the wealthy and give to the poor. In the process, you’ll fend off against not only the state but also a team of four enemy players. As such, across each of the five maps, you’ll need to watch out for potential ambushes and obstacles. When transporting your hard-fought-for loot to your team’s chosen extraction point, don’t get cocky!
As of launch, there are only two playable modes to choose from: Heist and Training. Heist is the main mode, and consists of three stages: pickpocketing the vault key from the near-invincible Sheriff, opening the vault, and extracting the chest from within. Training allows the player to get accustomed to the gameplay, either working alone or together with three other online players. You must work together to complete the mission objectives, without the pressure of PvP gameplay in any capacity. This latter mode forms the perfect introduction to the gameplay for any hesitant heisters who need more time to learn the ropes after the mandatory tutorial, and also allows for the exploration of the five available maps to uncover their secrets.
Too Much of a Hood Thing?
There are four playable characters in Hood: Robin (“The Ranger”), Marianne (“The Hunter”), John (“The Brawler”) and Tooke (“The Mystic”). The Ranger is skilled in mid-to-long range combat, utilising a bow and arrow to take out enemies from afar. Scoping out enemies, opening up new routes and launching devastating explosive arrows to neutralise multiple threats is their style. The Hunter specialises in covert infiltration, and is handy with smoke bombs. They can assassinate enemies from any direction if concealed, and occasionally become completely undetectable. The Brawler uses brute strength to deal devastating damage to enemies, lift portcullises for allies, and launch explosive grenades with attitude. Finally, The Mystic takes on a supportive role, highlighting enemies, healing allies, and using their advanced stamina regeneration to advance objectives. There are no rules regarding the number of identical characters a team can have, so your team can play as four Robins if desired!
While the flexible utilities of each character make experimenting with each fun and engaging, the barebones offering of playable modes quickly renders the gameplay repetitive and stale. Though the teams you’ll come up against will likely be different each time – particularly if you have cross-platform matchmaking enabled – you remain confined to the same static objectives and small number of maps. Though these maps are quite sizeable, you’ll quickly learn the best routes, the best camping spots, the key respawn points to hold, and the most defensible extraction points. While this is advantageous, it also creates predictable gameplay. An extensive post-launch content plan holds promise for Hood‘s future, but in my view, this should have been included in the base game, as the current content offered is underwhelming.
The Hood, The Bad, and the Ugly
Hood‘s overall gameplay experience is also disappointing. Matchmaking times are long, and you’ll likely compete against players far more experienced than yourself due to the lack of balancing. Several controls are bound to (at least for me) unnatural buttons, and rebinding these causes more problems than it solves due to the multiple functions assigned. For instance, having “light” attack on RT and “heavy” attack on RB feels backwards. Swapping these for the melee characters, though, means interfering with the shooting mechanics for Robin. Combat feels clunky and unsatisfying, particularly for melee characters. Aiming can be a nightmare, particularly when up against multiple targets, and locking onto a specific person feels impossible. There’s also the issue of no character restrictions. While this allows for freedom of choice, it also causes problems for a team. Without John’s abilty to lift portcullises, for instance, you may end up stuck in lockdown.
The question of fairness applies to Hood, too. It is possible for one team to open the vault, steal the chest and nearly finish its extraction, only for the other team to swoop in and steal the glory by winding the last notch. Although this is highly satisfying for the then-victors, it is a crushing defeat for those who did the hard work. The Sheriff being near-invulnerable also adds a layer of somewhat unnecessary difficulty; his ability to take out a player with one attack, even in a crowd, can be very frustrating in a high-stakes situation. Other frustrations include the frequent obliviousness of the AI guards, the disappearing prompts for interactable items if getting too close to them, and the unreliability of certain mechanics, such as marking enemies with LT. More often than not, I found myself dropping a marker on the ground instead of tagging an enemy.
A Hood Man is Hard to Find
To add insult to injury, the overall quality of Hood is not as expected on Xbox One X. Don’t get me wrong – I knew the game wouldn’t be as stunning as on next-gen – but I thought the quality would be maintained. Sadly, I experienced frequent texture pop-ins, visual bugs and glitches, and low-resolution assets during matches, though the environments themselves were visually impressive. There are several satisfying sound effects (winching, for instance) and the backing audio is invigorating particularly in tense moments. However, the graphical side of the equation leaves much to be desired on the previous generation of consoles. It is also surprising that the game uses a peer-to-peer connection, as this has the potential for many online connection issues. Thankfully, in most games I was the host, and avoided these.
Let me be clear, though: Hood is not a total disappointment. The quality of the playable maps is excellent, offering varied paths and opportunities for stealth. The Outlaw Camp is a cool space for players to upgrade, practice combat moves, and make purchases. After each match, you choose what riches to keep or give to the people. You can purchase new passive skills, outfits and weapons with the cash you keep, and improve your chosen character’s potential. The cash you give to the people increases the level of your camp, and what it offers. There are also collectible elements to the game; through silently assassinating enemies, you have the chance to loot unique trinkets. By completing matches, you can also unlock additional lore segments, giving greater insight into the Robin Hood myth. There are also daily challenges to inspire you to keep playing and step outside of your comfort zone.
For the moment, Hood is lacking in content and satisfying execution. Its premise is fantastic, and its gameplay could be as well, but there are many quality of life improvements needed to make it so. I would not recommend picking the game up in its current state, though when its post-launch plan kicks off, and its issues start to be resolved, it will definitely be a game to watch out for. If you enjoy stealth gameplay, have the patience required to outwit your opponents, and aren’t hesitant to get stuck into a fight when needed, you’ll likely find a lot of fun in Hood later in its life cycle. Whatever satisfaction you may get from it now, particularly on PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X|S, will be heavily beaten in a few months’ time.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Hood: Outlaws & Legends for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S on the Xbox Store (UK).
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.