When the trailer for Hood: Outlaws and Legends was originally shown off, I was intrigued. It looked like something I could get my teeth into: an old-fashioned stealth ’em up. What with no Dishonoured and Thief on the horizon, there’s a gap to be filled in the sneaking market of games.
Of course, when the trailer then descended into a team-based PvPvE (player versus player versus environment) game, my interest wavered a tad. What looked like a strong, third person adventure suddenly opened into a team-focused multiplayer. Whilst you do have to work together with yours, so does the other side. It’s outlaws versus the state in team battles for riches.
The trouble is, that might be all it has to offer. A decent concept, but lacking any meat to really carry it it the long term. Shall we find out if its got the longevity to hold it together? Grab your bow, blade or hammer and we’ll find out.
There Is Nothing Merry About This Lot
As the title may or may not have made it clear, Hood is about the mythos of English folklore hero; Robin Hood. Seems pretty obvious now, given that it’s in the title, but I didn’t pick up on that straight away. It was only when I started playing my review copy that the penny dropped.
Much like Universal tried with its failed Dark Universe attempt, Hood is the “gritty reboot” of Robin and his merry men. In most portrayals, our hero is always portrayed in a positive, beaming light. Well, he’s still seen as the hero here, but not adverse to a few arrows to the eye or slitting some throats.
There’s nothing maid-like about Marianne, who’s ditched the damsel look and channeling her inner Senua, warpaint and all. Friar Tuck is Tooke, the mage/healer who acts as support and manages some lifting. Bringing up the rear is Little John, who has dropped the ironic part of his name and just goes by John now. He’s still big though, wielding a hammer and the muscle to put some heft behind it.
Robin himself bends more to the brooding, shadow-stalking nature of Thief’s Garrett, favouring cloaks and lurking in the shadows. It’s dark, it’s gritty, and y’know, it kinda suits.
All For One (Or Up To Four)
For those of you that are familiar, the ethics behind Robin Hood has always been one thing: rob from the rich, give to the poor. Whilst his background may have varied over the last 600 years, this part has always remained consistent.
How that’s achieved in Hood is by way of robbing a vault key from the indestructible sheriff, finding said vault and making off with the contents. Thankfully, these spoils are in one easy location: a chest. Unlike Payday, there is only one objective, saving you from having to steal from multiple points on the map. One chest to rule them all, as it were.
However, a team of identical bandits on the side of the State are also vying for the loot, as well as the governing bodies not wanting to give it up. What this means in layman’s terms is a four versus four affair, with some AI guards thrown into the mix too. Players have twenty five minutes per match to infiltrate, locate and escape with a minimum amount of fuss.
Were it that easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing. Thankfully, there’s a skill mix to your team, if you know what you’re doing.
It Takes A Team…
The character descriptions given earlier are also how you’d expect them to play, surprisingly. Robin is an archer, predominantly, and therefore suits ranged support. Marianne is the stealth option, getting in close with a punch dagger and a handy, quick shot bowgun. John balances out the heavy, armed with a massive hammer and can lift a portcullis to make a path for his companions. Tooke is your healer, yet also a dab hand with a flail.
Finding that right balance is the key, as heroes can’t be changed during battle. Hypothetically, you’d want a Robin for ranged support whilst a Marianne gets in close and pickpocket the sheriff. Whilst that’s going on, quite big John and Tooke can clear the way and offer healing respectively. When it works, this should offer a smooth pathway to loot and the excruciating wait as it’s winched to the safety of your coffers.
Of course, that’s all hypothetical. What normally happens across the five different maps is medieval chaos, a lack of coordination and the opposing team stealing that last segment of winching time out from under you to steal victory. But then, that’s par for the course in online multiplayer, right?
Perks of the Job
Of course, Hood isn’t completely without modern trappings. Like most first person shooters, there’s a leveling, perk and outfit system to take advantage of. Leveling up is pretty self-explanatory: complete objectives and kill things, be rewarded with experience. Capturing spawn points is also encouraged, as dying will inconvenience you more if you have to respawn at the beginning of the map.
Thankfully you get experience from killing AI soldiers too, so players aren’t at a complete loss is they can’t get the advantage over the enemy team. Thus, the increase of experience leads to new levels, which in turn leads to new perks available to each member of the Not-So-Merry-Men-and-Woman. Robin can unlock elemental attacks to arrows, or have them fly faster and straighter.
Marianne’s primary ability is a cloak that makes her almost invisible, allowing her to sneak up on unsuspecting opponents. As time goes on, perks allow her to stay in Shroud form for longer, should that be your play style. Tooke gets better support skills, whilst John essentially becomes a stronger tank character.
Couple these with the gear that each character has (smoke bombs, bowguns and such) and you have a formidable mold you can push them towards. There are limitations, obviously. Robin won’t get better at close quarter combat, but will become a better archer. Likewise John won’t be able to conceal in bushes any better, yet won’t need to when he can hold his own against a few opponents at a time.
Not Quite The Hundred Acre Wood
Whilst all of this does sound fun (and it is, when you’ve got a good team effort going on), Hood is somewhat limited out of the box. As mentioned earlier, there are only five maps. Sure, they’re fairly big maps that players will know like the back of their hand over time, but it’s still not much.
There’s also only one game mode: the aforementioned Heist mode. Don’t get me wrong, it is fun, but it would be nice if there were more on offer. Personally, I loved the multiplayer introduced in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Sneaking about to find a target or several, trying not to get spotted and disappearing into a crowd was excellent fun.
A similar mode could be implemented here, in which you could rob a high value murder target, for example. Don’t ask me technical specifics as to how it would work, but just something more than one mode would be welcome. It’d be like there only being Team Deathmatch in say, Call of Duty; you’d get a bit fed up of playing the same thing over and over again. Hood may not have a AAA price point, which would put many off, but some more variety at launch would be nice.
Which leads me to…
It’s Not Just The State Being Greedy
Honestly, I’m still not sure how I feel about all of this “planned content” kind of game. Call me old fashioned, but I fondly remember the days of a game being complete out of the box. The only updates needed over time were quality of life improvements.
It’s becoming more apparent that developers are depending on people buying games on faith, with more content promised down the line. As you can see from the above, Hood is promising more content, including a “major gameplay addition” at some point in the future. Without any information as to what it entails, that’s asking for some blind commitment right there.
And of course, the insipid bullshit of “premium edition content” has worked its way into Hood as well. Seems par for the course for multiplayer games now. Who am I to stop it? Sure, I don’t have any backbone to my gripe as I was fortunate enough to be granted a review copy. But what of those that spent the £25 RRP on this? It’s the constant cycle of gaming: you buy it, it pays the way for more content… but only if you buy it. Players aren’t funding it directly, as such, but their support is required to fulfill the roadmap promises down the line.
However, I’m just pissing in the wind. Hood is no different than no doubt the many more games that will follow this. It’s just personally annoying, is all.
Benevolent or Biased?
Despite the inherent vice above, Hood is actually a very fun game when you get stuck in. That there’s crossplay is a blessing, as it will broaden the market and opportunities for matchmaking. However, Hood does have one final trick up its sleeve when you’re lucky enough to win.
When it comes to dishing out the spoils, it’s not a straightforward case of “Here’s your quarter share”. The host has the responsibility of where it goes. Does it go to the benefit of the downtrodden poor folk, which will result in better karma and some reward, or to you and yours? It’s not a deep moral quandary, it’s just whether you want to be greedy or not.
In my experience, of the dozen or so games I played, nobody wanted to communicate with anyone. We struggled through (by “we” I mean various teammates across matches), barely, so when it came to divvying out the spoils I put them back to the community. That’ll teach those uncommunicative jerks.
Did it hamper my progression in any massive way? Not particularly. But had I played with some actual friends, or at least communicative and better assembled folk? Who knows, I might have rewarded them better.
Players can get by on the gradual progression system, so there’s no real penalty for either hogging it all or being the benevolent thief. Unless you really want some funky new threads for your crew and can’t wait to show them off.
It’s A Steal At That Price Though
The final verdict on Hood really comes down to this: are you willing to invest in something that promises to be fleshed out in a roadmap of content? If you are, then this will be for you. If not, you’re not going to be massively upset by missing this one out.
The core gameplay loop is fun. It reminds of For Honour; a medieval setting with team-based violence, with a Splatoon-level of early game content. Getting used to the play style of each character, finding the nuances in each one and what their strengths and weaknesses are is fun. Matches themselves are great, if a little annoying when you’ve done four fifths of the extraction work, only to have the enemy bastards clinch it on the final hurdle.
On the whole, it’s a very good looking and easy enough to control deathmatch/looter-brawler that offers a fun new take on the concept. I wasn’t aware I needed a gritty “reimagining” on Robin Hood’s story, but I am all for it. Throat slitting and going full-on hammer time in equal measure with the Merry Men is a welcome addition to my gaming repertoire.
However, it’s a big ask to want players to invest in something so minimal so early. When your only options are “play one mode with real players or the same thing against bots” it wears thin very quickly. Let’s just hope that whatever this additional content is, it’s worth it.
A fun new take on the concept of “team deathmatch”, Hood: Outlaws and Legends is a blast to get into it. However, with one game mode and promised roadmap content down the line, it’s a lot to ask players to buy into on faith in later additions.
Hood: Outlaws and Legends is available now on Xbox One (reviewed on), Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 4 & 5, and PC.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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