Robin Hood has been part of the popular culture lexicon for eons. From the original folklore, to the Erol Flynn classic movies, to Disney’s fur-covered fever dream and beyond, the tale of Robin of Locksley and his band of Merry Men have captured the hearts of generations. However, one area where the titular character has arguably struggled to find a foothold is gaming.
While several Robin Hood games have been released, few are still talked about today. The fine folks at Sumo Newcastle (one of the newer additions to the Sumo Digital family, who developed games like Crackdown 3 and Hotshot Racing) and publisher Focus Home Interactive have set out to fix this. Their solution: Hood: Outlaws & Legends, a PvPvE game in the vein of Hunt: Showdown that modernizes our favourite Sherwood Smugglers into a more Game of Thrones-type work. However, will this game steal your heart, or is it more stealing from you lot for little riches in return?
Beginning with a basic overview of the game, Hood: Outlaws & Legends is a PvPvE hero stealth action-adventure heist game. Sounds like a mouthful, no? Well, let’s try to simplify it a bit. In Hood, you face off in a team of four against another team of four. Your goal, as it stands, is to pickpocket a key off of the Sheriff of Nottingham, open a vault door, steal a chest, bring it to an extraction point and winch it up. The catch: not only is the law on your backs, but a fellow group of outlaws is after it as well. Ultimately, the team that escapes with the chest wins. The in-universe justification of this is that there are two legends of Robin Hood competing to be told (Robin of Loxley and Robin of Huntington).
You have a choice at launch of four characters. John, the Fighter, is considered the easiest. He uses a large hammer to deal huge amounts of damage, can lob grenades and can hold portcullis up for the rest of the group. He also carries and winches the chest at great speeds. Robin, the Marksman, can scout the environment, blind targets, shoot explosive areas, and can also send arrows flying across the map and instantly kill an enemy in one hit. The compromise to this is that his ammo is limited and his melee capabilities very weak. Marianne, the Hunter, can shroud herself in invisibility, disappear into a puff of smoke, assassinate with ease from cover and fire a crossbow that can launch up to three bolts at a time. Finally, Tooke (or as you may know him, Tuck), the Mystic, can heal allies, poison enemies, detect evil foes from a distance when healing via his special, and recovers Stamina very quickly. He uses a flail that can be difficult to get a handle on, and as such, he is considered to be the game’s most difficult character.
Many of these traits can also be modified with Perks that are unlocked as you level up your proficiency in each character. These perks can also include buffs and debuffs to various moves. In terms of cosmetics, you have plenty to choose from, and you earn more every time you level up your hideout. But be warned, levelling up your hideout comes at the cost of money in your pocket, so choose wisely how to allocate your winnings at the end of each match.
For my part, I mostly opted to play as Tooke. I felt his style best fit my own playstyle. With my character ready, I jumped into a match… and waited… and waited some more. When I finally got in, I was surrounded with players far above my level, with their own set of perks that made them a force to be reckoned with. All of this is to say, the absolute biggest flaw with Hood: Outlaws and Legends right now is its matchmaking. It sometimes took me upwards of six minutes to get into a match, and the balancing can be incredibly hit or miss (sometimes very lopsided). Couple this with the fact that once you pick a character, you are stuck with them, and the early game can be very frustrating. However, it certainly does get better over time.
In a given match, you will be assassinating both NPCs and players, capturing one of the three objectives, searching for the Sheriff (who, be warned, can kill you in one hit), finding the chest and making a mad dash to the extraction point with the State and players hot on your tale. The PvE part really does take precedence early in a given match. If you or your teammates are spotted by an enemy NPC, your position on the map will be revealed for a short period of time. If you yourself are spotted, your special ability will be locked.
There are five maps in the game, but the position of the vault/chest and Sheriff are different every time, so sometimes you will be blessed with luck, and sometimes the other team will be. It’s no matter. While there are bonuses of 500EXP to the player who pickpockets the key, opens the vault or places the chest, it is always anybody’s game. If the player holding the key or the chest is killed, the item will be dropped and it is anyone’s for the taking. Regardless, once the chest is placed on the extraction point, it’s time to winch. You earn coins for each successful winch cycle, but no matter what happens, the last team to winch wins the game.
What this means, in practice, is you can do everything right: steal the key, unlock the vault, take the chest, place it, and winch it for every cycle except the last, and the enemy team can kill you and steal the game. There is a definite level of risk here, and while there are some rewards for successfully playing through the steps, for many it may not be enough.
Overall, the gameplay in Hood: Outlaws & Legends is solid. The stealth works rather well and reminded me a bit of another game Focus Home published – A Plague Tale: Innocence. The combat gets the job done, but is not exactly what I would call spectacular. However, the core gameplay loop is rather fun, and stealing objectives (like in Bleeding Edge or Gears 5‘s Capture) is also important and you need to keep a close eye on the map.
Aesthetically, the game looks great as well. While this is not The Last of Us Part II or anything, it does in some ways remind of the recent Demon’s Souls remake. It features raytracing and 60fps, and at times can look downright stunning. The only thing holding it back, unfortunately, is Unreal Engine’s pop-in issues. Anyone who has played the Final Fantasy VII Remake can attest to this, but at times (such as returning to your base) textures can fail to load in for a few seconds, and it can look outright muddy and unpleasant. However, once all pops in, it does look great. As for performance, barring one strange spawn in a match, I had absolutely zero issues.
The tone of this game is a big departure from the folklore of old. Between the incredibly dark colour scheme, the gruesome deaths, the surprisingly large amount of swearing and the overall grime to it, this is not the Robin Hood you know and love. To the game’s credit, I feel it executes this vision very well, but Robin and his men (and woman) are not so much merry as they are kinda scary.
Moving on to content; this is again a bit of a mixed bag. As mentioned before, there are four heroes, five stages, a decent bit of perks and cosmetics, and some level of randomization in each match. It also must be noted that in the base game, all cosmetics are absolutely free, but paid cosmetics in a battle-pass-like system will be added at a later date. This is all great stuff. However, there is only one mode in the game that matters to progression, Heist. The other mode, Training, while a very competent PvE experience in its own right, adds nothing in terms of coin or EXP (even though it says it does). All of this is to say that your experience with Hood will depend on how fun and fresh you find the core matches to be. For me, after about five hours, despite the fun gameplay, it did start to get stale and I found myself having to stop myself from gravitating to other titles in my library.
I’d also like to briefly touch upon some miscellaneous factors. Communication in the game is interesting, as when matched with randoms, you will have the chance to go on speaker regardless of platform. However, like Apex Legends, the game features a fantastic ping feature that is not only great for accessibility, but it also plays into the game’s progression system. I have heard arguments that winning is “borderline impossible” without going on comms, and I can say with 100% certainty that this was not the case for me. Cross-platform play is also entirely optional so for those concerned about cheating, this should put your mind at ease. The game also features several accessibility and language options, including fully remappable buttons, which is great. The price of the game is also rather fair, especially given the included cosmetics.
Finally, I’d like to briefly touch on the fact that Hood is a live service game. My thoughts I have expressed thus far pertain to the version launched on May 10th, 2021. The team has outlined a promising first year for the game with tons more cosmetics, maps and even game modes. This will go a long way to addressing some of my criticisms, but we need to see it come to fruition first. A road map is great but far from guaranteed these days.
All in all, Hood: Outlaws and Legends is a fun time. The PvPvE mode is refreshing, the presentation and performance rock solid and the price fair. However, in its current form, it does start to lose its lustre after a while. Its deeply flawed matchmaking system has a far way to go to ensure that the game is fun and balanced for everyone. Hood has a lot of promise, but like its titular hero, it’s not quite out of the woods yet.
Start the hunt in Hood: Outlaws & Legends on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S