Hood: Outlaws and Legends Review
Hood: Outlaws and Legends is a multiplayer-only, PvPvE game that imagines the legendary Robin Hood as the leader of a gang of tatted-up, magic-wielding cosplayers, stealing riches from under the nose of an un-killable Sheriff of Nottingham, a medieval version of Darth Vader with slightly less mouth breathing. As your mom used to say, it’s all good fun until somebody gets hurt.
There is one gameplay loop in Hood: Outlaws and Legends, and every match has the same three phases. In the first phase your squad has to pickpocket the treasure vault key from the Sheriff, who is a peripatetic one-shot-kill machine capable of a vicious kick to the head. In the second phase, you and your buddies steal the treasure and hoof it to an extraction point and in the final phase, you laboriously winch the loot out of frame and into what we imagine are the waiting hands of the grateful poor and a Bernie Sanders-like equitable redistribution of wealth. Of course, the opposing squad has the exact same objectives and Sheriff Vader and his elite guards don’t want you or anyone else to steal the goods. In between matches you return to your hideout, level up, visit upgrade stations and wait for the rinse-and-repeat cycle to begin again. There is one mode, a handful of maps, and while the treasure locations and extraction points vary from match to match, Hood: Outlaws and Legends does one thing and banks on it being enough to keep players engaged. The good news is that the basic gameplay loop is fun. The bad news is that the fun doesn’t always last very long, thanks to some pretty atrocious matchmaking and balancing issues, at least at launch.
Ye olde PvPvE, just like in the middle ages
But let’s start with the stuff that works. You can choose to play as one of four character types, all of which are kind-of, sort-of based on the Robin Hood mythos. There’s the titular Robin, appropriately enough a ranged fighter; Marianne (AKA Maid Marian), a stealthy goth assassin with the obviously historically accurate ability to magically cloak herself; John (AKA Little John), a semi-ambulatory slab of flesh carrying a large hammer; and Tooke (AKA Friar Tuck), a mace-swinging healer/mystic. All the characters types are potentially useful in combat, especially when upgraded with a variety of consumables, specials, perks, better weapons and the various cosmetic enhancements gained from combat experience and gold. Because players tend to pick one class and spend their hard-earned points upgrading their favorite, squads are often unbalanced and unregulated quartets of over-leveled tanks or one-shot-kill assassins. Together with Hood: Outlaws and Legends’ semi-broken-at launch matchmaking that randomly pits high-level players against newbs, what could be balanced gameplay often feels unfair and frustrating. Gameplay often degrades into chaotic team deathmatches, without the permanent death, instead of the elegant combination of stealth and balanced squad combat that the developers probably intended. When it clicks, that is, when both teams are balanced and play by the rules of the story, Hood: Outlaws and Legends suggests that the premise and mechanics have real potential. Like many squad-based multiplayer games, the most fun is to be had with a team of friends, communicating well and matched up against a squad of similar level and expertise.
Although absolutely nothing about Hood: Outlaws and Legends’ visuals scream next-gen graphics, its level design is uniformly good, with castles, keeps and village environments all affording plenty of shortcuts, hidden passages, nooks, and crannies for ambushes, and sniper-friendly verticality. There isn’t an overwhelming amount of detail anywhere but the game’s fantasy medieval English countryside vibe works pretty well. Less polished are the character models, and in particular the game’s movement and combat animations, which always feel more than a few frames short of fluid. Combat in general is a bit disappointing. Melee encounters lack heft and precision, but ranged attacks and stealth feel more satisfying, at least against other human players. The game’s enemy AI suggests that the Sheriff’s squad of goons didn’t come from the deep end of the gene pool. Other than the Sheriff and a few high-level guards the rank-and-file AI enemies are disposable fodder, there for distraction and annoyance more than actual threat.
Lacking a story, bot matches, or any other form of single-player content, Hood: Outlaws and Legends is committed to a very specific multiplayer model that may or may not have legs. The game feels unbalanced, populated by a large number of surprisingly high-level players wreaking havoc on newbies, and squads interested in subverting the flow of gameplay. Some of these issues will get ironed out in time with tweaks to balance and matchmaking but what remains is still a fairly limited experience even under ideal circumstances. Additional modes, a wider variety of classes and especially, some sort of alternative to PvP combat would all potentially bring Hood: Outlaws and Legends’ fundamentally solid gameplay to a wider audience and give it a chance at longevity.
***PS5 code provided by the publisher.***
- Solid premise and mechanics
- Wide variety of perks and upgrades
- Good level design
- Only one mode
- No story or single player content
- Only four classes
- Poorly balanced
- Questionable matchmaking