Hood: Outlaws and Legends is a new multiplayer game from Sumo Newcastle and Focus Home Interactive that clearly wants to do something a little different with the genre of which it is a part. Thankfully, given the game’s steady sense of progression, a decent amount of flexibility, and just enough overall depth, Hood: Outlaws and Legends can easily turn a quick dry run into a lengthy, and delightfully engaging multi-hour session. At least that’s what has happened to me every time I fired it up so far. Each time I’ve played Hood: Outlaws and Legends, despite its concept not being the best elevator pitch, I’ve found myself drawn in more than I expected. Its ability to mix its many borrowed ideas with just enough of its own spice is probably its strongest quality and the main reason you’ll likely find yourself hooked as well if you enjoy “this sort of game”.
Saying “this sort of game” might be a bit misleading though, and that’s what brings me to my first point about Hood: Outlaws and Legends; It very much feels like its own thing much of the time. The special brew that Sumo Newcastle has concocted here is one that feels like a more structured single player stealth game than something you’d find in the multiplayer department, yet, it still manages to feel like the multiplayer aspect is entirely organic and necessary to the overall experience.
"The special brew that Sumo Newcastle has concocted here is one that feels like a more structured single player stealth game than something you’d find in the multiplayer department, yet, it still manages to feel like the multiplayer aspect is entirely organic and necessary to the overall experience."
After a thankfully brief and useful training level goes over the basics with you, you’ll be taken to your hideout where you can change characters, weapons, clothing, and go over your personal objectives and challenges. Once you’re ready for the smoke, you can choose to enter a full match with 7 other players, or a one-sided training mission, which is basically the same thing but without an opposing team; just your band of merry men going up against the AI. I highly recommend trying at least a couple rounds of this before jumping into the main game, as understanding the different characters and having some familiarity with the games three main tasks is a must if you want to be very productive in the main experience.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll quickly realize Hood: Outlaws and Legends is mostly focused on achieving objectives with your ragtag team of merry men, while another team tries to do the same. Only one team of 4 can win though, so you’ll be facing off against AI guards and officers (AKA the “state”) while also throwing down with players on the other team of bandits as you inevitably come into conflict with them. The main tasks include pickpocketing a key from each map’s invincible bloodthirsty Sheriff, obtaining the treasure, and extracting said treasure by using one of the level’s available winches in a prolonged process of somebody working the crank while others (hopefully) defend the area. As with any multiplayer gameplay loop, it doesn’t always go as intended though.
Some teams will just decide to bum-rush the AI guards, which will eventually alert the sheriff, causing him to start marauding around after them, which makes him much harder to pickpocket and thus can turn the pace of the match on its head, but even then, there is still plenty of fun to be had. Sneaking around the outskirts of the commotion can yield dividends for a good team as it allows you to claim advantageous spawn points, find smoke bombs, and locate other points of interest before the rest. This can give you and your team an advantage well before any of the main objectives are even done. So, while nothing can prevent all matches from descending into chaos or guarantee that they’ll get back on track, Hood: Outlaws and Legends does a pretty good job of incentivizing you to play it as intended by rewarding those who are actually good at the game. Experience is also awarded for doing other peripheral tasks and completing your own individual challenges though, so there’s almost always something to work towards and be rewarded for, even if a match does fall into complete disarray.
"While nothing can prevent all matches from descending into chaos or guarantee that they’ll get back on track, Hood: Outlaws and Legends does a pretty good job of incentivizing you to play it as intended by rewarding those who are actually good at the game."
The moment-to-moment gameplay is what matters most here though, and the good news is that Hood: Outlaws and Legends mostly nails it. Hood: Outlaws and Legends has 4 characters a launch. John the aggressive brute, Robin the sniper, Marianne the stealthy assassin, and Tooke the flail-wielding mystic. Robin’s arrows and Marianne’s mini-crossbow reward a good shot and incentivize keeping a healthy distance while Tooke’s flail and John’s hammer can make short work of unprepared opponents. With the added abilities of Tooke’s healing and highlighting of enemies, Marianne’s ability to go invisible predator-style and pull off a string of easy stealth kills, John’s berserk mode, and Robin’s exploding arrows, they all have great reasons to be selected, and nobody feels redundant or unnecessary. They all have their own gear items and perks that add to their appeal the more you play them, too.
Presentation is also surprisingly solid. I don’t know if I’m just used to multiplayer games being half broken at launch or if this is some sort of rare exception, but either way, Hood: Outlaws and Legends looks great. The medieval aesthetic fits the darker tone that they’re going for about as well as you would expect. Outside of a few lighting effects popping in at the beginning of a match, I didn’t come across much in the way of glitches, either. The graphics overall, I’d say, are about on par with what we’ve seen from upper-mid-tier games this past generation with characters and environments looking sharp, albeit a bit drab – but that seems to be a deliberate choice given the time period. You’ll occasionally notice some cool effects like twilight beams poking through the trees and down on characters and the environment, but nothing too crazy. The audio package isn’t anything super special either, but it does get the job done with the highlights being some tense music and short murmurings from fellow characters letting you know certain tasks are completed. It’s not a showcase for that new set of speakers, but the audio in Hood: Outlaws and Legends accomplishes what it needs to and fits the mood well.
That’s not to say I didn’t develop a few gripes with Hood: Outlaws and Legends along the way though. While the 4 available characters are varied enough that most playstyles will feel catered to, another one or two of them would have gone a long way. With teams being able to have every available character in each match, Hood: Outlaws and Legends misses an opportunity for way more interesting match-ups that the addition of a fifth character would inevitably create. The fact that there aren’t more choices than available slots make character selection less interesting than it would otherwise be. There’s basically nothing for you to consider other than perhaps wanting one of each on your team for the sake of balance. Despite the characters themselves being fun to play as they are, it always feels just shy of being enough.
"Hood: Outlaws and Legends looks great. The medieval aesthetic fits the darker tone that they’re going for about as well as you would expect. Outside of a few lighting effects popping in at the beginning of a match, I didn’t come across much in the way of glitches, either."
Similarly, I also would have liked to have seen at least one more mode other than the standard 4v4. You could consider the training matches a way to mix things up a tad, but given that they don’t add to your experience points or yield any money for you, there is little reason to play them after your training wheels have come off. Despite me enjoying my time with the basic PvPvE mode, I couldn’t shake the feeling that one more mode would have gone a long way. I can understand why the developers probably don’t want to risk splitting the player base up too much, but one additional mode surely wouldn’t have hurt. Perhaps something that resembles the training missions by putting one team up against an aggressive AI army, or putting two teams up against each other deathmatch style without the AI, would have really rounded the game out better. Either that, or some more variation of the three basic tasks each match entails would have been nice. Even as a low-priced game, I’d like to see more meat on the bone here. Perhaps they will add more later, but as of now, it is a bit thin. Even for just 30 bucks.
Despite some of the elements of Hood: Outlaws and Legends feeling a tad on the shallow side, what is here works great for what it is. It manages to bring a welcome twist to the cooperative multiplayer formula by introducing stealth, AI opponents, and fun tasks into the mix. The fact that it’s a Robin Hood game might help it move some units in the short-term, but when all is said and done, it will be Hood: Outlaws and Legends’ well-crafted characters, polished gameplay, and surprisingly long list of goals to work toward that will actually define the experience for most. While I would have gladly welcomed more characters and modes for the asking price, what is here is executed well-enough that fans of stealth, unique multiplayer games, or anybody just looking for something a little different have plenty of reason to give it a shot.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Hood: Outlaws and Legends looks great, plays well, and offers an experience that is the epitome of “quality over quantity”.
Despite being well-executed, a bit more meat on the bone would have taken this game from great to amazing. As it is, it can feel a bit shallow at times.