Focus Home’s Hood: Outlaws and Legends has just launched for PlayStation, Xbox and PC, with dedicated console versions for both the next/new generation of consoles and the current/last batch. We playtested the PlayStation version of this multiplayer-only PvPvE game.
Hood is loosely based around the Robin Hood stories, by which we mean it’s quite literally based on them but developer Sumo Digital has taken a lot of creative liberties with the lore. Sure, having Robin go to battle with a band of his men makes a lot of sense in a team-based game, but your characters look like a hybrid between Gears of War and Robin Hood and I don’t recall any magic in the Robin Hood stories I read. There are also a few tweaks to the names, but I doubt many people will wonder who Tooke and Marianne are supposed to be.
While earlier footage of Hood: Outlaws and Legends led us to believe this was a team-based stealth action game within a narrative setting, Hood is actually a multiplayer-only affair that follows a strict and mostly unique formula. Matches are divided into three phases, where you first steal the vault key from the Sheriff of Nottingham. In the second phase, you set out to steal the treasure and bring it back safely, before securing it from there in the final moments of each match.
In between matches, you can upgrade your characters before diving into the next bout, which is going to be of the same type. Luckily, it’s an addictive formula, because apparently stealing stuff from the Sheriff is a lot of fun to do, no matter which one of the characters you play as. Robin’s a skilled ranged fighter, Maid Marian more stealthy, Little John a fierce melee fighter and Tuck is skilled at the magic arts and healing. Right of the bat, it’s clear that the Robin Hood universe lends itself well to team-based play.
In practice, however, poor matchmaking takes a bit of the romance out of the situation – with overpowered characters often dominating not just your own team but also the match as a whole. This could just have been the fact that we played pre-release during the early access phase and things will iron itself out over time when the player base grows, but therein also lies the danger. A game like Hood: Outlaws and Legends is great when it clicks (and you’re playing with friends against a team with a similar skill level), but when that’s not the case the thing risks falling apart. It’s certainly not the mechanics though, because we’ve had plenty of sessions that were absolutely brilliant and a breath of fresh air compared to all the team-based shooters out there.
Visually, Hood looks good but unremarkable as a next gen title on the PS5 – looking virtually identical to the PS4 version. The world and level design are both great though, and well suited to the Robin Hood name with its hiding places, secret passageways and shortcuts. The characters are interesting as well, although the CPU-controlled minions that belong to the Sheriff are absolute pushovers compared to the human-controlled teams out there, unless you run into one of the Sheriff’s close guards.
Hood: Outlaws and Legends would have benefited from story or even objective-driven missions to play solo within the same universe, because the mechanics are solid and pulling off a heist is supremely satisfying when the bout feels evenly matched. The problem is that, in more than a few cases, it doesn’t, where losing is a frustrating moment and winning doesn’t feel satisfying either. The size of the player base and the developer’s ability to tweak the experience and its matchmaking logic will determine how well Hood does in the long run. The core premise is great and the gameplay fundamentals are excellent, so we have our fingers crossed.