Hood Outlaws & Legends is the brand new PvPvE heist game, set in the medieval world of Robin Hood. With opportunities to stealth around a range of castles, or go full out in a brutal assault, characters such as Robin and Marianne want to relieve the sheriff of a chest of gold. Pitting two teams of players against each other and the AI guards sets the stage for an online multiplayer competitive heist. However, is this a gift to the poor or would they want to give it back to the sheriff? Let’s find out!
Each game is played over three distinct phases: steal the vault key, find the vault and extract the chest. Stealing the key from the sheriff is where stealth shines. Players need to sneak in and locate the sheriff. Being caught triggers alarms, only making moving around the map harder as port culitases start to close. Stealth is relatively important in finding the vault too, and at this stage players will only have had limited contact with the enemy team. One neat feature is that each of the six maps has multiple locations that the vault can be found, with it in entirely different buildings sometimes.
With the chest in hand one player will slowly plod their way towards any of the highlighted extract locations. During this time the player is effectively the VIP the team must defend, as they cannot do anything fast, nor can they attack without dropping the chest. This is the stage where the stealth starts to slip away and the Leeroy Jenkins approach of running in, potentially with a gang of guards following, occurs. As the action becomes focused around cranking the winch to extract the gold, what ensues is more of a hack and slash, than anything delicate.
The four characters are extremely different in play style and the opportunities they offer. From John’s sheer strength to lift closed portcullises to Tooke’s ability to heal the team there is a strong benefit to having each on the team. This is one area the game can suffer from if not playing as a group, with 3 Robins on the same side. The abilities to shoot ropes down to ascend buildings or stealth past the AI guards can be key to not only finding the sheriff first but gaining a strong foothold on the map, in terms of claimed respawn points. Due to the way the perk system slowly unlocks a level 4 character is seemingly better than another at level 1. After this point, when a variety of perks are unlocked, it’s all about the choices of which perk aligns with your playstyle and the benefits you want.
The world of Hood is a rather dark and grim looking one, with hyperbolically tall castles and long shadows for players to hide in. While many castles of the medieval era surely looked the same this is unfortunately captured in Hood’s map design. While they have their own quirks only the marsh/swampland in Newton Abbas and the church and graveyard of Gwydion’s Rest stand out as boldly different. Many of the indoors locations are fairly similar in style, leading towards them feeling slightly repetitive. The maps do one thing perfectly though. They have a mixture of heights to them. From underground passages to balconies and towers, the heights offer numerous routes for players to venture around.
The AI are a bit of a mixed bag, though one rule seems to stand firm. Removing the sheriff from the picture, with his ability to instantly kill the players he catches, a guard on their own is seemingly no threat . However, have a handful chasing you and you’ll need to escape quickly. The mixture of guard types helps keep things interesting, though they often feel like cannon fodder, ready to be killed, until they group up. Having some larger groups patrolling would make players double think their plans, as even the two guard patrols take a little extra effort to slip past or remove.
When stealthing the game has a range of great looking animations, and the experience is rather freeing, as you sneak around the locations from the shadows to bushes – assassinating guards and enemy players along the way. When combat breaks out the smoothness of the controls is replaced by a clunkiness. An example is when Robin aims down sight. Whilst 95% of the time it works absolutely fine the final 5% is a frustrating, rage inducing, occurrence. When you want to let off a quick arrow, when sprinting away or dodging, holding the scope button doesn’t always register. It’s most noticeable with Robin, as he is there mostly to be a ranged character. Yet, it is also there for Marianna as she has both a medium range attack and a deadly melee attack.
A huge chunk of this clunkiness comes from the steps to perform actions, with gear being a prime example of where improvements can be made. To throw a gear item players must press the gear button, work out the arc they want and then click to throw it. The issue is if a player gets hit it knocks the players out of the gear throw. If they then click thinking they are throwing the item they will take a melee swing. This can be extremely frustrating when being able to hold down the gear button to see the arc and release it to throw the item would be a smoother process, for when frantically trying to deploy a smoke bomb for cover.
An underused feature in the game is the choice between keeping the money or giving it to the poor, which effectively upgrades your hideout. A choice is there as upgrading the hideout unlocks more cosmetics, with players then needing the money themselves to purchase them. The choice though is about as shallow as that, as choosing to upgrade the hideout sees no visual improvements or change of any kind actually happen to the hideout. It has extra space and looks like it might be able to be upgraded. Perhaps this is one of the numerous roadmap features, from new skins, gameplay additions and more. For now though the hideout seems more like a glorified menu than an interesting aspect of the game.
There are some smaller issues that need to be addressed, though aren’t game breaking. Some of the voice line triggering is a little off. For example, Marianna has exclaimed that she “needs to find more bolts” after being killed. The voice lines are generally nice additions, so just a tweak of not triggering on death would fix this. Another is the fact that players can change the character they want to play in the lobby menu, though they are unable to swap in and out perks. Quality of life changes like this would just make playing a smoother and easier experience, allowing you to go straight into the next game.
Hood Outlaws & Legends has a solid basis to build on. By focusing specifically on the one game mode the developers have crafted a dynamic experience. While elements might feel the same no two matches are ever quite the same; thanks to the way that vaults move and players have choices of where to extract from. Matches go until the very end, with victory occasionally stolen out of what looks like a definite defeat. Visually the world is a dark shadowy one and this is awesome to stealth through, it’s just a shame that by the extract stage in matches stealth goes out of the window. There are improvements to be made but with season passes already planned for the first year, it seems that Hood Outlaws & Legends should be able to entertain players for many months to come.
(Editor’s Note: Hood Outlaws & Legends was developed by Sumo Digital, and published by Focus Home Interactive, the game is now available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Windows PC. The game was provided to us for the review.)