When it comes to multiplayer games, I tend to favour cooperation over competition. I find myself avoiding games like Call of Duty with its K/D ratios in favour of something more akin to Monster Hunter Rise. I enjoy working off another player’s strengths to improve chances of success. When a game combines these conflicting elements, I choose to step out of my comfort zone and throw my hat into the ring. Hood: Outlaws and Legends does exactly that.
Hood: Outlaws and Legends is a gritty reimagining of the tales of Robin Hood with a focus on stealth and combat. Four players work together to pickpocket the sheriff and extract the goods from a vault as the clock runs down. The competition comes in with a second-team simultaneously working toward the same goal. Sporting specialised and interesting outlaws, each team will clash head to head as they assassinate guards and the competition while outrunning the sheriff and racing toward different objectives. After a match, you split the spoils between lining your pockets and sharing with the community.
“Combat in Hood feels suitable for a stealth game.”
The flow of a match in Hood feels excellent. You start out sneaking through the map, distracting, avoiding, and silencing guards to keep them from sounding an alarm. When an alarm goes off, enemies begin actively patrolling and close off some of the more direct routes within the area. You earn XP, fill your ability gauge, and occasionally loot items when silently taking out guards, rewarding strong stealth skills. At any point, this calm state can be disrupted by either team, plunging the area into an ever-changing frenzy of fight or flight. An area will reset if players can go unnoticed long enough. However, the entire map will go into total lockdown if a player is caught running off with the vault’s contents.
Combat in Hood feels suitable for a stealth game. Out of the current roster of outlaws, two are ranged fighters capable of performing a dodge. The remaining two favour melee combat, with the ability to block and parry enemy strikes. You go down with only a few hits, so it’s essential to be mindful of your position in battle. Your combos and strikes are extremely limited, making timing another critical factor as actions eat at your stamina. To further mix things up, the sheriff is an utter juggernaut. Able to one-hit kill players, tank most attacks, and return to battle if you manage to deplete his health. The sheriff keeps the stealth element relevant even after the map transitions into a warzone.
“With a sound foundation in both combat and stealth, it’s with its outlaws that Hood shines.”
Once the vault is opened, it’s a race to see which team can extract the chest first. Players need to carry the chest to one of these designated points, leaving them open to attack. After placing the chest on the extraction point, up to two players can work together to crank the extraction device. While there are extraction checkpoints that your team earns gold for reaching, the other team can take over the device and capitalise on your efforts to claim victory. This part of the match is timed, increasing the already staggering levels of suspense.
With a sound foundation in both combat and stealth, it’s with its outlaws that Hood shines. The long-range archer, Robin, can unleash an explosive arrow and blind others with a flashbang. John gets up close with his hammer and can hurl explosives into groups of enemies, raise gates for allies to move past, and switch into a battle rage that sponges damage and punishes foes. Marianne excels at stealth and mid-range combat, using invisibility and smokescreens to capitalize on her multi-directional assassination techniques and wrist-mounted crossbow. Tooke the mystic can heal allies and drain other players’ stamina, wielding a flail that allows for mid-ranged sweeping attacks against groups of foes and a stunning strike.
A team can consist of any combination of outlaws, adding to the tension when the match first starts. To complement your playstyle, each outlaw has some perks they can unlock and equip, offering players more variety between games. Players spend their time between matches at a hideout, where they can purchase cosmetic outfits and weapon skins and run through a short training course. There is little else to do here currently, but it is a large enough area to foreshadow more content in the future.
“So far, the big issues seem to be finding a balance between combat and assassinations and dealing with uneven teams.”
Of course, Hood: Outlaws and Legends is not without its faults. I found matchmaking to be a bit harsh, especially when a team of players ranked in the single digits is put against a group of 50+ rankers. This matchmaking issue is understandable considering the three-day early access for pre-ordering the game and has lessened since the official release date. Still, I find it more fun to play with others in the same skill bracket. Being limited to a 4v4 mode can make the wait times drag on as well. A training mode lets a single team take on a heist, but I occasionally found the wait times to be much longer than the primary game mode. Perhaps a 3v3 or 2v2 option would offer shorter wait times when fewer players are active.
Each character has a throwable weapon they can pick up around the map, but the boxes these are found in are unique to each player. While it doesn’t break the game, it can initially be very confusing. I was surprised at the lack of universal tools or devices that all characters can use. There is little to do around the map besides acquiring and taking back spawn points. I think some additional gadgets and tools could add more variety to combat and exploration. I will admit that such items would likely work best if released after some other outlaws join the roster. Overall I think the outlaws are well balanced. Although, getting sniped from across the map might feel less harsh if there was a killcam available.
“Having a teammate leave the match can be infuriating, especially after waiting ten minutes to get started.”
So far, the big issues seem to be finding a balance between combat, assassinations, and uneven teams. Teaming up on other players is a sound strategy but does not guarantee success. It is, however, pretty easy to perform an assassination on another player simply by moving behind them in combat. While this feels like something that should exist, the window for this to happen is far too large. Perhaps giving players a small window to cancel out of an assassination or making it so another player cannot assassinate you for a time after being tagged by your team would alleviate some of the frustration here.
Having a teammate leave the match can be infuriating, especially after waiting ten minutes to get started. Without a way to balance the playing field, the disadvantaged team has little to do but respawn and repeatedly. While I only had this happen once, it was probably the single worst experience I had while playing Hood.
“While it can be a bit rough around the edges, Hood: Outlaws and Legends is an excellent starting point for a potentially phenomenal game.”
As a competitive multiplayer game, support in the days to come is highly important to the success of Hood: Outlaws and Legends. It looks like the game is prepared to deliver. Season 0: Litha promises a new map and game mode, with a new outlaw planned to be introduced in Season 1: Samhain. Seasonal and community events are promised for all four seasons, with major gameplay additions expected in Season 2: Yule and Season 3: Ostara. How Hood handles all of these will be interesting to look forward to. I, for one, am exceedingly interested in the possibilities the game’s themes have to offer.
While it can be a bit rough around the edges, Hood: Outlaws and Legends is an excellent starting point for a potentially phenomenal game. Using the folklore of a legendary thief as a backdrop for a heist game is a brilliant concept that sets itself apart from the crowd. Ultimately, Hood: Outlaws and Legends will show its true colours as more content becomes available.
As of now, it has done well in preparing for what could be a long-term engaging experience. With some tweaks to keep combat from becoming stale and a few additions to broaden your interactions on the map beyond stealing back checkpoints, Hood could prove to be exactly what I was looking for to get me into the multiplayer competitive scene. I played on PS4 but Hood: Outlaws and Legends is available on PC and Xbox consoles. The game also supports cross-play and is half the price of a full game.