Robin Hood, at least my knowledge of the folk hero, is a lovely chap in green tights. He steals from the rich and gives to the poor. He uses his mad bow and arrow skills to make the Sheriff of Nottingham and his soldiers look like fools, but all in a family-friendly setting. Alright, I grew up with the Disney version and then the short-lived BBC television series. I know he’s been portrayed a little gruffer in other media, like that movie where Russel Crowe sounded like he was having a stroke for two hours, but none of them portrayed Hood and his mates like Hood: Outlaws & Legends does. Here, they’re actual murderers. The man in tights is now a man in an Assassin’s Creed-style hood and cloak and he’s got no time for cute tricks with his bow. He’s going for kills. Arrows can be fired into the face of some poor guard just waiting to clock off and return to his plague-riddled family. Enemies can have their heads separated from their bodies with explosive arrows and the blood actually gushes from the little neck stump they’re left with. Yuck.
Sadly, this gritty reboot of Robin Hood and his merry band of murderous mates is wrapped in an online-only game. There’s no story to speak of and there’s nothing to do by yourself unless you want to run around your little camp area and train for hours on end. Unless somebody is going to record you and turn it into a sweet montage, it’s not a great way to play.
So, it’s online-only and it means this version of Hood and his mates is kind of wasted.
The game itself didn’t really need to be a Robin Hood game. This could have been called “Medieval Online Heist: The Game” and it wouldn’t have made a difference, except that the name would tell you exactly what the game is, unlike Hood: Outlaws & Legends, which is vague and if you didn’t know better, you wouldn’t expect it to be an online multiplayer game.
Hood pits players against each other in teams of four. But unlike your Call of Dutys or your Battlefields, there are enemy A.I opponents who will kill all of you on sight. This is called PVPVE because the gaming industry loves nothing more than annoying acronyms that non-gamers need an enigma machine to decode. But at least we understand it, and we know it means the lesser-able players will be able to get their jollies by killing the state soldiers for XP. That’s what I did for my first few games. I also spammed the ping system for XP, because you’re awarded points for marking enemies as you see them.
Each match tasks both sides with stealing the chest full of treasure which is locked in a vault and the key is with the Sheriff, who is one big mean bastard. First, you need to nick the key by sneaking up behind him, then you need to get to the vault and unlock the door, then you need to trek to an extraction point while one of your team lugs the box of booty. Whoever is on box duty is completely vulnerable and can not attack or defend while they’re marching slowly towards the extraction point. It’s the job of the other players to defend the carrier from the opposing team and the state soldiers. Easier said than done, I can tell you, especially if your team doesn’t say a word.
One of my biggest frustrations with Hood: Outlaws & Legends is with the players, and this has always been my gripe with online games. My fun is directly tied to the abilities of my fellow humans, and in this case, their ability to open their mouth and make words. Many of them struggle to do this, and I’m left wondering why on earth they’ve bought into a TEAM-BASED multiplayer game.
Communication is key to success and if your team are all silent, you can forget about winning. You need to strategise and discuss with your fellow players. The ping system works fine but it’s no substitution for screaming “THAT BASTARD HAS KILLED ME!!!” down your mic at 4am.
When you do get into a game with a good group, it can be a good time. It can also be utter crap if you’re playing against people who have clearly got nothing going on in their lives. I’ve played around 10 hours in total over the course of a weekend and I’m at what I thought was a respectable level 14. I played against some virgins who were north of level 70. That means that they exist in a sadder state than I do, but they compensate by having more perks and skills than me, which translates into them killing me very easily. At least I’ve seen the sun and the shower.
The balancing is borked, then, and even on release day where there should be plenty of new players for me to annoy, I still found myself playing against the shut-ins of the world who are many, many levels above me. I long for the first few hours again where we were all on the same level playing field. To b fair, this is the problem with online games in general and not just Hood, and it’ll be a bigger problem the longer you take to join the party.
The game’s concept is simple and easy to understand, and rather than encourage all-out warfare, the game pushes players towards stealth. I liked the challenge of sneaking through a map trying to stay undetected by the enemy team. Unlike most online games, there’s no marker over your head displaying your name and location to the enemy players, and vice versa. So, if you’re sneaky enough, you can actually hide from human players. Unless that is, they spot you because dickhead Dave to your right is standing up and waving at everybody, causing you and him to get pinged by the enemy players. When this happens, you’re lit up and everybody can see where you are. If you’ve got the key or the chest, this is painting a target on your back and it means it’s time for your teammates to get into gear because it’s all going to kick off, first with the state soldiers locking the area down, and then with the human enemies coming to score some kills.
You can drop the chest and try to fend off the attackers, as well as the state soldiers, or you can keep trodding onwards. No matter what you do, the risk is that if you and your team do get killed, you’ll leave the chest for the enemy, and if you haven’t unlocked a spawn point nearby, you’ll have to run the length of the map to catch up with the other team. Plus, if the area is locked down by the Sheriff and his men, you’ll have to find alternate routes, further delaying your counter attack and giving the other team more time to rob off with the riches.
Hood is at times a fun game and it has potential, but like all other games of its ilk, it’s reliant on a decent player base. If you get into a game with good players who talk, play the game properly, and have a bit of a giggle in the process, then Hood is a fun way to kill an hour or two. There’s a progression system where you can upgrade your characters, your camp, and unlock all kinds of stuff that I have zero interest in. Why would I want to dress up my characters in brighter clothing – I’m going for stealth, after all.
Is it doing anything revolutionary? No. It’s quite standard in every way, and not even the next-gen touches of 60fps and DualSense controller support can elevate it beyond an average multiplayer game. Honestly, it feels like it should be the multiplayer mode to a full game; a fun distraction to keep you going after you’ve finished a gritty 10-hour Robin Hood origin story. End with the hero firing an arrow into the camera, fade to black, then HOOD: OUTLAWS & LEGENDS in white lettering fades in. Dramatic music for 3.5 seconds, and then cut to credits. Post credits scene is Robin Hood meeting up with a drunk Little John in a dirty tavern.
“John, I’m starting a team. An initiative.”
“Whaddya mean, eh?”
“The Merry Men initiative.”
End game, wait for the sequel.
Basically, I wish this was a single-player story game so that the Hood name was actually used for a good reason, and not because it’s an easy way to slap a popular(ish) name to a new game. Robin Hood is copyright free and that means anybody can make a Robin Hood game. I hope somebody else does.
Hood: Outlaws & Legends PS5, PS4 Review
Hood: Outlaws & Legends has moments of brilliance but they are few and far between, and totally dependant on who you’re playing with.
The game also suffers in the content department. Unless unlocking digital trinkets and garments is your idea of a good time, there’s not much else aside from the one game mode and four playable characters, meaning you’ll have seen most of what Hood has within a few hours of play.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS5. Reviewed using PS5, PS4 Pro.