Steal from the rich, give to the poor—a philosophy, a way of life, for Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men. The real-life exploits of the outlaw Robin of Loxley may not be as robust as the legendary tales we grew up with, but he stood for the people against an oppressive dictatorship. Hood: Outlaws & Legends, a competitive online multiplayer title, tasks two rival crews of four to stealthily infiltrate guarded locales and steal the treasure. There's no honor amongst thieves as you attempt to make your way to the extraction while defending what is now yours.
Only one primary competitive game mode exists (so far), and although that may mean the game feels "lite" on content, especially compared to other offerings, I've yet to grow tired of trying to pull off the perfect heist. It helps that there are a handful of uniquely designed maps, with at least one more coming in an upcoming season, as indicated by the post-launch road map. The training mode, the only other game mode, allows teams to hone their craft against the AI, merely serving as practice, but doesn't offer anything as thrilling as retrieving the chest while fending off another group. If you only want to focus on the game's cooperative aspect and not the competitive nature of playing against other players, this mode does precisely that.
Teams start on the opposite side of the map, far enough that you'll contend with AI guards before encountering an opposing player, but the objectives remain the same; steal the vault key, retrieve the chest, make your escape. Guards clad in armor, clinging to their swords, bows, and other medieval weaponry, patrol the districts, ensuring that you need to stay in the darkness, stealthily making your way through nearby bushes. If you are seen, the guards can raise the alert level, summoning more soldiers to content with and shutting all gates, and locking down the area. Stealth is the key to victory, and thankfully, the maps are covered in flora to mask your approach. The first step, stealing the key dangling from the belt of the slow-moving but massive presence known as; the Sheriff. As you approach, the faint rumbling emanating from your controller grows ever stronger, an effect that works to drive home the monstrous force that is the Sheriff is coming. One false move and he can crush you between his mountainous hands, killing you instantly. You may be thinking, well, I'll just kill him first, but no, this beast is an unrelenting force, and although you may take him down to a knee, buying precious seconds to make your escape, he will always rise up and never stop hunting you. Think medieval Jason Voorhees.
After acquiring the key, you'll need to locate the hidden vault on the map while trying to defend yourself from the AI and other players who wish to acquire the chest for themselves. If you are lucky enough to snag the chest first, you'll notice there are multiple extraction points. These may be closer to your initial spawn point, in the middle of the map, or right next to the enemy's starting location. Depending on the vault's location, you may opt to find the closest place in an attempt to hoist the chest onto the ship as quickly as you can, or strategically opt for a location safely away from prying eyes. Either way, carrying the chest is a chore, as the weight of the shiny gold inside forces the one with it to move at a snail's pace. The brute John moves the fastest with the chest, so it is always good to have him traverse the map with it in hand. This is where coordination and teamwork start to lead teams to victory. Of course, with multiple possible locations, the enemy team can opt for chasing you down or try to guess the spot and sit and wait, ready to ambush.
Once reached, teams must extract the chest, either sacrificing a single person to progress slowly or using two players to speed up the process. Melee classes operate the crank faster than ranged, and without a balanced team, you are unlikely to win. Admittedly, that won't always be the case. I've already encountered groups that favored one class over the other, but for 90% of my matches while playing with random players, classes were evenly balanced between melee and ranged classes. Once extraction has begun, a meter appears for all players. The meter itself has several notches, where progress is saved, and rewards are given to the team that reaches those points. This means that a team can do 90% of the work, earn rewards, and the opposing team can swoop in and finish the final step and still win the match. It makes for some exciting last-minute victories (or losses), precisely what you would want from a heist-based title.
Another component and one that is almost as important as controlling the chest itself involves securing and holding the control points scattered throughout the map. These serve as spawn positions for your team, allowing you to get across the map after you die. Imagine fighting to extract the treasure, but every time a member of your crew departs, you need to run across the map in its entirety. Not only that, but shortcuts can be opened as you make your approach, from unlocking doors or releasing ropes to climb to offer alternate paths. With heightened security during the final moments of each match, the elite guards that spawn can put a damper in your plan to traverse the map safely. At the same time, the AI can work in your favor when the Sheriff makes his presence known, methodically making a bee-line straight for the extraction site. Although, the intelligence of the AI could use a little bit of work. Sometimes, they will walk right past the players working on securing the chest and chase other nearby players. I would think that acquiring the gold would be on top of his priorities, and therefore, anyone seen trying to steal his treasure would be a higher perceived threat.
There are four classes in Hood: Outlaws & Legends, each one based on a character from the fabled story of Robin Hood. The Ranger, Robin, is equipped with a bow, making him a powerful long-range class, capable of one-tapping foes with accurate headshots and firing explosive fire arrows. The Hunter, Marianne, is the best at remaining concealed (literally being able to turn invisible), and her crossbow may not have the range as Robin's bow, but its burst-fire makes it deadly at close range. The Brawler, (Little) John, wields a massive two-handed sledgehammer, making him the most potent melee class available and the king of close-quarters combat. He is also the only class that can temporarily lift the massive gates, letting his teammates make it through the area without finding an alternate path. The Mystic, Tooke (based on Friar Tuck), is the ultimate support class and the only one that is capable of healing not only himself but anyone on your crew within his vicinity.
Their primary weapons for each of the classes are only the tip of the iceberg, and although the game's combat isn't that deep, it still provides plenty of strategy and incredible moments. First and foremost, you're actions are limited by your current stamina. Light attacks are weaker in terms of damage but use less energy when compared to stronger heavy attacks. Blocking consumes stamina, ensuring you can't remaining protected for too long, especially since heavy attacks can leave you stunned, breaking through anyone blocking. Parrying incoming attacks can give you a chance at an unimpeded counter-attack, given you still have enough stamina left. The mystic's poisonous smoke bombs can instantly drain the stamina of anyone caught in the blast, even himself), leaving players on both sides of the battlefield open to attack at range.
As you level up by earning experience points and gold from completing heists, new cosmetics, such as character outfits and weapon skins, become available to purchase, as well as perks. Only three bonuses can be equipped simultaneously. These offer slight advantages against other players, such as increased crouched movement speed or a leeching effect that can make Tooke unbeatable in most one-one melee engagements. When coordinating with a team, these perks can alter your playstyle and even how your abilities operate. Outside of the perks, players are on an even playing ground, with only unlockable cosmetics serving as a driving force to customize the appearance of your characters. With the purchase of the battle pass, you'll earn premium outfits and skins, as well as banners, but the roadmap will provide other free cosmetics and content for all players.
Hood: Outlaws & Legends is the best PvPvE game I've played in quite some time. Sure, it has its issues; the AI can sometimes feel braindead, class balancing needs to be tweaked, and animations can be a bit janky, but the adrenaline rush of the heist makes up for all of that. Not to mention, this is only a $30 game, and the developers have released a fully fleshed-out roadmap for ongoing support. Players can expect new characters, game modes, seasonal events, cosmetics, and more. And did I forget to mention that the game already has cross-play matchmaking at launch? Hopefully, the developers can expand the party system for cross-platform friends.Note: Hood: Outlaws & Legends was reviewed on Xbox Series X. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.