With medieval heist sim, Hood: Outlaws and Legends, Sumo Digital is hoping to shock you. Starring a bunch of parkouring protagonists clutching hidden blades and donning iconic hoods, however, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ve seen this all before. A brutal reimagining of English folklore legend Robin Hood, Sumo Digital Newcastle’s debut combines the studio’s love of heist films with a penchant for horror movie gore. Dare to look a little closer, and it soon becomes apparent that this UK-made medieval multiplayer outing is far more than a PVP Assassin’s Creed.
Blending 4V4, class-based PVP with a PVE fortress invading sim, the team is hoping to deliver something that’s never been done before. TLDR? Hood is pretty damn ambitious - and even more so when you consider the studio's history. While many know Sumo Digital for its co-dev creations like Crackdown 3, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, and Sonic Racing, Hood is its first original IP since cutesy game jam curio Snake Pass. "Hopefully [players] aren’t too surprised by the violence,” says Hood design director, Andrew Willans with a sheepish grin “We've done our best to make it as visceral as possible without crossing the line into gratuitous... but I'm hoping that there will be a lovely surprise the first time someone sticks another player with an explosive arrow and watches their head explode.”
Game Hood: Outlaws and Legends
Developer Sumo Digital Newcastle
Publisher Focus Interactive
Platforms PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X/S, PC
Release May 10, 2021
Willans and the team like to sum up Hood as a question: “What would happen if HBO got the Robin Hood license?". Taking place across small, medium, and large scale maps, this unique blend of PVP and PVE combines Assassin’s Creed-esque AI avoidance with brutal team-based plundering. Yet while Hood’s initial comparisons are obvious, Willans reveals that its core gameplay loop has far more in common with the classic three-part heist movie arc. “I play a ton of games, and I don’t think this is something that people have experienced before. We've got what's effectively a medieval heist game with Robin Hood and his band of outlaws. We started off thinking about the design of a heist itself - the narratives of a heist. You assemble the team, you crack the safe, and everything's going perfectly, then suddenly, shit goes sideways. I would say nine times out of ten, that's what we have in our heists.”
So what does a medieval take on a bank robbery look like? In Hood, two teams of four start the game on separate sides of the map – each with a treasure map in hand. Both bands of brigands are tasked with sneaking into the same well-guarded fortress (Willans says upwards of 40 AI patrol each map), before stealing the treasure from a randomly generated location. This is where that three arc setup comes into play. The first step? Nabbing the key to the treasure vault. There’s only one problem – it’s attached to the Sheriff of Nottingham’s belt: "Our Sheriff of Nottingham is a bit like Mr. X from Resident Evil," explains Willans. "He’s a mountain. If you mess up trying to pickpocket him he's going to grab you and crush your skull.”
It's up to the player whether you stealthily swipe the key or decide to prise it from the Sheriff’s cold, dead hands. Either way, before you can nab the big boy’s key, you’ll have to find him. With each team’s aforementioned treasure map revealing the randomly generated location of the Sheriff, it’s a race to reach him first. Depending on which of the four classes you’ve picked, there will be different paths to infiltrating the Sheriff's fortress. Whether it’s grappling your way up castle walls or making the most of the hunter and ranger classes projectiles to shoot down ropes that will lead you in, Willans promises each map will offer multiple hidden entry points. "When you get your hands on the Vault Key, we move to stage two. For one team this is all about trying to get a location on the actual vault itself and using the key. The other team, however, now know that the key’s been stolen - so they have to work out what their tactics are. Do they try and find you, kill you and take the key back? Do they head to the treasure vault themselves and set up an ambush or do they wait for you just outside the vault so you've got the treasure and ambush you there?”
It’s here where Hood’s tension and thrills lie. Thanks to each game’s randomized elements and unpredictable AI, Hood will offer a fresh-feeling experience each time. This brings us to the classic “shit goes sideways” section, as Willans elaborates. "As soon as you pick up that treasure chest, we move to phase three: extraction. This is all about getting out of dodge. Now the treasure chest itself is really heavy - so it's not something that you just bank, you've got to carry it with both hands. One character – the brawler, John - is a huge tank, so he can pick it up and walk fastest when carrying the treasure chest. Any character can [carry the chest], you've just got to work out tactically what's best, then attempt to head to one a number of different extraction zones within the map.”
Despite it’s unique premise, we can’t help but think that Hood may have its work cut out when it comes to removing itself from the Assassin’s Creed comparisons. Thankfully, it’s a comparison that Willans is all too aware of. “When people see that hood, I can understand why they immediately think Assassin's Creed and Altair -and all the different guises over the years. I think Ubisoft have definitely cornered the market in hooded protagonists, but now we're bringing it back to its origins.”
If anyone is primed to reclaim the hood, it’s Sumo Newcastle. Comprised of many Creed alumni, their team understands what makes Ubisoft’s seminal stealth series great – but also how to keep an online community murdering each other. Formed from the ashes of CCP Newcastle, Sumo Digital Newcastle spent years working on Eve’s VR-focused multiplayer dogfight sim, EVE: Valkyrie. Yet despite their colleague’s Creed pedigree and the team’s dogfighting experience, Willans says the Newcastle team’s latest multiplayer experience has far more in common with a class-based FPS. “Bizarrely, I see a lot more comparisons with first person shooters than I do with Assassin's Creed. When I use Ranger Marianne, I know how her crossbow works and I'll use that like an SMG. Everything's very immediate, it's 60 FPS. Whereas Assassin's Creed’s combat system is more about parrying and defensive stances, about that fluidity of holding back - counter moves.”
While Hood’s heist mode is undoubtedly the main event, Willans reveals that the game will launch with a PvPvE tutorial mode too, though character unlocks and other progression will only be earned through the PVP modes. He also confirms the inevitable for a live service title - that there is plenty more content coming down the line. “Let's just say there are more game modes coming," he teases. "I can't possibly go into those at this stage, but as you can imagine, the environments lend themselves to lots of traditional game modes. If you compare Hood to a first person shooter, what would a team deathmatch look like? What would even just a regular domination or a king of the hill look like if you bought it yourself into a room in a castle? The possibilities are endless.”
As a cross gen release, Willans also reveals that he is hugely proud of the game’s visuals and flawless 60 FPS next-gen performance. Yet much like Sumo Sheffield’s brilliant use of the DualSense in Sackboy, Hood is primed to exploit the controller's haptic feedback tech in bold new ways. "We will be one of the first few developers to release a game that uses this type of advanced haptic feedback for both ranged and melee combat", says Willans. "We’ve really considered the types of weapons used, their weight and feel, and even the current stamina of the character while using it. All of this translates to natural inputs and feedback that is genuinely felt rather than seen. It’s pretty exciting!”
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