Well, I’ll go ahead and wave the white flag.
I wrote two different articles here on InReview about “Hood: Outlaws & Legends”, both of which suggested that it had the potential to be a Game of the Year candidate.
And then… it all came crashing down.
Slowly but surely, Hood faded from the face of the planet and its hopes at obtaining hardware have absolutely, without a doubt, been dashed.
How did we get to this point, though? It’d be worthwhile to give one final assessment on the game addressing the good, the bad, and a little bit of the ugly.
Enacting a change of pace from typical game reviews on this website, let’s talk about what went wrong in Hood before addressing the good:
Marketing and general PR for this game was a complete joke
The only way you’d ever hear about any news surrounding this game was if you happened to be a Twitter aficionado. From the very day Hood was announced all the way to today, its social media presence has been virtually nonexistent outside of Twitter. Even then, it had to be PlayStation’s Twitter account that carried the bulk of the load in hyping the game up in the first place. Only after its release did a Twitter account dedicated to the game even begin to manifest itself. Since then, that account releases occasional updates on in-game events.
However, that isn’t the most damning thing for it. For a long time, around the game’s infancy, it was widely believed by the playerbase that the playable character Marianne was too powerful and needed the development team to tone her down a little bit. With other competitive games, these decisions tend to be taken very seriously and are handled very carefully.
After all, Marianne, like any other character in a game who needed to be nerfed, has a loyal following in the game (which includes yours truly) so celebrating the nerfing of a character or hyping it up is just not the way to go. Yet, that’s exactly what the game’s social media team on Twitter proceeded to do, treating the day in which the nerf would be released as if it was a holiday, hyping it up accordingly. That predictably left a sour taste in the mouths of many.
In general, the PR team has conducted themselves rather unprofessionally and the game itself hasn’t seen enough marketing to truly thrive on the gaming market. Fun fact: According to Steam player statistics, Hood has seen an average of 67 players per day over the last 30 days at the time of writing this. Garfield Kart, a game which released in 2013, has seen an average of 79 players per day over that time. Garfield Kart has also outperformed Hood for, at the time of writing, 74 consecutive days and 91 of the last 92 in total. That’s just sad.
Gap in content
In order to remain engaged, players need something new to do. Doing the same thing over and over again will eventually create burnout and players will seek other games for new forms of entertainment. Since launch, Hood has released a single new map which is really only aesthetically different and plays very similarly to its older maps. It has also released a PvE version, where four players face the State without facing four other players like usual, with very similar gameplay to the typical PvPvE the game is mainly known for.
Additionally, starting in June, the game’s lacking PR began hyping up the development of both a new character and a battle pass. As of now, neither have actually been released nor has an official release date been announced for either.
Sumo Digital has attempted to fill in the gap with events which have given players more gold and experience points for limited amounts of time. Simply put, dedicated players maxed out that stuff out within about a month of the game launching, so those events predictably fell completely flat. Not to mention, even if that wasn’t the case, those events failed to change the way players actually played the game anyway, and didn’t offer a different experience as a result.
Unfortunately, the modern era of video games favors frequently quick, new content as opposed to gaps in content which eventually yield way to larger amounts of new content. According to TIME magazine, the human attention span has seen a 25% reduction since the year 2008. With Hood competing with countless other video games on the market, this meant the game needed to constantly find ways of keeping players engaged in order to remain relevant. Sadly, that has been nowhere close to the case.
The handling of Marianne
As previously alluded to, Marianne was too overpowered as the game launched. This was discovered by the game’s player base not terribly long after launch. With mounting pressure towards Sumo Digital to tone her down a little bit, how did they respond?
They responded by releasing gameplay statistics depicting win percentages of each of the four characters. John had the highest win rate at 51%, while Marianne was in third at 48%. While that may seem to dispute the fact that Marianne was overpowered, it actually just confirmed a simple fact that was widely known among the playerbase — John has by far the lowest learning curve of the game’s four characters, while Marianne definitely had the highest. Still, top level players, skilled enough to make full use of her kit, proved time and time again that she was much too strong to be left as is. In a game where strength in numbers was so powerful, Marianne’s specific utilities enabled her to win 1v2s and even 1v3s with extreme ease, only faltering in the face of another more skilled Marianne player, or an equally skilled one with a numbers advantage. As such, this response was very unprofessional and lazy, though Sumo Digital should somewhat be commended for finally conceding and nerfing Marianne in the end …
Unfortunately, the way they ended up nerfing her was also poorly handled. Marianne got what’s referred to as the “Smash Ultimate Bayonetta treatment”, going from being the strongest character in the game to by far the weakest, clunkiest to play as. Unfortunately, Sumo Digital overdid her nerfing by a long shot, causing her to subsequently be pretty unappealing to play as.
Now that the bad has been discussed, let’s talk about what the game has done well:
The game still occupies its own, unique and fun niche
PvPvE is a unique concept that Hood stands tall and mostly alone in holding down.
Gameplay is loose, simple and fun
Combat is very engaging and rewards smart decisions based opposed to brainlessly mashing buttons. The assassination mechanic is also fun and fresh, rewarding players for thinking tactfully rather than just mindlessly rushing in for the kill. This is largely apparent in the game’s PvE mode, which severely punishes spamming buttons and subsequently rewards stealthy play.
The State is now actually threatening
In my second article here on InReview about this game, one of my criticisms was that only the Sheriff felt truly threatening; his lackies were mostly just brainless meat sacks who acted as punching bags for the player. Since then, Sumo Digital has given them moderate buffs to their health, damage output and most importantly, general intelligence. No longer will a guard stare at a stone wall for two minutes because you threw a rock at it and caused a little bit of noise. Guards aren’t too, too threatening and can still be defeated easily enough, but their presence has to now actually be respected, giving more credence to playing stealthily throughout the course of a typical match.
Plus, the Sheriff of Nottingham still kicks a lot of butt, so that’s nice.
Perk parity is done very well
Each of the four characters has three perk slots which can be filled by a handful of different options. While there are definitely some genuinely poor choices for a perk, there are enough good ones to give players their own identities with their respective characters. There also aren’t any overbearingly strong, must-have perks in the game which completely dominate the meta either. So that’s really nice.
Final diagnosis: Hood has ultimately undergone its own slow, agonizing death as a result of poor marketing, slow development and poor balancing decisions with their game. If this game was in the hands of a far more professional developer, it is possible it would have exploded as I’d predicted and turned into a real Game of the Year contender.
And that’s just a shame.