Whoever claimed that all good things come to an end obviously wasní¢â‚¬â„¢t a gamer. Good video games never end; instead, they're rehashed and refried through countless sequels and spin-offs until they become bad things. As part of his latest daring feat, Sly Cooper is attempting to dodge this non-fate by closing the book on his prolific PS2 exploits with Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves.
While there's no telling what future atrocities Sony might commit with the license, Sly 3 will quite possibly be his last caper on the PS2, and weí¢â‚¬â„¢re happy to say he ends the current era on a high note, securing a place for the Sly Cooper trilogy in the pantheon of Games That Do Not Suck. This game finishes the trilogy with more of the well-paced, varied action the series is known for, plus a couple interesting multiplayer games to keep you and a friend stealing each othersí¢â‚¬â„¢ lunch money for at least a few hours.
At the end of the second game, all seemed lost when Bentley the brainy turtle was crushed in the metal maw of Clockwerk, the gangí¢â‚¬â„¢s immortal nemesis. Murray, stricken with grief, leaves the gang to wander in despair, while Sly slinks around searching for clues that will lead them to the Cooper family treasure. He meets a thuggish walrus and is directed to a heavily-fortified mountain, where a mad baboon has been bending his twisted will toward cracking a safe nestled within.
To get inside the vault, Sly needs the help of his old gang plus some new friends, and the first two-thirds of the game are spent assembling this new band of thieves. While these chapters are cool because they're composed of the elaborate heists and schemes that have been the seriesí¢â‚¬â„¢ bread and butter since its inception, it seems weird to introduce a slew of new characters right before the end of the story.
For that matter, the game lacks a cohesive plot until youí¢â‚¬â„¢re nearly finished. Compared to the great narrative of the first two games, this one doesn't quite hold up. I guess it's hard to keep it interesting for three straight games.
Still, the Cooper games have always done a great job keeping the gameplay lively and varied, and this is no exception. Each level leading up to the final chapter is a lot of fun, possessed of its own interesting characters and comedy. With the inclusion of five new playable characters, the gameplay variety has exploded.
The basics are the same as in games past; if youí¢â‚¬â„¢re unfamiliar with Sly's brand of platform action, you should check out our previous Sly Cooper reviews for more detail. Each level begins with a briefing from Bentley, the wheelchair-bound turtle who coordinates the teamí¢â‚¬â„¢s heists. Every gambit involves a complex and often hilarious multi-pronged assault on the assets of some flamboyant villain, and carrying out these designs is the stuff missions are made of.
The levels themselves usually include the villainí¢â‚¬â„¢s domain, which is typically some kind of giant, hulking fortress with lots of pipes to climb and spires to perch on, surrounded by a sea of rooftops overlaying alleyways packed with evil thugs and monsters. Some also have huge, fire breathing dragons soaring overhead, boats regularly traveling through canals and all sorts of interesting things on which to climb and leap.
Navigating through the large levels is made easy thanks to colored skylights emanating from your objectives. The colors indicate which of the three heroes will be needed to begin the mission, and you can always run to your gangí¢â‚¬â„¢s secret headquarters to switch players.
Once you take your character to one of these skylights, thereí¢â‚¬â„¢s really no telling what youí¢â‚¬â„¢ll find yourself doing. You might have to flick baddies into an electric fence with a giant mechanical arm, insult a geriatric pirate, or engage in a samurai showdown with a mean chicken on the tops of bamboo poles. Some even require 3D glasses that come packaged with the game. The stages that use the 3D glasses are typical platforming levels and they always star Sly, so they doní¢â‚¬â„¢t add anything new to the series, but at least Sucker Punch went to the trouble of making the 3D levels synch up. And once the novelty wears off, you can choose to run any future 3D levels in normal mode.
Some mini-games seem to come out of the blue, while others are character-specific and develop throughout the game. For example, Murray' big hippo arms are really good at rowing boats, and it just so happens that there are lots of missions that require a rowboat. In early levels heí¢â‚¬â„¢ll just have to navigate through perilous waters avoiding mines and whirlpools, while later levels will have him dodging cannonballs and sinking ships.
Unfortunately, a bunch of the mini-games suck from start to finish. The little koala shaman, for instance, can jump on enemy heads, taking over the hosts' minds. But instead of completely controlling his victims, he automatically forces them to run at full speed and can only control their direction. Ití¢â‚¬â„¢s kind of like hot-wiring a car with no brakes on a steep hill. Your objective always involves crashing said out of control enemy into something hard and electrical, shorting out your foesí¢â‚¬â„¢ plans. This is easier said than done, though, thanks to a camera that seems to be playing some other game.
At least once a level youí¢â‚¬â„¢ll have to run amok as the little koala, and youí¢â‚¬â„¢ll dread it each time. While there are a few others that are equally annoying, these lame games don't eclipse what is otherwise a wonderfully esoteric assortment of neat little games. In almost every case the player is presented with some weird concept, like blowing up vampires with fireworks. The games are short and usually just tough enough to qualify as tasty, chewy morsels.
The seriesí¢â‚¬â„¢ only real downside, which Sly 3 suffers from as well, is a lack of replayability. Once youí¢â‚¬â„¢ve succeeded in pulling off this last caper, youí¢â‚¬â„¢ll find a second run-through all too easy. The dialogue, which was cute the first time through, cannot be skipped, and the games lack any challenge whatsoever on a second attempt. There are several moves and gadgets that can be bought in ThiefNet, the online store available at the gangí¢â‚¬â„¢s headquarters, but these simply make an easy game easier.
To make the game a bit more playable after the fall of the final curtain, Sucker Punch threw in four multiplayer mini-games. These are lifted straight from the single-player campaign and include a one-on-one battle between Sly and Carmelita, a pirate ship shootout, a biplane dogfight, and a short, co-operative shooter based on the mini-game you play whenever Bentley hacks a computer. Sly versus Carmelita is less than enthralling í¢â‚¬" ití¢â‚¬â„¢s just too tough to escape as Sly. The boat game is pretty one dimensional, but the co-operative shooter is fun for the half hour it lasts and the biplane dogfight is actually deeper than its counterpart in the single-player game.
But there are still only four games, and at best theyí¢â‚¬â„¢ll entertain two decent players for two hours. Since so many of the mini-games in the single-player campaign are basic, I don't see why the developers couldní¢â‚¬â„¢t have adapted at least a dozen more into a two-player format.
Then again, they only adapted three of the four smoothly. If the framerate issues present in the Sly versus Carmelita game are any indication, ití¢â‚¬â„¢s probably a good thing the developers stopped when they did.
Besides, the single-player game is all that matters, and it plays and looks fine. The graphical style is identical to that of the first two games, which is a good thing because the cartoon look and feel still rocks. The action runs at a steady framerate and the new level designs are creative. It might be aging, but it's still a looker.
The voice-work in the Sly Cooper games has always been outstanding, and this yearí¢â‚¬â„¢s game is no different. It's about as close to a decent cartoon as you'll find in the gaming format. The music, however, is on an entirely different level than that heard in the previous two games. The track that plays during the battle with the red dragon is tense and thrilling í¢â‚¬" ití¢â‚¬â„¢s almost too good for a game starring a raccoon.
The whole experience is right on par, though. Sucker Punch has managed to keep their game within its own limits for the third time in a row. They never let their story get too deep or dark, nor linger too long on a weird gaming concept, and even their graphics stay well within the boundaries of the PS2í¢â‚¬â„¢s hardware capabilities. Misguided multiplayer and somewhat unfocused plot notwithstanding, this is a fitting end to a great adventure.