2004 was one of the most influential years the video gaming world has ever seen. And following a year bound for video gaming history is no easy chore. To alleviate some of the pressure of making everything bigger and better, many beloved series in the action-platformer genre are redirecting themselves. Ratchet and Clank are taking their intense weapon-based combat and solid platforming in a slightly more mature and darker storyline in Ratchet: Deadlocked. Jak X: Combat Racing, the next iteration in the Jak and Daxter franchise, will alter its already altered formula by taking it to the road in a racing/kart game that revolves around high-octane races and testosterone filled, weapon-based vehicles. Even the Sonic franchise is getting an action-packed spin-off in Shadow the Hedgehog. With all our platforming kings (sans Mario of course, but with all his spin-off whoring it’s barely noticeable) moving their thrones from the Chuck E. Cheese’s to the nearest Irish sports pub, only one series has been left untouched in regards to their engine, subject matter, and characters. Instead of complete overhauls, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves injects more style, mini-games, persona, and lovable characters to build and stack onto the already solid foundation established by the previous games in the Sly series.
Life is uncertain and scattered at the beginning of Sly 3. With the injury Bentley endured thanks to Clockwerk’s reincarnation, Clock-la, he is reduced to a wheelchair (of course, with his technological expertise his wheelchair is more a benefit to his already limited physical competence). Murray blames himself for Bentley’s crippling injury, and swears to lead a life of non-violence (and anti-The Murray…ness) before leaving on a spiritual journey to find himself and right his wrongs. Sly Cooper is the same suave, showman that he has always been, still living a life of sophistication and bravado, but with the recent defeat of his mortal enemy and the separation of his gang, his life feels empty.
Things quickly change. A crazed baboon by the name of Dr. M is hard at work at cracking the Cooper family safe, the sanctuary of the family’s millions in cash, gold, and illegally procured treasures from throughout the ages. Sly, obviously not too happy about his family’s history being tampered with, sets out to bring Murray back into the “The Murray” state of mind, and assemble a group of thieves capable enough to stop Dr. M and his nefarious plans. Think of it as Ocean’s Eleven, but George Clooney has a ring tail, mask, and cane.
Sly still handles exquisitely, with a bigger emphasis on platforming than Sly 2; his tight and precise controls are fleshed out to new levels not seen since the original Sly Cooper. Murray’s powerful combos and appetite for destruction are implicated perfectly in new attacks, abilities, and power-ups; including a form where he literally turns into a bouncing ball of carnage and mass chaos. Bentley, however, shines on again as the most improved and unique guy in the pack. His brainiac lifestyle has turned his bare-boned wheelchair into a vehicle equipped with a hover-pack (assisting in higher jumps), a dart-gun, more explosives than your alcoholic uncle’s Independence Day celebration, and a number of different upgrades and attachments available later via ThiefNet (the returning eBay-like upgrade program). Couple that with the new ability enabling both Bentley and Murray to pickpocket, and you’ve got yourself a game with more character development than it knows what to do with.
As mentioned before, Sly must traverse the world looking for specialists to aid the gang in their mission. After all is said and done, a total of four new characters join the trio. Not content to add these characters just for the sake of rounding out the cast, developers Sucker Punch made sure each of these four were playable throughout the game. However, while Inspector Carmelita Fox, The Guru, Penelope, and the rest bring fun moments to the table, in the end all they serve to do is take away from the real stars: Sly, Murray, and Bentley.
Mission objectives and level design are all unique and accounted for, yet certain parts seem missing. Sly 2 brought such a massive overhaul to its simplistic predecessor that the few tweaks that were made to Sly 3 seem almost like a letdown. Don’t get me wrong, Sly 3 has more character and mission variations than most any other games would dream of, but its overemphasis on the new characters, fun yet tacked on multiplayer, and the overhyped eyesore that are the 3D levels stretch the game too thin.
I mentioned before how Sly 3 seems to be changing the least out of Sony’s three-headed platformer beast, but even these slight alterations might have been too much. The new characters are quite forgettable, and while it has returned to its platforming roots, the few innovations in Sly 3 pale in comparison to the plethora that were added to Sly 2. While not as captivating as previous installments, the story is still fun and full of craziness; the cel-shaded graphics have never been better; and the sound effects and voice acting (save maybe Carmelita who has yet again been assigned a new voice actor) are some of the best on the system.
While it seems that I have shined a spotlight on the game’s few problems, it’s very difficult not to fall for Sly 3‘s witty personality. Fans of the series and those not too macho to be seen purchasing an E10+ rated title will love Honor Among Thieves for its lighthearted presentation and old school platforming charm.