Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves

At last we have come to the final game in the current Sly Cooper trilogy, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, originally released the year following Sly 2. Within this short time frame, some changes have been made to the Sly Cooper formula, which may either help or detract from the experience depending on your perspective. As a whole though, though it nicely ends Sucker Punch's run on the series, it isn't my favorite thieving adventure.

Sly Cooper and the gang have reached Kaine Island, on which sits the Cooper Vault, containing the Cooper family fortune that has been built up over several generations of thieving activity. Once Sly finally reaches the vault, he opens it, only to be stopped by Dr. M, who happens to own the island. Furious, Dr. M, having plugged himself into one of his experimental creatures, grabs hold of Sly and attempts to crush him. As this happens, Sly begins to think back on what led him to this point in time...

The remainder of the story is told primarily through flashback, retaining the heavier tone set up by the second game while still having a few lighthearted moments to offset it. There are some rather interesting plot twists to be found along the way, and some old faces show up from the first two games to help (or hinder) you along the way. As with before, the villains that the team must face are actually pretty interesting, and while they may not be likable, they are no less memorable. The overall experience still manages to have some of that Saturday morning feel to it, which again isn't really a bad thing.

The level design of Sly 2 is retained here, with the exception of the clue bottles from previous entries. I found the absence of this feature somewhat odd, since their inclusion encouraged exploration throughout each world in the previous game. Regardless, I got somewhat used to this as I kept playing. In its stead there are a few times where you have to search for a number combination within a painting, with the assistance of a magnifying glass of course, although it quickly gets to the point where it seems they didn't even try to cleverly hid the numbers.

Like with the last game, some changes have been made to the gameplay. For instance, whenever you pickpocket a valuable item from a guard, the amount the item is worth is automatically added to your coin total instead of having to go back to the Safehouse and selling it off through ThiefNet, which admittedly helps the game go by faster. Other features include safe cracking, in which you unlock a safe by turning a lock and feeling controller vibrations; and wearing a disguise to get around certain areas, though if a guard sees you, you must repeat a password given to you by Bentley.

Much like the last installment, you have the ability to play as Sly, Bentley, or Murray at any given time, though in certain mission you are able to use even more characters, including Carmelita (though these are in the guise of Sly/Bentley/Murray missions). Each of these characters has their own unique playstyle, which adds more variety to the gameplay presented and allows each mission to get a little more creative. However, it sometimes becomes apparent that Bentley has gained somewhat more bloodlust between games, as some of the missions involve murder (ex. feeding guards to a crocodile in order for it to chase other guards out of an area).

Continuing the trend from the first two games, Carmelita Fox once again changes voice actresses, this time being voiced by Ruth Livier. I didn't have too much of a problem with this voice, though at times she sounds sort of nasally, which can get a little grating. In the end I thought her performance was okay, it's just not my favorite Carmelita voice.

While I did actually have a good time with this game, there were a few things that bogged down the experience for me. At a later point in the game, there is a pirate themed stage that introduces new gameplay concepts, including treasure hunting and ship combat. While I understand the need for variety in a game, I think the stuff in the pirate stage feels like a little too much and only serves to introduce players to a multiplayer mode and another bit of extra gameplay (more on that later). On the other hand, the ship combat does prove to be an excellent source of coins.

Another point I want to address involves said coins. This time around there's even more abilities that you can purchase through ThiefNet for Sly, Bentley, and Murray, but at the same time it also gets more and more expensive. This can lead to hours of grinding simply to get that new button combination (for Sly) or another fire-related ability (for Murray). Because of this, I decided to forego grinding during my last run-through, which made the game go by much faster and allowed me to absorb the story more. This also allowed me to weigh my ThiefNet options and think about whether or not the ability I was about to purchase would actually be useful. (In essence, I wholly recommend not grinding.)

The game also has extra missions that can be done once a section is over, adding replay value in place of the clue bottles. However, it is possible to quickly lose interest in these side quests, since completing all of them essentially requires you to play the game twice in order to get 100% completion, whereas in Sly 2 you could easily get full completion in a single run.

Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves also introduces a couple new features to the Sly Cooper series, one of them being 3D functionality, namely analog 3D (the one with the cheap red/blue glasses). There are only a few sections that use this function, and soon you figure out why: while it works really well, especially in a dark room, it can cause minor eye strain after an extended session. Whether or not this is worth it depends on the player, but I would still give it praise since it really gives you a feeling of depth.

The other new feature to the series is local multiplayer, which accommodates two players. The modes you'll find here are simple in nature, including hacking, plane combat, the aforementioned ship combat and Cops and Robbers; in Cops and Robbers, two players (one as Sly, the other as Carmelita) must compete to get 5 points, Sly by stealing items and Carmelita by hunting Sly. Of the mutliplayer modes that I explored, I personally found the Cops and Robbers one to be the most exciting, since it was the most unique.

Extra features aside, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves is a good way to cap off Sucker Punch's run on the Sly Cooper series. It has a compelling story that hits the right marks for a Sly Cooper title and there is some good variety in the gameplay, though some of the new elements can sometimes get in the way. Regardless, it is a game that Sly fans must have in their collection, especially since it ends with a lead-in to Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time.

How good will it be? Only time will tell...

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