Check out our video review:
When it comes to stealth platforming, I would say the Sly Cooper series is one of the first to come to mind. To me, the first game feels more like a platformer than a stealth game or combination of the two but it’s still good fun. Sly 2 introduced a lot of new stuff and focused more on the stealth elements and it became one of my favorite games in the genre. In fact, I would even say it should be the foundation or framework for future titles. Needless to say, I really enjoyed it and have been looking forward to playing the sequels. Developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published Sony Computer Entertainment, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves was released for PlayStation 2 in September, 2005. It was remastered along with the first two games as part of the Sly Collection for PlayStation 3. For this review, I played the remaster.
Set after the events of Sly 2, the Cooper Gang is trying to enter the Cooper Vault on Kaine Island which contains the fortune and history of the Cooper clan. Before they can enter, they are stopped by Dr. M and the events leading up to this point play out in a flashback. Bentley was paralyzed during the events of Sly 2 and Murray felt responsible for his injuries so he left the gang to go on a “spirit quest”. After Sly learns about the Cooper Vault, him and Bentley seek out Murray and other experts in order to infiltrate Kaine Island and enter the vault. As you progress through the story, more characters join the gang and all of them work together to complete various jobs around the world. I would say the presentation and writing are on the same level as that of the previous games. It’s another cartoon with stereotypical and wacky characters and silly dialogue and humor.
Sly 3 does seem to move in a slightly different direction than Sly 2 and as a result, it doesn’t convey the same type of tone and atmosphere. It also doesn’t feel like a caper tale, at least not like Sly 2 did. It feels more like an an action adventure platformer with some stealth. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but I do feel the developers lost focus on the series strengths. There’s more characters, more minigames, more action and I’m guessing it was all an effort to add more variety to the formula. The gameplay loop is very similar to that of Sly 2. The story plays out in episodes and you’ll have to complete a series of jobs to prep for a big operation in each one. But this time, there seems to be less focus on stealth, platforming and heists.
From what I understand, the original Sly 3 for PlayStation 2 came with 3D glasses and contained optional 3D areas and much like Sly 2, you could use a headset microphone to distract enemies. Sly 3 does introduce some new stuff including a Two Player mode which I did not get to try and Master Thief Challenges. Each episode comes with numerous challenges to complete, all of which are based on sequences and minigames found in the story and several allow you to set record times and scores. There’s also a Hazard Room which is basically a tutorial area. Unfortunately, the Clue Bottles, Treasure and Vaults are absent in this entry but there is a pirate sub-game which I found to be quite fun and it’s only a shame it’s introduced so late in the game. You steer a ship around the ocean and can engage other ships in battle, raid them for treasure, and one of the jobs in the game has you using a map and following clues to locate buried treasure.
Just like in Sly 2, you travel from one location to another and each episode’s location is open-ended and the jobs will take you to the numerous areas or levels within each location. But the removal of the Clue Bottles, Treasure and Vaults also removes most incentives to explore which is a serious bummer. The only reason to explore now is to obtain coins and find enemies to pickpocket. ThiefNet makes a return and you can no longer sell loot since it’s done automatically. ThiefNet is where you can purchase new gadgets, moves and upgrades for Sly, Bentley and Murray and as you progress through the story, more items become available for purchase and they do get quite pricey so I often found myself spending good chunks of time roaming around breaking objects for coins and pickpocketing enemies just so I had enough to buy everything. But due to the lack of Clue Bottles, Treasure and Vaults, exploring just isn’t as fun or rewarding.
I would say Sly 3 feels bloated. Personally, I think the developers expanded on all the wrong things. As I mentioned before, the game seems to focus less on stealth. You can freely switch between Sly, Bentley and Murray just like in Sly 2 and several new characters are introduced and you’ll be forced to play as them to complete certain jobs or tasks. The Guru can possess enemies, Panda King can unleash fireworks, Dimitri is used for deep sea diving minigames, and Penelope operates RC devices.
With all the different characters and their unique gimmicks, you’ll be doing a lot more than sneaking around, platforming, and stealing. You’ll fly planes and engage other planes, hack things, engage vampires and sharks, participate in a boat chase sequence, capture scorpions in a truck, get into brawls, operate an RC car and shoot things, play as Carmelita and shoot baddies, and this is exactly what I was afraid was going to happen. Sly 3 is overrun with minigames and set pieces. As I said before, it feels bloated. This may be a positive for some but I can’t say I’m a huge fan of this direction. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a fun game and several minigames are enjoyable but I don’t yearn to replay any of them. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I have never wanted to replay a platformer just for the minigames alone. The pirate stuff is arguably the best of the bunch. In fact, if it was expanded further, it could actually make for a really cool standalone game.
I enjoy the Sly games because I enjoy the stealth platforming. I like sneaking, climbing, and jumping around, exploring and stealing loot and treasure. I enjoy having the option engage or evade enemies and using gadgets to dispatch or distract foes. I also enjoyed Sly 2’s focus on heists. The Cooper Gang is a small crew that travels around the world completing jobs and prepping for heists. To me, that’s an awesome concept and fits the whole “Thievius Raccoonus” thing. Yes, Sly 2 included minigames but they felt implemented in a way that they didn’t feel super out of place and they weren’t in abundance like in Sly 3. A context was established and they were things you had to do to complete the jobs or operations. I would say the same about Sly 3 for the most part but there’s just so many. Almost every other job feels like a minigame of some sort. While Sly 2 felt more like a stealth platformer, Sly 3 feels very much like a minigame collection with more focus on action. You’re going to be forced to play as all the different characters and Sly is the only one designed to be traditionally stealthy and is still my favorite character to play as.
Sly, Bentley and Murray play just like they did in Sly 2. Bentley navigates around in a wheelchair now but his move set is basically the same and Murray can now turn into a ball and bounce around. Many of the gadgets and moves return which is cool but some were omitted like the Voltage Attack, Music Box, and Snooze Bomb. Others were given to different characters. For example, Bentley gets the Alarm Clock and Rage Bomb and Murray gets the Temporal Lock. What is cool, though, is that Bentley gets a Fishing Pole for pickpocketing and can use a Grapple-Cam to lure or distract enemies and even shoot them. In addition to some of the returning moves and gadgets, Sly gets a lot of attack power-ups but not many new things for stealth purposes which is disappointing. He does acquire several disguises throughout the story and can use them to get past certain foes and access certain areas. Unfortunately, these sequences are scripted and the disguises serve no real purpose outside of the jobs that require them. Now that I’m thinking about it, it would have been cool to see the developers borrow from Hitman’s brand of stealth. I think disguises could have added an interesting dynamic to the gameplay. I wouldn’t want to see Hitman’s style replicated exactly, but the idea of using disguises to infiltrate areas could have been a cool concept. It could have added a layer of exploration. Infiltrate areas to find and steal treasure or something.
Sly 3 is another entry that takes you to various locations around the world including Italy, Australia, Holland, China and the Caribbean. Each location is distinct and well designed and it’s only a shame there’s not many reasons to explore. Enemies can be found almost everywhere and if you eliminate any, more will simply spawn and the locations feature many traps and it can be fun luring enemies to their death. Much like Sly 2, they don’t go down as easy as the enemies in the first game and several bosses aren’t pushovers, either. They’re also not extremely difficult to defeat.
Sly 3 is another colorful and cartoony entry in the series and this remaster is visually on par with its predecessors. The character models look good, the environments are detailed, and the visual and particle effects look cool. Each episode or locations is visually distinct and the pop-in can be an eyesore. The gameplay is accompanied by a pretty good soundtrack with tunes ranging from dramatic and intense to whimsical to adventurous and heroic. Needless to say, this trilogy comes with some excellent music. Unlike the Sly 2 remaster, I did not encounter any audio issues in Sly 3, at least none that I noticed. On the technical side, however, I did encounter dips in the frame rate on several occasions, more so than the previous two remastered entries and it happened quite often during the pirate ship sequences.
I was really hoping Sly 3 would be more of Sly 2 but unfortunately, the developers expanded on the wrong things in my opinion. It’s styled very similarly but it’s bloated with minigames, heists are not really the focal point, and tonally it feels different. I don’t mind the different tone or even the premise but I did expect more stealth platforming gameplay. This is not the first platforming series to go in a direction I don’t agree with but I can’t say the game is bad. I did have fun with it and I do think it introduces some cool ideas. Honestly, I think the pirate stuff is a lot of fun and I wouldn’t mind seeing an entire game that centered on the concept if it was expanded further. I also think the disguises are a neat idea but executed poorly. What could have been a cool sneaky way to get around is instead a bunch of scripted sequences. I also dislike the reduction in exploration. The removal of Clue Bottles, Treasure and Vaults is not only disappointing and eliminates the need to explore but also reduces some of the stealth and platforming elements. I enjoyed sneaking and jumping around the locations in Sly 2, stealing Treasure and finding Clue Bottles. I found it to be fun and rewarding. Ultimately, I think Sly 3 is a fun game but a disappointing sequel.
I would recommend Sly 3 because it’s a fun game. Despite my issues with it, there’s nothing really wrong with what it does. I just don’t like everything it does. If you enjoy minigames or platformers with a lot of minigames, you should get a kick out of Sly 3. But if you’re like me and are expecting more of a caper with a bigger focus on stealth and platforming, you may be disappointed. Sly 3 may not be my favorite game in the series but it’s not a bad game by any means. Definitely check it out.