Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves Preview
By: Andy Levine

Currently scheduled for release this September, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves follows the tale of Sly Cooper and his band of thieves as they attempt to retrieve Sly’s family fortune from an evil power. Only by utilizing the powers of the previous game’s cast, including Murray and Bentley—along with a bunch of other new playable characters—will Sly be able to protect what rightfully belongs to him and finally live in peace.

The demo we received consisted of four levels, the first of which started off as a simple lemonade drinking contest. When Bentley is accused of spilling more than he drank, a competitive group of kangaroo-like creatures instigate a typical bar fight. The first playable character is Bentley; a wheelchair-bound turtle with more brains than brawn. Luckily, he was clever enough to design a wheelchair with several upgrades, including turbo thrusters and landmine storage facilities. As bottles are being broken and tables smashed, each character uses their own special abilities. Like every character, Bentley can use melee attacks to assault nearby enemies, but he can also drop landmines to trick foes, and by activating the first-person view he can even put enemies to sleep right on the battlefield. During that same level, the user control switches from Bentley to Sly—who we all know as an acrobatic raccoon with powerful close ranged attacks. Sly can use his hook weapon to slice up enemies, and by pressing ‘triangle’ before an attack he can unleash 360 degrees of beatings. To finish up the bar fight, the gamer finally controls Murray, an overweight pink hippo that packs quite a punch. While his melee attacks are the strongest of the bunch, Murray can also perform a body slam that will knock nearby enemies off their feet, making them entirely vulnerable.

Once a set number of enemies are killed with each character, the level’s boss enters the room. The player ultimately gains control of Sly for this fight, but the roles of Bentley and Murray are still extremely important. The powerful boss beast can’t be defeated by basic attacks, so Sly must use his friends to outsmart his opponent. When Bentley drops a landmine Sly must lure the boss over to it, and when Murray picks up a barrel in preparation of attack, Sly must also lead the boss within Murray’s range. Bentley and Murray’s attacks subsequently stun the boss, allowing Sly to close in for the kill. This strong sense of teamwork has not been seen in previous installments of the Sly series, and the possibilities for cooperative play are expansive. The battle sequences can feel somewhat like a button masher at times, but between the switching of characters and figuring of combos, there isn’t much to provoke a sense of boredom.

The next level sampled was entitled “Fly the Biplane”, and, as the name implies, Sly has to take down 30 enemies whilst piloting his own biplane. From the outset, the flight controls were surprisingly simple to understand and acclimatize to, and the level itself felt much like a StarFox title. Acceleration and braking are easily adjusted to garner sharper or wider turns, but the available maneuverability becomes even more in depth. By holding down ‘circle’ and rolling the analog stick, different aerial moves can be performed. For instance, moving the analog stick left will execute a barrel roll, while shifting the stick upward will instigate a turnaround loop. Ammunition pick-ups are scattered beneath various bridges—just in case supplies run low, which is certainly possible. Not only can you perform kamikaze attacks against other planes but many features of the environment in this level, as well as others, are also destructible. Wooden bridge supports can be shot out, windmills can be peppered and destroyed, and, most importantly rival biplanes can be riddled with gunfire and engulfed in flames. After killing roughly half of the level’s enemies the game slowly began to instill the stirrings of monotony, but nonetheless the biplane level offered a unique twist to the traditional sleuthing style of gameplay we’re all used to.

The last single-player level put through its paces was entitled “The Shaman Escapes”, where a koala bear shaman with shape-shifting powers must escape from his prison cell and teach those who captivated him a lesson. This new controllable character doesn’t have any melee attacks, per se, but instead he can hop on the backs of his enemies and then ride them. Yes, this technique does seem a little suggestive, but ramming your enemy’s head into metal drills is still morbidly entertaining in terms of both execution and witness. Using his transformation abilities, the koala can change into items, such as a pile of sticks so that guards will walk right past him. This will then give him the opportunity to hop on their back and ram away. There are many stealth elements involved in this mission; the guards carry flashlights along with whips or shotguns, so getting caught can prove very costly. Also, this mission is filled with platform features including trampoline jumps and leaping across a series of wobbly rocks. This is just another way in which we can expect the final build of Sly 3 to maintain a fresh feel throughout.

The fourth and final mission rolled out for our entertainment was actually a two-player experience. One player controls Sly while the other controls Carmelita Fox. Sly’s objective is to collect expensive items around the Italian style city, while Carmelita simply has to prevent him from doing so. Various power-ups are placed throughout the environment, including boots that leave a trail of smog, and the ability to perform power jumps. Both competitors have a radar locator to indicate the opposing player’s location, making navigation on the fairly large map a little easier. Carmelita’s gun packs quite a punch, but Sly’s cunning maneuvers and sleuthing abilities makes for a pretty even match. The action was fast paced and intense, and we can only hope that the rest of the multiplayer mode will be filled with even more game modes and playable characters.

From what we’ve seen so far, the game’s presentation value is just as unique as previous Sly Cooper titles. The sound effects are humorous and definitely lean towards the younger gaming demographic. Bentley still sounds like a nerd—as he always has—while Sly maintains a romantic tone throughout the game. For the most past, an uplifting jungle-type beat filled with drums and other tribal instruments accompanied our Sly 3 experience, and generally you can expect to hear humorous beats that are meant to break up any silences. The cell-shaded visual style isn’t perhaps the most impressive you’ll see, but this artistic appearance is rarely seen in videogames and offers a refreshing change from the traditional—and usually poorly realized—models and textures often seen in this type of game. The environments are 3D and fully functional, and aside from some minor camera issues the collective aesthetic of Sly 3 is certainly befitting the subject matter.

In conclusion, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves is definitely a title for any action gamer to keep a watchful eye on. This platformer will likely contain so many different gameplay elements, characters, and multiplayer features as to allow those unfamiliar with the series to still have a cartoon blast. Upon its release this September, you can surely expect Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves to raise a few appreciative eyebrows.