Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves Hands-On: Starting Out
We start fresh with a mostly complete build of Sucker Punch's larcenous platformer to examine the early levels of the game.
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Sucker Punch has been applying the polish to its third game in the winning Sly Cooper series, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, and we got to take a look at the latest build of the game in advance of its release next month. From what we've seen so far, returning players should feel right at home given Honor Among Thieves' similarities to its predecessor. However, the developer has also heaped on lots of new gameplay mechanics, mission objectives, and some other goodies to keep things fresh. And as before, the character-driven storyline and gameplay remain accessible enough for new players to hop right in unobstructed.
As the game begins, Sly Cooper and his crony Bentley the turtle (who's now sadly wheelchair-bound) have arrived at a mysterious island with the intent of cracking open the Cooper family vault, which is said to contain all the wealth and treasures the famous thieving clan has collected over the generations. Not a bad haul for one day's work, except that another crew is already present on the island, and the group's jetpack-wearing leader makes it quickly obvious (via a giant robot, no less) that Sly and Bentley's presence on the island is not desired.
Once you're back in the city, the game plays similarly to Sly 2: Band of Thieves. You'll start off controlling Sly alone, wandering around the free-roaming cityscape to pick up missions that will move the storyline along. The game is sort of semilinear, since it lets you pick from a handful of missions at a time. You are required to finish all of these missions before the next major story point is revealed and the next set of missions is unlocked. Soon you'll also take control of Bentley, since each mission requires you to initiate it with a particular hero. The pair's immediate goal is to track down Murray, their hippo bruiser pal who's currently on a voyage of spiritual discovery. As you progress, you'll uncover more playable characters, some of whom have been on the opposing side in past games.
You'll also be able to pick up new gadgets and abilities for the characters you're already used to. Between missions, at the gang's hideout, you'll be able to access the ThiefNet to sell the loot you've picked up during the action levels to obtain extra cash. More importantly, you'll use those newfound coins to purchase extra stuff to bolster your abilities as you try to outwit the bad guys. Sly will be able to gain moves like the combat dodge, which gives you a quick evade move in combat, as well as a smoke bomb. Bentley, on the other hand (with his tricked-out wheelchair), will be able to pick up doodads like the alarm clock, which distracts enemies, and the adrenaline burst, which will hypercharge his wheels for a short time. Presumably, you'll be able to pick up similar enhancements for the game's wealth of characters who are playable later on in the game.
There seems to be a good variety of mission objectives and action sequences to undertake so far in Honor Among Thieves. One mission has you tailing bad guy Octavio as he trundles around town, polluting the water supply with tar. Your objective here is to use the trusty binocucom to snap pictures of Octavio's dastardly doings, without letting him catch you. Another mission had us infiltrating Inspector Carmelita's police station in search of Murray. But we found that slick lizard Dimitri instead, and we used a branching dialogue tree to talk him into helping us--as long as we freed him. We had to stealthily obtain the key to his cell by sneaking underneath watchful guards when the lights were out. There will even be vehicular missions. As Bentley, we had to hot-wire a machine gun-equipped police speedboat in order to chase down some crooks who were getting away in their own boats. This mission had us flying down the city canals, jumping and strafing to dodge various obstacles while shooting at the escaping criminals.
One of the new gameplay mechanics in Sly 3 is the addition of a 3D mode. But wait, you say, the series has always been 3D! Not this kind of 3D--we're talking the '50s drive-in-style of 3D, with the cardboard red-and-blue glasses and everything. We were a little disappointed to find that you can't set the entire game to 3D mode; rather, only specific missions will work in 3D, and you'll be prompted at the beginning of each one as to whether you want to enable the mode or not.
In the level we tried--a subterranean romp through a sewer and dungeonlike area--the 3D effects didn't leap out and smack us in the face, for the most part. Sly 3's 3D implementation instead seems to be pretty subtle, though we did find it pronounced in a couple of areas where the foreground elements seemed designed to extend especially outward. The 3D effect was most useful on one particular platforming sequence, where we had to jump from one tiny pole to another across a passage of water, though it mostly seems to be a novelty rather than an essential mechanic.
The initial levels of Sly 3 have been quite promising so far, with more of the varied, madcap action that made Band of Thieves a hit. The game has presented a good mix of different mission objectives all built on the series' proven platforming core. The environment is once again full of places for you to hide, climb, bounce, and so on, all in the interest of avoiding the many roving enemies. Series fans, and fans of platforming in general, ought to feel right at home here.
Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves is slated for release in September, and we'll bring you more on the game soon. In the meantime, check out our previous coverage, including a look at some of the new playable characters.