Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves Hands-On

We play through a four-level demo of Sucker Punch's action-packed 3D platformer.

Currently scheduled for release in September, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves is a PlayStation 2-exclusive action game in which you'll reprise the role of Sly Cooper, a thieving raccoon whose accomplices include a pink hippo named Murray and a wheelchair-bound turtle named Bentley. We recently had an opportunity to play through a four-level demo of the upcoming game, and we're pleased to report that it's shaping up to be every bit as entertaining as its predecessors.

Travel to Australia, upset the locals, and see what happens.

The first of the four playable levels we checked out was entitled "Lemonade Brawl," and it revolved around our heroes' visit to an Australian bar frequented by dingoes and kangaroos. After an intro sequence in which Sly, Murray, and Bentley manage to upset the locals, the level got under way with a three-on-three lemonade-drinking contest. By mashing the X and O buttons, we were able to make the guys drink faster, and when we won the contest (and were subsequently accused of cheating), we knew it wouldn't be long before things turned nasty.

Sure enough, the dingoes and kangaroos started a fight, and we found ourselves controlling Bentley, whose wheelchair is actually a quite formidable weapon. In addition to attacking enemies at close range by rapidly spinning his chair, Bentley has modified his ride so it can drop small bombs. The action was fast, furious, and occasionally a little confusing. And just as it felt we'd mastered Bentley's controls, he shouted to find out how Sly was getting on. And moments later we were controlling Sly instead. Sly uses the same melee attacks on enemies that he used in previous games, and he can use his double jump to get out of the way when things get hairy. Predictably, we switched to Murray after a short period of time and found that his powerful punches (he can also attack with his belly) were ideal for sending enemies flying into barroom hazards, which included an open fire, spinning drills, and an electric fence.

When all the dingoes and kangaroos had been trounced, we were confronted by a large boss character in the form of a mask-wearing dingo. We controlled Sly for the duration of the fight, but we weren't able to attack the boss until we'd tricked him into getting close to either Bentley or Murray so he could subsequently get stunned by one of their attacks. The encounter was brief, but it was a lot of fun. We were especially intrigued that after we killed the dingo boss, his mask was able to escape by flying out the door.

The next level we checked out was "The Shaman Escapes," in which we assumed the role of a magic-using koala bear. The shaman had clearly been captured by dingoes and kangaroos earlier in the game, and so our mission was to affect his escape before sabotaging the environmentally unfriendly drilling and excavation work the bad animals were engaged in. We didn't have any offensive moves at our disposal, but if we stood still for a few seconds, we were able to disguise ourselves as rocks or vegetation. And by jumping onto the backs of unsuspecting enemies, we were able to assume control of them so we could then charge them into objects we needed to destroy. The level had a stealthy feel to it in places, but there were also plenty of opportunities for us to test our platform-jumping skills as we negotiated the sizable excavation site.

Next up was a level simply entitled "Fly the Biplane," which required us to shoot down 30 enemies from the cockpit of a--you guessed it--biplane. The biplane was easy to get to grips with because its controls amounted to no more than accelerator and brake buttons, a barrel-roll button, and, of course, a fire button. The area in which the dogfight took place wasn't very big, but there was plenty of room for us to fly around, and the encounter was made a little more challenging by the fact that our limited ammunition for the front-firing machine gun could only be replenished by collecting pickups hanging from low bridges and inside a barn.

The Venice-inspired multiplayer map boasts plenty of power-ups and booby traps.

The final level included in our Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves demo was a two-player split-screen contest between Sly Cooper and Inspector Carmelita Fox. Our goal while playing as Sly was to steal valuable objects scattered around the Venice-inspired map and get them to safe points. While playing as Carmelita, who's armed with a gun, our goal was simply to stop Sly. The two characters both have radars that indicate the location of the other, and though Carmelita lacks the tightrope-walking abilities of her quarry, the movement controls for both characters are very similar. Power-ups scattered throughout the map afforded Sly and Carmelita access to special skills, such as huge jumps and temporary shields, while lever-activated booby traps gave Sly an opportunity to drop heavy objects on his pursuer or open trapdoors for her to fall through. The two-player game was both fast-paced and a lot of fun, so we're looking forward to checking out other maps and game types in the future.

Other gameplay features not present in our demo, which we're looking forward to checking out at some point, include cooperative missions, 3D glasses (which are supplied with the finished game) for play in 3D, disguises for Sly, and vehicles other than the biplane. We'll bring you more information on Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves as soon as it becomes available.

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