E3 2002: Sly Cooper hands-on

We go hands-on with Sony's cel-shaded PlayStation 2 stealth platformer.

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Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus
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We got some hands-on time with Sony and Sucker Punch's upcoming stealth platformer, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus. The game blends the hop-happy conventions of 3D platformers with the hide-and-sneak mechanics of games like Metal Gear Solid, and the results so far seem pretty pleasant. The level one demo was fairly linear and had titular character Sly infiltrating the estate of a villain named Raleigh, who, according to the information conveyed via cutscene, stole Sly's mystical family heirloom, the Thievius Raccoonus--a book detailing the legacies of master thieves throughout the ages.

The level was very dark in tone, and it was designed to look like a ruined estate. Searchlights were arranged all over the area's linear paths, and coming into contact with one caused a suitable ruckus and alerted any nearby enemies as to your whereabouts. A few of the sequences in the early environments were designed around avoiding the searchlights, though many of them featured some light combat elements as well. Raleigh's men were posted all over the grounds, and they all took basically the same form: huge, hippolike thugs wielding various weapons. Some pounded the ground with enormous mallets, others spit butane-powered flame jets at you, and others threw spiked stars at you. However big they were, though, they all fell with one blow from Sly's hook/sickle weapon, so beating them was as easy as remembering when their attack pattern reset. Sly himself can take only one hit, though, so precision seems to be key. Horseshoe power-ups littered around the environments let you soak some extra hits, and the graphical effect accompanying their collection was pretty neat--a horseshoe outline burned itself on Sly's backpack, making him seem quite lucky indeed.

Aside from in the occasional dodging of floodlights, Sly Cooper's stealth elements manifested themselves in one key area: the back-to-the-wall sneaking mechanics. Some areas in the environments were lined with blue mist, alerting you that you could back up on them. You can do this with the circle button, and as long as you hold it down, you'll be able to do your sneak walk. So far, we haven't actually seen it used for stealth purposes; rather, in the instance we used them, they simply let us worm our way around narrow surfaces that were rung around some circular pillars.

Sly's hooklike weapon serves a few auxiliary purposes, though, one of which we were able to see in action during our playtime. Sly can use it to loop around ropes arranged throughout the environments for a pulleylike effect. Another instance had Sly using it to latch on to a handle at the end of a long chain, which acted like an elevator to reach a lower surface. He also has a pair of binoculars that you can deploy with the left shoulder button, and, while their effect is fairly standard, the perspective shift that occurs when you use them is really neat and stylized. The game's cutscenes take place in this interface, with dialogue portraits accompanying the view-mode shift. The ones we saw were centered on Sly's friendly and slightly motherly turtle friend, who served a sort of "mission control" role.

Sly Cooper is looking quite sharp and polished as well, and the environments were very detailed indeed. Some of the texture quality was a tad sketchy, but this could possibly be attributed to the game's early status. In terms of performance, it ran consistently without a hitch, which was quite encouraging.

We'll have more on Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus for you soon.

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