Review: Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves (Playstation 2)

In this review, we work as a team as we play the Playstation 2 game Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves. We find out if this adventure game is worth a play.

This game was released in 2005. It is the third game in this series.

We have grown quite familiar with this series. We previously played the first game, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus. Although it is a bit on the simplistic side of things, it still managed to earn a great score. Next up was Sly 2: Band of Thieves. That game changed a few things around, but still managed to score quite well. So, we thought we’d give the third game of the series a try to see if it continues offering solid gameplay.

The game more or less picks up where things left off in the previous game. Bentley, injured from an accident while doing his part taking down Clockwerk, finds himself confined to a wheelchair. Murray blames himself for the accident. Even though Bentley tries to convince him that it wasn’t his fault, Murray insists it was and quits in search of inner peace in the Australian outback.

Meanwhile, Sly decides to pay a visit to the Cooper vault to see what his family inheritance entails. When he arrives at the island, Dr. M, the new antagonist in the series, is already there attempting to crack the vault himself. Without Coopers Cane, he resorts to increasingly powerful weaponry. At the same time, he increases the islands defences knowing that someone from the Cooper gang would eventually show up.

When Cooper finally meats up with Dr. M, he is eventually ensnared by the monster Dr. M is controlling. In the last moments before being eaten alive, his life flashes before his eyes as well as the events that lead up to that moment in time. The actual gameplay begins during one of his flashbacks to that moment in time.

The game begins with just Bentley and Sly. Like previous games, you get a video montage to advance the plot before taking on a new episode. The game starts you off with a choice of either entering the danger room or heading straight into the first lobby area.

The danger room is a tutorial room that instructs players on the basic moves of a few of the characters. More specifically, tests players basic movement and attack skills. Players do return to this area a few times towards the beginning of the game as more abilities are unlocked.

Meanwhile, in the main lobby area, players can take on different “jobs” just like the previous game. However, one thing is worth noting: there are a few elements missing from the previous game. Notable features missing include the rare loot system. As such, players will need to target breakables and focus on pick-pocketing if they hope to rack up enough coin to buy more powerful moves on Bentley’s Thiefnet laptop.

The other notable feature that is missing is the bottle and vault system. Those clue bottles you might recall collecting in the previous two games are gone completely in this game. As such, you will not be able to collect special moves after cracking safes as well. Instead, all of your abilities and power-ups are collected through the Thiefnet system introduced in the previous game.

One improvement this game boasts over the previous game is the fact that you do not need to sell special loot you happen to collect. Instead, the second you collect the special loot from guards pockets, it is immediately fenced on Thiefnet and the value of the loot is immediately added to your total coin right on the spot. Definitely an improvement in gameplay efficiency.

When you enter a job, some jobs do feature the character you bring to the location. However, just because you enter a mission with one character doesn’t mean that you’ll be playing with that character even a fraction of the time during the job. Instead, you might play a different character as the job calls for it. You might get a hint in the planning phases, but otherwise, it might be more of a surprise as you play.

There are a number of characters you can play in this game. You can play as Sly, Murray, or Bentley for obvious reasons. However, there are a number of more minor characters that you play as. They are more minor because you don’t actually select them in the safe house and you can’t buy upgrades for them. Instead, you wind up calling on them for assistance as the jobs require. These characters include Carmelita Fox, The Guru, Penelope, Dimitri (from the previous game), and the Panda King (also from a previous game). Each character features a small set of unique skills needed to complete certain jobs.

A lot of jobs in this game gets players to play various mini-games. This can include using different kinds of dialogue to elicit a specific response from characters, cracking safes, and button mashing and careful timing.

Like the previous game, there is no free life system. Instead, if you die, you get placed back at the previous checkpoint with full health. In boss fights, there are also checkpoints, though the bosses health is also restored if the player does die. One thing that is noticeable is the fact that some areas gradually get easier as you die, so dying can wind up being a beneficial thing under some circumstances.

The health system is largely the same. You have a bar denoting your health. You can restore health by collecting the red cross symbols that occasionally pop out from enemies or breakables.

In total, there are 6 episodes in the entire game. However, you might notice the fact that you won’t necessarily get a game completion rating as high as you might expect as you complete portions of the game. This is because once you complete an episode, you have the ability to replay the episode and complete different challenges with often increased difficulty. This allows players to get more of the game completed all the way up to 100%. Just know that the extra challenges are particularly difficult most of the time.

Another novel feature this game boasts is the 3D glasses. The glasses come with the instruction manual. In certain areas, you are given the option to utilize a 3D effect with the classic red and blue tinted glasses. Do note, however, that this is entirely optional and the 3D effect isn’t really much to write home about. Still, it is a novel concept that was thrown in.

On a final note, one additional new element to this game is that a very small select set of moves have multi-level upgrades. You can get them as high as level 3, increasing it’s effectiveness or power.

One thing is for sure, because of the first two games, I had some pretty high expectations for this game getting into it. To a small degree, I found myself disappointed.

The first reason why I was disappointed is the fact that this game does ramp up the difficulty. This in spite of the fact that this game introduces a whole level devoted to mastering the basic moves. By the time you get to the first boss, you’ll definitely notice an increase in difficulty. It’s as if this game is built for players who have conquered the first two games and want something more challenging.

The good part is that you do have a better shot at pleasing fans of the series. Unfortunately, the negative side effect is that it may be off-putting to new players who happen to try the third game in the series first. Having played the first two, I can say I found this game challenging. So, if you are new to this series, I would recommend against starting with this particular game because of the initial and increased difficulty.

The second reason is the lack of the bottle and vault as well as the rare loot system. Those systems added a nice optional side challenge that can be casually tackled as you progress through an episode. With this gone, this game becomes a lot more in line with a “point A to point b” style game. The incentive to explore the main lobby area of the level is almost completely eliminated as a result. The only remaining incentive is the pick-pocketing challenge that sticks around for almost the entire game.

A third reason I find myself a bit disappointed in this game is the sudden more than doubling of playable character. More specifically, how those characters are used is the focus of my criticism. Because you really don’t know who you are ultimately going to spend time playing once you reach a certain job, it almost defeats the purpose of showing up at a location with a certain character in the first place.

Having said that, there is still plenty of redeeming qualities with this game. For one, the actual pick pocketing is mercifully left in this game to offer some dynamic play. The occasional loot bonus is still there. Dynamic gameplay is greatly reduced in this game with the stripping of a number of featured, but it isn’t completely lost.

While the difficulty is certainly up there, you can’t say there isn’t variety in this game. Between piloting planes, tackling rhythm games, taking on picture puzzles, and even piloting a pirate ship to sink or capture other vessels, this game has a lot of different types of missions on offer. If you don’t mind the ramped up difficulty such as the security camera challenge, the more challenging hacker levels, or even worse, the brutal claw gauntlet that saw my game get cut short, this actually winds up being quite a varied game.

The level design is certainly more than sufficient. It offers both the simplicity of the waypoint system while also offering a host of Le Parkour style obstacles along the way. So you never wind up getting lost. At the same time, you can get engrossed in the levels themselves. This element might be a bit lost on the last two episodes, but it does occupy a huge chunk of the game anyway.

Generally speaking, this may be the weakest game so fary, but you also have to keep in mind that the first two are quite strong games to begin with. As such, those first two games were going to be a tough act to follow to begin with. The increased difficulty and stripping of some great features are certainly drawbacks to this game. Still, the nice variety of mini-games and the retention of the pick-pocketing system does mean not all is lost here. So, while weaker, this game isn’t weaker by that much.

If you were expecting a huge facelift in terms of graphics with this game, you’ll definitely be left disappointed. The art is largely the same as the previous game. It might be a bit heavy on the character intro screens, but it does retain it’s original charm that made this franchise an enjoyable game to look at. So, it is great, but barely in my books.

The audio is certainly decent. The music offers some decent variety. While no track really sticks out to me as spectacular, I will say that the music offers some great atmosphere. The voice acting is also pretty solid.

Overall, this game does end the trilogy of games on a bit of a weak note. The difficulty is sadly ramped up and features have been stripped out. The character system also leaves a bit to be desired. Still, some features are retained and there is certainly some very solid variety going on in this game. The graphics don’t offer anything new, but it does manage to hold on to being great. The audio is also pretty decent. So, an overall solid game in my books.

Furthest point in game: Died on the claw gauntlet during the final episode. No special challenges completed, though a few were attempted.

General gameplay: 20/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 76%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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