Let me just get this out of the way: the Sly series is Assassin’s Creed for kids (or, since Sly came first, Assassin’s Creed is Sly for adults). Either way, my need for stealthy action is fulfilled, but with Sly I don’t have to worry about people walking in while I’m murdering the Pope. Not that I did or intend to do so…Moving on, Sly 3 is a stealth-platformer at heart, but with more diversions, challenges, and minigames than you could wave a hidden blade at…I swear, I didn’t kill anyone…
There are six chapters in all, but combined with a decent selection of challenges and an excellent tutorial, there’s more than enough content for at least ten hours. It’s possible to eke out a few more hours of gameplay by attempting 100% completion or playing some of the bonus mini-games with a friend, though I wouldn’t recommend doing either of those, as I found the mini-games unnecessary and completing the entire game yields a small reward.
As in Sly 2, most of the gameplay is split between the three members of the Cooper Gang: Sly, Murray, and Bentley. Sly is by far the most athletic of the group and where I draw comparisons to Assassin’s Creed from. Impressive climbing abilities, stealth attacks, and plenty of special gadgets and abilities make Sly the most interesting character (in my opinion). Murray, the muscle of the outfit, has the greatest offensive abilities but not much else. Bentley, an asthmatic turtle who has been confined to a wheelchair, has the widest range of gadgets and can hack objectives, making him the most strategic choice.
It’s an interesting group to say the least, and they work well together, for the most part. You see, while the three I just mentioned are the core members of the Cooper Gang, new recruits are added throughout the storyline. Some familiar faces from Thievius Raccoonus and Band of Thieves, along with some completely new characters, are introduced as the story progresses, but none of them feel fleshed out. They’re there for the sole purpose of padding the gameplay and story length.
This isn’t a new problem either. The previous installment added in Murray and Bentley, and while that was clearly fluff, at least it made sense. They’re part of team Cooper, and while they weren’t the most engaging characters, they added some new elements to the series. It’s hard to deny that Murray’s beat ‘em up sections felt great: beating the snot out of all those thugs felt satisfying, since that could never be done as Sly. And Bentley, though more slow and methodical, had some pretty intense missions throughout the experience that utilized his unique abilities.
These new characters, though, are only played in missions, and half of the time it’s within a minigame. It’s not like the new characters are bad, or even unenjoyable, but they’re not what I play the game for. What I play for is a fantastic, rock-solid platformer with stealth elements, challenging missions, and family friendly gameplay. And that’s still here, and it’s even better in spots, but those spots are spread much thinner than before. I like the Sly series (a lot), but I’m not sure if Sly 3 is a step in the right direction.
There’re plenty of new features and such, (multiplayer minigames, new characters, six brand new levels along with a tutorial) but so much of it is unnecessary. The multiplayer isn’t particularly fun, the new characters feel tacked on, I didn’t enjoy the new levels as much as the ones in Sly 2, and don’t even get me started on the voice acting.
But I don’t want to make it seem like it’s all negative, there are good things as well. The core gameplay is great, and I’d even say it’s better than Sly 2 in some spots. Bentley and Murray are a great example. Previously, they weren’t very much fun to play as, but this time, it feels like actual thought and effort were put into their characters. They have unique gadgets, and more missions that make use of their unique abilities. It was nice to take a break from constantly lurking in the shadows to pummel some goons as Murray or plan a complex trap as Bentley.
Everything still controls perfectly and I enjoyed the story, music, and comic book style visuals. I was even surprised by a few of the minigames. I thought the little “hacking” (twin-stick shooter) sections were neat, and later on in the game, there’s a whole pirate side-game that I absolutely adored. Even the moral content of this game is pretty great. Other than the obvious cartoon violence warning, the only major warning would be about the Robin Hood style thievery. I’m sure some people will just shrug it off, since a lot of it goes to the poor and unfortunate, but it is there.
After setting the game down and writing this review, I can’t help but feel confused. I had a good time with Sly 3, but I feel like there are a lot of but’s. This is a fun game, but it has too much fluff. I liked a few of the new features, but there were even more that I didn’t like. I’m definitely glad this game was made, but I wish it was more like Sly 2.
Sly 3 is nowhere near bad; all of it is at least functional and somewhat enjoyable, but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. All of the elements are there, and it’s still one of the best games on the PlayStation 2, but it’s also a lot less enjoyable than the first two games. That being said, it’s still Sly, and I absolutely think it’s worth playing, but that comes with a warning. I don’t believe it’s as good as its predecessor, and I think some fans may be disappointed.