The Sly franchise stands as one of finest pedestals of the platform genre to date - next to the likes of Mario, Ratchet and Clank and Jak. After the release of the stellar Sly 2: Band of Thieves title, the franchise began to let lose like a steam train headed for a collision course with success. It stood as one of most defining moments in platforming history, and managed to rekindle the platforming genre. Yes, it was that good. Unlike the other platformer titles spotlighting for the PlayStation2, Sly Cooper's presentation has remained virtually unchanged. Aside from the quirky new characters, new gameplay elements and an all-new 3D feature of sorts, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves maintains its authentic flair and, once again, stands firm above the rest.
The third title in the series begins directly after the events of Sly 2: Band of Thieves. After the rocky events of their last mission (Bentley being confined to a wheelchair), the gang took a hit with Murray leaving to pursue his spiritual side in Australia. Despite the notorious gang being shattered, that didn't stop Sly and Bentley embracing on an all-new adventure to reclaim the treasures inside the Cooper family's vault, full of all sorts of loot acquired throughout the Cooper bloodline. An evil genius named Dr. M, meanwhile, has built a fortress around the vault's location in an attempt to break it and reclaim the treasures as his own. With a depleted group, Sly and Bentley begin their adventure in an attempt to assemble an Ocean's Eleven-style team capable of infiltrating the fortress and the vault within it.
Taking a slice of success from Sly 2: Band of Thieves, each of the vibrant levels consists of a massive hub where gamers must complete different jobs that will finally lead to the success of their final job, which in most cases, is to acquire a new specialists for their 'big' heist on the Cooper's vault. Just like Sly 2: Band of Thieves, gamers can send out their characters from the 'safe house' (the hub) to roam the environments and pickpocket their foes for coins or items, which will assist in purchasing essential and superior weaponry needed later in the game. The main purpose of the safe house is to allow gamers to quickly switch between characters to pull off different jobs and to buy new items with the money they've acquired.
The main focus of Sly 2: Band of Thieves was that gamers were given the ability to play as Murray and Bentley. While the same remains true, this latest installment expands on this feature giving the new characters in the game a much more vital role in the success of missions, and having a bit more flexibility and defining characteristics between one another, which not only makes the game more interesting, but allows for a lot more platforming mayhem. Despite being constricted to his wheelchair, Bentley is now equipped with a number of devices such bombs and a magnet that can steal coins and health from enemies. Sly retains his slick moves by being able to run across ropes, climb up buildings and crawl into tight spaces. Meanwhile, other supporting characters allow gamers to control the minds of enemies, throw fireworks and even take control of a RC helicopter and car.
Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves consists of a number of mini-games within each level that'll have gamers flying in a dogfight, insulting pirates, boat races and even playing an arcade styled tank shooting game. While these little additions are usually fun and break up the tension between all the platforming mayhem, these are usually sort lived making you wish they had lasted longer. The game also adds a number of great new features to the core gameplay, such as the fascinating inclusion of disguising yourself in enemy territory, as well as a number of new skills that expands on the thieving feel of the entire game. Gamers can now use a Grapple Cam, which acts as a decoy device, as well as a number of neat spy-like gadgets are unlockable throughout the game.
While the game manages to offer several new additions to the core gameplay, the game feels more like a Sly 2.5 rather than a completely new addition to the series. The transition from the first Sly to the second was much more noticeable. The game plays a lot similar to Sly 2: Band of Thieves, but is unfortunately hurt by a number of downfalls that hurt the overall experience. There are sequences in the game where the camera can often become an issue when controlling your character and it seems that the game trails on a bit, making it difficult to become captivated in the game until the later, and more fulfilling, levels. Speaking of which, the game has taken a huge hit in the difficultly department. While the franchise is catered towards a younger audience, Sly 2: Band of Thieves still had its moments of difficulty. Unfortunately though, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves has taken a hit to the gut and has released a rather sup-par outing that shouldn't be too difficult for gamers to tackle some of the higher-end missions with no trouble, with the only mistakes coming from your behalf.
One of the defining factors of the series has been its unique art style. Cel-shading has often been frowned upon, but Sucker Punch has once again proven that the style can be quite rewarding. The game looks and feels like a comic book, and even the story's cut-scenes feel like you're watching a moving comic book strip. The levels are lavish and expansive, each character pulls off a slick and distinctive charm, and animation is portrayed in typical Sucker Punch style - fantastic. The game is extremely lively, full of colours that brings the game, and it's characters, to life. One of the more frustrating aspects of all of this, however, is that the game does suffer from framerate issues. While these aren't plentiful, they tend to stand out quite well during game time.
For the first time, the series introduces a number of two-player games. These include a Cops and Robbers split-screen mode where one player (Sly) is trying to nick items while Carmelita has to stop him. There's also a flight deathmatch, as well as an interesting boat battle mode. They're usually fun, but are often short-lived.
Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves manages to continue the series' ride to success in one of the most enjoyable platformers for the year. Despite its nagging downfalls and feeling somewhat like an expansion to last year's excellent Sly 2: Band of Thieves, the game still is an exciting and fulfilling outing that no platformer fan should miss out on. And if you're a Sly fan, well, we don't have to say much to get your motor running, since you've probably already picked up what may be the best platformer title for the year, even if it isn't as good as Sly 2: Band of Thieves.