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The Sly Trilogy Review

by on January 5, 2011

The Sly Trilogy ReviewGame: The Sly Trilogy

Developer: Sucker Punch / Sanzuru Games

Publisher: Sony

Available on: PlayStation 3 only

Almost everyone will have a list of games, films or even music that they’d like to see remade or revisited with a modern sheen added to them. Be it the entire back catalogue of The Beatles being remastered (to great success!), Batman being rebooted as a movie franchise or the insistent begging for Final Fantasy VII to be remade, the fact remains that it is nice to want things.

Sony have a novel take on the idea of a “remake” though and are currently remastering classics in HD for their PlayStation 3 and releasing the games at a lower price. The God of War collection was first out of the door and now we have Sucker Punch’s “The Sly Trilogy”, the franchise that eventually gave way to inFAMOUS. Some eight years have passed since Sly Cooper first came to our screens on PlayStation 2, but can HD visuals, PlayStation Move support, 3D (for Sly 3) and a budget price make this trilogy of games worth investing in? Read on to find out!

STORY: In this anthropomorphic universe, our lead character Sly Cooper comes from a long line of master thieves. Coming across as a rather “Robin Hood” style character, whilst Sly is a thief, he only steals from other thieves and despite the attempts of officer Carmelita Fox to prove otherwise, he really is a good guy.

As a child, Sly’s parents were robbed and murdered by jealous criminals, stealing the book “The Thievus Racconus” (the book containing all the secrets of the master thieves) and much of the first Sly Cooper game is made up of Sly attempting to retrieve pages from the book (and thus learning additional thieving techniques such as slow motion or rolling) and dishing out revenge on the “Fiendish Five” that destroyed his life so early on.

Let’s back up a little though and introduce Murray (the large pink hippo) who is the muscle of the gang and Bentley, (a turtle) who is the brains of the gang. Sly met both of these oddball characters at the orphanage and has been firm friends with them throughout the rest of his life.

The second Sly Cooper game deals more with the revelations of the first game, and you’ll find Sly and the gang trying to retrieve the stolen “Clockwerk” parts from the Klaww gang, to stop the evil Clockwerk from being revived. A few new characters are introduced in Sly Cooper 2: Band of Thieves including Carmelita Fox’s partner, Constable Neyla. Without spoiling things too drastically, in Band of Theives, things are not what they may seem.

In Sly Cooper 3: Honour Among Thieves we find Sly trying to gain access to the newly discovered (by Sly anyway) Cooper vault. Sly has to regroup his friends and recruit new members (including a character from the first game) and take on the evil Doctor M, as he controls the island that plays host to the Cooper vault and has been trying to break into it for years.

Always engaging, with charming characters and a wonderfully crafted world, The Sly Trilogy story is certainly not throwaway and whilst you’d not expect it to win any awards, you’ll always want to play on to find out what is happening to the characters as they are just that well crafted!

GRAPHICS: It’s difficult to know what to expect from 5-8 year old games remastered for high-end hardware, but it’s safe to say that The Sly Trilogy doesn’t let itself down in the visuals department. Sly himself looks fantastic and the world really does look quite lovely, though obviously some of textures aren’t as highly detailed as you might be used to.

Cut-scenes are the only real casualty when it comes to The Sly Trilogy’s graphics, they are 4:3 aspect ratio and are obviously from a PlayStation 2 title. That’s not to suggest that they look bad, far from it in fact, but they don’t look as good as the rest of the game. In-game though, the world maps from the Sly Cooper 1 don’t look fantastic, almost as if they were missed in the whole remastering process, but you’ll spend such a small amount of time looking at them, it’s not an issue.

This same issue rears its head throughout the games though despite Sly 2 (obviously) being an improvement over the first game. As you’d expect, with the later games the graphics are improved but in truth, the first title sets a benchmark of excellence and it has aged really well.

SOUND: Sly Cooper sounds great, let’s get that out of the way right now. His ice cool voice is in stark contrast to the comic overtones of his entourage (especially Bentley) and his enemies. The games oozes character, but some people may find the voice acting of some characters overly melodramatic and ridiculous. Hopefully most people will probably enjoy it for what it is, just fun and entertaining.

Some of the characters (for example, Carmelita Fox) sadly has three different voice actresses for the three games though and some of the cut-scenes do sound rather compressed and…tiny. It has to be assumed that these are issues due to the technological limitations of the time though.

Even when it comes to the ambience of the soundtrack, The Sly Trilogy attempts to charm the player, having a sneaking footsteps sound as you walk is a superb touch and makes you feel quite silly, in a good way! All of these have been remastered with care and consideration and it shows.

There was a bug that occurred during Sly Cooper 3, whereby the sound seemed to have a static noise, almost a crackling throughout, even during moments where music is the thing that is mostaudible. Saving and restarting seemed to resolve the issue, it didn’t occur again and after doing some research it appears this bug is, thankfully, rather rare.

GAMEPLAY: If you ever played any of Sly Cooper’s bigger, better known stable mates like Jak and Daxter or Ratchet & Clank, you’ll feel very much at home here. You will control Sly Cooper for the most part, utilising his spy skills along the way. You might use his sneak ability to hide from guards or even his abilities (as a Racoon!) to climb things, though whilst it’s a stealth action game, this is not Metal Gear Solid, the emphasis is on fun over realism most of the time.

There are points in the games that diverge from the traditional gameplay styles though. Some levels are short and almost feel like mini-games at times. For example, in Sly 1 there are levels that see you take control of a vehicle to win a race and others that see you have to fire shots from a cannon to make sure your friend can pass safely.

With Sly Cooper 2 though, there are quite large changes to the style of gameplay. In the first title the missions are very straightforward and set out. There will be an area you go to and once you infiltrate said area, you have 7 missions within that “hub” to gain 7 keys which allow you take on the boss. In Sly 2 though, the game feels more like an open-world title, giving a larger hub that you have to do smaller missions from. Instead of more traditional levels, you might have to go and turn on three signal towers and it’s this type of gameplay that clearly laid the foundations for the future greatness that was inFAMOUS.  Beyond that there are even changes to Sly himself. For instance, there is now a run button, which feels like a nice new addition.

In addition to the general gameplay style changing, with Sly 2 the camera movement (on the right analogue stick) is unlocked on the Y axis instead of just the X axis as in Sly Cooper 1. This alone makes Band of Thieves feel as though it’s aged better than Sly Cooper 1 and the third title (Honour Among Thieves) incorporates all of the Band of Thieves gameplay as well. Sly 3 introduces stereoscopic 3D, if that’s your kind of thing, but doesn’t hold too many advancements over Sly 2 in terms of gameplay.

Some of the ideas within The Sly Trilogy may seem questionable in the cold hard light of the current gaming age though. For example, you are given lives and can indeed gain extra lives along the way, but they amount to being little more than checkpoints unless you run out whereby you’ll just have to start the level again.

The first game operates a rather strict ideal of one hit death (unless you grab 100 coins which gains you a horseshoe allowing you to take damage just the once) which at times feels harsh on the player. Sometimes you’ll die and feel it really wasn’t your fault. For instance, experiencing the camera just going crazy a few times and not being able to see Sly felt like an unfair death. Thankfully though, the one-hit-kill mentality is ditched after Sly Cooper 1 and you’ll have an energy bar from Sly Cooper 2 onwards. It doesn’t make the game easier per se, just a little more fair. Adding other playable characters to the game from Sly 2 onwards is also a fun experience and gives more depth to the gameplay. It’s all very cleverly done and plays a part in the narrative.

The fundamental action-stealth mechanics throughout the series are an absolute joy to experience though, whether it’s for the first time or if you played the games all those years back. Boss battles are fun despite relying on trial and error and really bookend the chapters nicely. In short, you won’t get bored of any facets of this game, you’ll almost always be entertained and frustration is thankfully in short supply.

PlayStation Move compatibility has been added in the form of unlockable mini-games, but they feel largely pointless and an attempt to add value to an already bursting with content disc. You might enjoy flying an RC helicopter through rings with your Move controller or even catching things in the air and “pulling” them towards you, but probably only once, and you’ll quickly return to the actual Sly Cooper games.

LONGEVITY: All three games can be completed in around ten hours, though if you want to 100% each title, then that figure is considerably increased. Collectables are the order of the day and the game is brilliant about checkpointing any and every collectable you may find. Even if you die a second later, it has registered the collection and is “in the bank”, so to speak.

Even if you aren’t the type to go back to a game to 100% it you might find yourself tempted as the game just seems so reasonable about the way it presents the opportunity to do so. Throw in some mini-games for the PlayStation Move and you’ve got a game that should stay in the PlayStation 3 drive for quite some time. There’s plenty of trophies to go for as well, including a platinum for each title and early on, The Sly Trilogy will dish them out quickly and often.

VERDICT: Despite some of the ideas within the game having aged a little, this is a superb collection of games that offers outrageous value for money. Some of the technical limitations do rear their heads at times, but these are three fantastically fun games!

If you missed Sly Cooper’s world for whatever reason back when it came to PlayStation 2 you have absolutely no excuse not to pick up this remastered collection for the PlayStation 3 now. If you’ve played them all before, you should still pick it up as it’s a wonderful title to have in the collection and you already know how great these games are. Roll on Sly 4!

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