Making a successful game is hard enough as is. Making an even better sequel is even harder. Completing the trilogy with a strong conclusion is a whole different kind of challenge. One that Sucker Punch was more than willing to take a crack at. Not every trilogy can be Toy Story or The Dark Knight; most are going to have at least one weak entry. Unfortunately, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves is that weak entry.
Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus may be the default worst Sly Cooper game, since the series hadn’t yet found its full identity. But, Sly 3 doesn’t have that excuse to use. Sucker Punch essentially took everything that made Sly 2: Band of Thieves great and downgraded it in some aspect. You can definitely tell they wanted to go bigger for what was meant to be the end of the series, but they sacrificed strong storytelling and intriguing plot to do so.
The larger scope means there are some true moments of brilliance, though. Unsurprisingly, the studio that brought you InFamous and Ghost of Tsushima know how to make games fun. People who don’t put much value in story will probably enjoy this game more than those who do. However, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Having to follow the iconic Sly 2 is no mean feat, but let’s see how Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves holds up as it approaches its 18th birthday later this year.
Story – Band of Thieves
Sly 2: Band of Thieves and Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves should really swap names. Sly 2 is all about the honorable thieves in the Cooper Gang stealing from less honorable thieves. And there are two instances of a thief betraying other thieves. Sly 3 is all about assembling a group – or band – of thieves to pull off a job.
Sly 3 actually begins in medias res, or in the middle of the story. The Cooper Gang trio, and some unknown allies work together to infiltrate Kaine Island. The island is home to the Cooper Family vault, and under heavy guard by the evil Doctor M, a former partner of Sly’s father. The heist goes sideways, and Sly’s life flashes before his eyes, sending us to the beginning of the game.
Sly and Bentley realize they need an expanded crew to break into the vault, and go on their third road trip to gather allies new and old. The first objective is reconnecting with Murray in Venice, Italy. As he left the team after the 2nd game. After that, they travel to the Australian Outback, Holland, China, and the Caribbean to recruit the others. But, in order to recruit them, they have to pull off some favors first, and that’s where the villains come in.
The Cooper Gang is not going up against another gang of thieves this time. Each villain is an individual with their own plans. For example, Don Octavio wants to flood Venice with tar to force Venetians to watch his opera performances. And General Tsao takes control of a Chinese village ahead of his wedding. Though the change is understandable, it makes the villains less memorable and the story less interesting.
However, not all the villains are forgettable. The Black Baron and the aforementioned General Tsao are both very memorable characters for quite different reasons. Though; Don Octavio, The Mask of Dark Earth, Captain LeFwee, and Doctor M don’t reach those levels. So, the ratio isn’t great. Also, Sly 3 has 6 chapters as opposed to Sly 2‘s 8. Meaning no villains get an extra chapter to shine. Well, none introduced in this game.
Two members of the expanded Cooper Gang are former enemies: The Panda King from Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, and Dimitri Lousteau from Sly 2: Band of Thieves. We get to see new sides of their characters that expand both them and Sly. Combined with the other two new members – The Guru and Penelope – expanding Murray’s and Bentley’s characters respectfully, it really makes Sly 3 feel like a series finale.
Gameplay – Overstuffed & Undercooked
Sucker Punch threw everything at the wall for what is, to this day, their final Sly Cooper game. Unfortunately, not much of it stuck. Like the multiplayer mini games that are the dictionary definition of “okay.”
A Bad Case of Sequelitis
The core gameplay of the three characters is virtually unchanged, with a few quality of life improvements made to the overall play that make things smoother. However, every new Cooper Gang member has a completely unique playstyle. The Guru can take control of enemies and manipulate objects with his mind, Penelope uses her remote-control (RC) car and helicopter to assist the game, The Panda King blasts enemies with fireworks, and Dimitri engages in SCUBA adventures.
For better and for worse, that’s not where the innovation ends. There are several missions in Sly 3 featuring gameplay you will do at most a handful of times after. Like boat racing in the Venice canals, dogfighting (the plane kind), dragon slaying, and even pirate-style naval combat. The missions may be more varied from Sly 2, but the massive variations in gameplay means there’s a higher chance that certain missions will be quite terrible. On the flip side, it also means certain missions will be amazing. For example, out of all the ones I mentioned, the naval combat is the only one I consider bad.
Like a Boss (Fight)
The wide variation also carries over into the boss fights, with no two fights being alike. And, just like the mission variety, not all of them will receive a gold star any time soon. The worst fight by far, in my opinion, is Penelope’s sword fight against Captain LeFwee. It’s basically a series of clearly telegraphed Quick Time Events, and never gets challenging. Murray’s tar-soaked brawl with Don Octavio and Sly’s climactic showdown with Dr. M aren’t anything to write home about either, but they at least have an element of challenge.
However, Sly 3, has two boss fights that I consider to be two of the best in the whole series. Those being against The Black Baron and General Tsao. Coincidentally, they’re sequential. The Black Baron is an ace fighter pilot, and Sly has to win a dogfighting tournament to get to him. So, the first part of the fight is winning the tournament. The second half is brawling with the bruiser on the wing of The Black Baron’s plane while it’s flying through the air. Fighting locations don’t get much better than that. Though, a Chinese battleground infused with the lifeforce of the warriors who died there does top it, and that’s where Sly squares off with General Tsao.
The fight is strangely located in the middle of the episode instead of the end (probably to make up for the Australia episode not having a boss), and is way better than the actual final boss. The first phase sees the two fighters leaping vast distances atop bamboo stalks, and the second phase has them jump to the ground for a more standard fight, made more intense by the General’s wide array of moves. Which includes summoning undead hands trying to pull Sly into the underworld.
Graphics & Sound – Charted Territory
There isn’t a big graphical jump like from Sly 1 to Sly 2. The only notable change is that the character models are a lot more vibrant than before. That being said, the villain designs aren’t as memorable as those from the prior two entries. You’re probably tired of hearing about this guy, but General Tsao is the only one I consider memorable. The fact that he’s a Chinese chicken named after a Chinese chicken dish is still funny to me.
That being said, the hub areas are an overall improvement. They’re all a grander scale than before, and really remind you of the area of the world it’s based on. My personal favorite is the Holland area. Though, Blood Bath Bay in the Caribbean is a close second. The one downside is that Sucker Punch removed the collectable bottles in each hub world, meaning there’s less of a reason to explore them fully. However, the missions tend to be spread out enough to at least give you a good sense of the area.
On a different note, voice acting is this series’ biggest enemy. Sly’s voice actor stepped up his game from before, so that’s no longer an issue, but there are two new glaring issues. The first is that Murray’s voice is different, despite having the same voice actor. It’s less deep and more raspy shouting. It gets annoying very quick, and Bentley’s nasally nerd voice already took the “lovably annoying” role. The other issue is Carmelita’s voice. Once again, she has a completely different actress with a completely different accent. She went from slightly Latina, to American, to now French.
Overall, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves is weaker than its predecessor, and a shining example that more isn’t always more. The game is truly a variety pack, with a pretty even split of pros and cons that makes players walk the line of getting fed up. Though, it’s still an enjoyable and fun experience with a mostly satisfying conclusion. Which is more than can be said about what’s coming next.