Sly 2: Band of Thieves

Sly 2: Band of Thieves

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 11/7/2004 for PS2  

Sly Cooper had the unfortunate task of going head-to-head with Sony’s other juggernaut Ratchet & Clank. Because it preached finesse and patience the game garnered less attention than the testosterone-infused R&C. This time Sly has the luxury of starting off first in order to expose itself to a larger market. It’s a great move on the part of SCEA because it gives gamers who might not normally give the series a chance an opportunity to have at it while they’re waiting for the holiday rush.

Sly 2 picks up where the original left off; the evil Clockwerk is imprisoned and the family’s guide to thievery has been returned to its rightful owner. Although Sly apprehended the evil bird the body was placed into the hands of the authorities. In an effort to ensure that the bird doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, Sly sets out to steal the parts for his own safe keeping. However, he finds out that he’s too late and that someone has already beaten him to the punch. It’s up to Sly and his band of lovable misfits to retrieve the parts and ensure that the world can rest easy.

In tune with the original, Sly 2 unfolds over 8 missions which take place in 5 distinct worlds. Like before the missions are broken up into little sub-missions that comprise the main objective. The missions are very well crafted and will challenge the most experienced gamer. There are a wide variety of missions including stealth missions, breaking and entering missions and some of the hardest boss battles this side of Contra. What’s great about the missions is that you never feel like you’re getting the runaround. Each mini-objective is pertinent to the main task and you won’t be sent out on missions just for the heck of it. If you’re in town to steal a feather you’ll do things like take photos and infiltrate facilities, not participate in nonsensical things like water ski races and equestrian competitions. I like how everything relates to the main goal because it never feels like you’re doing a task just for the sake of wasting time. By doing this, none of the game feels like filler material and you’ll never be sent on a wild goose chase.

You’ll still be able to wander around the main mission hub but they’ve become much larger in scale and detail. While it’s fun to wander around the town it’s a shame that the developers didn’t add more to do. One of the key allures in Jak II is that the city operates like a real city in which laws are to be obeyed and civilians can be interacted with. Sly 2’s worlds really only exist as self-contained entities in which you traverse to access the next mission. There are guards which patrol the areas but not much else of interest. You’ll be able to destroy inanimate objects and such but the novelty wears off rather quickly.

Fans of the original will feel right at home in Sly 2. All of the controls are basically untouched with the exception of a few useful enhancements. There are now two attack buttons which can be used to chain together powerful combos. For the stealth-minded, a new sneak attack allows you to dispose of foes silently a la Solid Snake. The little blue sparkles make a return here to let you know when you can perform a context sensitive action such as rope climbing or sneaking. When sneaking isn’t an option a new run button allows Sly to travel faster; a great blessing for those who hated his slow jogging speed. It comes at a noise penalty but it’s great for when you need to trek across large amounts of land. Finally there’s a new hiding aspect which allows you to crawl under tables to elude the guards.
The biggest additions come in the form of new playable characters and the inclusion of gadgets. From time-to-time one of Sly’s bandmates will be called upon to utilize their skills. Murray, the giant hippo with a super hero complex, is the muscle behind the operation and is brought forth when a bunch of enemies need to be turned into bowling pins. Bentley is the complete opposite as his weak physique prevents him from physically harming foes. He’s the brains of the bunch so he’ll need to use his wits to do damage. Bentley’s also a demolitions expert so you’ll be glad to know that he’s the game’s pyromaniac. The gadgets make life a little easier, but for the most part you’ll stick to the cane as your primary means of attack. The additions bring some much-needed variety to the basic gameplay formula that’s both refreshing and engaging. Then again, they also highlight one of the engine’s most deficient elements, the camera system.

To put it succinctly, the camera system is awful. Instead of focusing the action on the character it appears that the pivot point is five feet in front of them, causing the character to sit too close to the screen and obscuring your view. Since the pace has increased you’ll generally be attacked from all sides, including the blind side from which the camera sits. You’ll constantly have to direct your attention to the right analog stick in order to rotate the camera until it gives you a decent view on the action. There’s an easy remedy for this problem and it comes in the form of a target lock system. Had the developers mapped out one of the shoulder buttons to allow for target locking this wouldn’t be an issue. Instead, the camera continues to cause headaches from the opening frames of the adventure. It consistently fails to keep up with the action and generally gives you the worst possible vantage point.

Sucker Punch made waves when it introduced an advanced level of cel-shading in the original Sly Cooper. It was impressive because it was able to distinguish itself at a time when the market was falling in love with cel-shading. The designers took extra measures to ensure that the game had a Saturday morning cartoon feel to it; giving the characters and the locales that extra bit of life that the other titles had been lacking. This also opened up the door for smoother animation that was fluid and breathtaking. In the sequel all of these facets make a return along with some minor improvements. None of the enhancements are breathtaking but they’re definitely noticeable. My only gripe with the look of the game comes in the comic book-like portions which are used to advance the story. Sly looked god-awful in these sequences, the designers should have stuck with the engine-rendered versions of the characters.

I loved the sound design in the original Sly Cooper and the sequel pretty much holds the fort in this department. Most of the sounds appear to be recycled but it doesn’t really affect the experience too much. The sound separation seems to be much cleaner as you can now hear which side the attacks are coming from. A nice facet of the sound design is the fact that you can plug in a USB headset. With the headset on, all of the information that your teammates pass on to you will come in through the ear piece as opposed to your speakers. It doesn’t necessarily make for a better experience but it’s nice to see that the developers working on ways to incorporate the headset into their games.

With Sly 2 you have a great title that will hold you over for the holiday season. If you’re a fan of the platforming genre you owe it to yourself to give the game a try. After you get past the inane camera system you’ll be treated to one of the best gaming experiences $39.99 can buy. There’s something undeniably charming about a thieving raccoon and if you’re not careful, you just might find yourself falling in love with Sucker Punch’s impressive sequel.
I’ve often wondered what it might be like to live the high-stakes life of a cane-wielding kleptomaniac raccoon. Thankfully Sucker Punch and Sony Computer Entertainment fulfilled my wish two years ago when it released Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, the most accurate raccoon burglary simulator to-date. Now the two have teamed up again to give the public more of that hot hot raccoon action and guess what? It’s pretty damn good.

Rating: 9 Excellent

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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