Sanzaru Games is not a well known developer, at least as far as I was concerned. With their main library of games being fleshed out with little more than a couple of Wii games and some HD Classic ports. They had yet to earn my trust when I’d first heard they would be developing the next Sly Cooper game. As if out of nowhere, this small developer with little experience in the field managed to put together what I feel is the best use of the Playstation 3’s graphical power to date.
Set just a few months after the events in Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, this game picks the story right back up, giving you a well animated, albeit lengthy, refresher for the uninitiated. If you’re like me, you’ve already played through the Sly Cooper trilogy, and possibly even the HD collection fairly recently. However, the introductory cut-scene is still a pleasure to watch, as the series’ staple, animated cut-scenes, are beautifully done in a style that seems to be a blend of both Western and Eastern.
While more or less very straightforward, I never felt like the plot was too contrived, or had many holes. That may have been excellent writing, but it also may have just as much to do with the fact that the game doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about the little details, or taking itself too seriously. As with all time-travel plots, there were difficulties, and a few moments where you realize that things probably wouldn’t work out the way they do, but the Sly Cooper games have always been big on the science fiction without very much of the technicalities of it. One thing I have always loved about the Sly games is how even mortal enemies manage to end up working together. Expect more of this in the game, but you can also expect a bit of the opposite, in a saddening twist that really makes you feel for the characters.
The game’s controls are fairly straightforward, left analog moves, X Jumps, etc. Each of the playable characters has a set of unique moves that allows them to traverse the world in different ways, however I found that the titular Sly was the best choice for exploration, as he has the most moves and abilities that assist in mobility. A great relief came in the form of the modernization of the controls, as the previous 3 games were often plagued by many bad control habits that plagued much of the PS2 era. The greatest sin of all taking place in Sly 2, where you are forced to drive a tank in first person perspective, with the most awkward of controls, mapping the left and right treads to the corresponding analog sticks. Thankfully, there were no points in this game where I felt the controls were in any way a hindrance.
Beautiful. The game is full of vibrant colors and sylized characters that are well complimented by the High Definition graphics. At times there was a bit of clipping, but not much else. The game is very well polished and everything from the top-notch character animations, to the textures, to the general aesthetic is top-notch.
On a more personal note, I have long been an advocate of games with color. Ever since the introduction of High Definition gaming, the graphical potential has been squandered on half-baked attempts to convey a sense of realism by muting colors and generally washing everything with a brown-tint, as is so prominent in any dime-a-dozen FPS. With Nintendo’s little magic box showing us what HD colors look like, and with the release of Sly 4, my faith in the game industry is beginning to be restored. However, we have a long way to go.
The game is, for all intents and purposes, fun. It truly shows that games are meant to be just that. While at its base, Sly 4 is a platformer, the missions you are required to go through can range from pickpocketing guards for costumes or keys, to all out running and gunning, one mission is even daring enough to have you press a single button. One thing I did wish was that more of the game was the core aspect of sneaking around, as it had, at times, felt bogged down with gimmicks. The game has a lot of new ideas and things it wants to try, and I feel they wanted to fit all of their ideas in, despite how ridiculous the amount of movesets, rules, and restrictions you had, based on your character. The Sly games have always been, more or less, a series of minigames with an overarcing story, but never has it quite felt so much like it as it has now. That is not to say it’s bad, it just feels like it lacks some consistency.
Beautifully executed, I gave it an 8, but if it hadn’t been for the loading time issue, it would have had a 9.
A blast to play, with the occasional spike in the difficulty curve, but nowhere near unreasonably hard, or tediously easy. An excellent balance of challenge and ease.