by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
With the phenomenal Christmas sales of the PlayStation 2 recently being announced, Sony are really on a roll. If Sly Raccoon is any indication of the quality of the games that are going to be released this year, then I predict that 2003 will again see Sony breaking sales records across the globe. With what can only be described as a sublime mix of Metal Gear Solid and Crash Bandicoot, Sly Raccoon is definitely set to become one of the best games on the PlayStation 2 console ever.
You control, as indeed the title would suggest, Sly Raccoon. Sly comes from a long line of thieves. These are not your typical thieves mind you as they only steal from master criminals, which sort of makes it OK. There is a book, a kind of family heirloom called the Thievius Raccoonus. This book is a record of the family's thieving exploits. Just as Sly is approaching the age to inherit the book, it is stolen by the Fiendish Five and torn into five pieces. Sly has made it his goal to retrieve the parts of the Thievius Raccoonus from the five hideouts within the game. He is not alone in this task however and is assisted by Bentley and Murray.
The superb nature of the gameplay almost defies description. You have elements of Metal Gear Solid, with the creeping and generally being a bit stealthy, mixed with the platforming brilliance of Crash Bandicoot. Despite the game being made up of such a curious mix, it works very well indeed and offers a very satisfying experience that above all else feels unique.
Sly will have to collect clues, that look like messages in a bottle, collecting all of these messages and keys will enable you to unlock vaults, progress in the game and collect pieces of the Thievius Raccoonus. The game isn't solely about sneaking and platforming though. There are various races and mini-games that help add to your experience. Sly can even gain extra abilities to further enhance your enjoyment of the game.
Sly has to be careful not to be hit by enemies. One hit will result in death. To remove some of the difficulty this might cause each level has checkpoints that you will return to, if you are killed. These checkpoints are nicely spaced out so you won't have to back track too far should Sly be killed. Should Sly collect 100 coins then he will obtain a silver horseshoe that will protect him from one deadly hit. These horseshoes can also be collected from time to time.
The controls, always of the highest importance in a platformer, are first class. Sly will see a kind of blue aura, it kind of looks like blue stars, when there is a chance for a special thieving manoeuvre. Pressing the circle button will perform this makeover. Sly's movement is fully analogue and the nature of his movement is dependent on how firmly you press on the left analogue stick.
Cel shading has been in fashion recently but it is not always used appropriately but in Sly Raccoon it looks fantastic. Of course framerate is everything in today's games and thankfully Sly Raccoon has no problems here with the framerate constantly remaining smooth even when the onscreen action really heats up. The animation is also first class. From the screenshots you can probably tell that the game has a cartoon look about it. To be honest this is probably true but it's a cartoon look of the highest order. A special mention must also be given to the camera. Throughout the game I found it to be very good and a big improvement on recent platform titles such as Mario Sunshine. I actually found that by using the right analogue stick, which allows you to control the camera if you wish, some jumps can actually be made much simpler.
Sly Raccoon doesn't cause any problems for deaf gamers but unfortunately, the story parts of the game are unsubtitled. Before this begins to seem pessimistic let me just say that the game features a lot of speech and to the developers credit most of this is subtitled with very easy to read text. There are cutscenes that carry the story along though and these are not subtitled which is a shame as otherwise the game would have been perfect in it's support for deaf gamers.
The release of Sly Raccoon is a cracking start to 2003 for Sony. Only two weeks into the year sees us with one the best PS2 titles to date. If there is any fault that could be attributed to the game it is that I would have liked to have seen many more levels. That's not because it's particularly short but because it is just so enjoyable.
Game Rating: 9.0/10