E3 2011: Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time preview

 It’s been nearly six years since the world last saw a new Sly Cooper game, and when we found out one of our semi-secret closed-door E3 sessions with Sony would give us our first real look at the game, we were thrilled. When the demo finally began, however, there was an elephant in the room – and it was one that Glen Egan, president of developer Sanzaru Games, was quick to address.

“I know what you’re all thinking,” said Egan as he stepped out in front of the audience. “Who the hell are you, and where’s Sucker Punch?”

As it turns out, Sanzaru – an outfit whose previous work includes Wii minigame collection Ninja Reflex, 2009’s Secret Agent Clank and the Sly Collection – is made up of some pretty big Sly Cooper fans. And as Egan tells it, they were getting just as impatient as the rest of us to play a new Sly game, and decided to make one themselves. After pitching Sony on a prototype, Sanzaru’s efforts were rewarded with a chance to work on porting the Sly Collection – and, after proving itself capable of handling the ring-tailed thief and his associates, the company was given the chance to take over for original developer Sucker Punch and create a new adventure.

Picking up some time after the conclusion of Sly 3, Thieves in Time begins with Sly in semi-retirement, still faking amnesia to be with his Interpol love interest, Inspector Carmelita Fox. Beefy hippo Murray has gone off to pursue a career in driving monster trucks, while techies Bentley and Penelope have settled down and started work on a time machine. Then one day, Bentley – who’s been entrusted with the Thievius Raccoonus, Sly’s family tome of thieving secrets – notices that pages are disappearing from the book before his eyes. Clearly, it’s the perfect excuse to pull the gang back together.

The actual demo didn’t shed much more light on the story (although we did learn that the original voice cast will return, which is great), but it did show us a decent cross-section of gameplay, opening with Sly (now with a giant chin, for some reason) and Murray creeping through a decrepit-looking hideout. Clumsy as ever, Murray inadvertently slipped on a bottle, opened a secret door and immediately fell through it, which plunged both him and Sly into an underground cavern.

Once there, the player’s perspective switched to Murray, who had to plunge ahead and raise a bridge across a body of water. One thing Sanzaru wanted to bring across, Egan said, was Murray’s massive strength – and so the “bridge” turned out to be a massive shipwreck, which Murray heaved out of the water using only a crank winch and his own raw manliness.

Trotting across it, he quickly found his progress blocked by several columns of whirling blades. The perspective then switched back to Sly – and the gameplay switched to a style of stealth-platforming that will be instantly familiar to Sly fans. As he crept along a narrow pathway, Sly was confronted by an apelike guard sitting up ahead, watching the path in front of him with a flashlight. To get around him, Sly clambered up a rope to some rickety scaffolding, sidled across it, and dropped down on the other side of the guard’s flashlight beam, causing a door to slide open as he did so.

As it turned out, however, not even Sly was fast enough to reach the door before it shut – and here’s where one of Thieves in Time’s new gameplay elements comes in. Sly can now disguise himself in assorted costumes, and while that in itself isn’t anything new, those costumes now impart special abilities while he’s wearing them. In this case, Sly donned a gypsy outfit that slowed time, giving him the window he needed to hit the door’s switch, drop down and head through it before it slammed shut.

That brought us to the second part of the demo: a boss battle against a Nolan North-voiced tiger named El Jefe. A pompous, ninja-like dictator with a thick, indeterminate accent and fiery superpowers, El Jefe is egomaniacal enough to have built a massive, thousand-foot-tall statue of himself, which Sly chased him up to the top of during the demo.

 Equal parts pursuit and battle, the boss fight was a lengthy affair that saw the seemingly invulnerable Jefe pound Sly with rings of fire and a pair of electrically charged, hard-to-dodge swords – but, of course, he had a weakness. This came in the form of a new costume for Sly, a fireproof suit of samurai-looking armor with a shield capable of deflecting fireballs. After waiting for Jefe to hurl said fireballs – an attack telegraphed by the villain scraping his swords against the ground – Sly bounced them back at the tiger, which stunned him long enough for Sly to run up and get a few good licks in with his cane. After a few rounds of this, Jefe eventually gave up and fled the scene.

It’s hard to make any judgments after such a brief look at the game, but it seems pretty likely at this point that Sanzaru knows what it’s doing, and has the chops to do the Sly franchise justice. It’s also heartening to learn that the studio’s been working closely with Sucker Punch on the story and creative aspects, meaning its creators still have a say on what goes into the new game. In any case, Thieves in Time isn’t due until sometime in 2012, so it’ll be a while before we find out for sure.

Jun 10, 2011

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  • Koolkat23 - June 13, 2011 5:38 a.m.

    I almost passed out when I read that Sucker Punch isnt making the game. Good to hear that they are still involved at least
  • Ray3eam - June 12, 2011 2:35 p.m.

    This game looks great, and nice preview. I've been looking forward to this for years, I hope Sanzaru can handle it. This is off topic, but are you guys doing an inFAMOUS 2 review? I haven't seen one on the site anywhere.
  • archnite - June 12, 2011 1:14 a.m.

    Now we just need a Jak game to round out the return of the PS2 Trio of Platformers
  • RonsonPL - June 12, 2011 12:40 a.m.

    @lawman2593733 I've got an idea. Imagine the face of the main character of the animated series "Batman". Now paint his eyes in your imagination, so they look like a raccoon/thief. Now, seeing the chin? Then Sly is going to look just like this. But with a bigger chin. ;) BTW. I was waaay beyond my childhood when played Sly 1-3, but Sly/Jak/Ratchet was my favourite games on PS2 (combined with some beer or something) that helped me relax and forget about a lousy day at work. Quality platform games is my favourite genre since 20 years and I worry alot about Sly 4, cause there is almost nothing nowadays. Ratchet ToD and CiT finished(twice), Banjo N&B finished. Donkey Kong Country Returns finished. Trine finished (3x). (Limbo is not "relaxing and mood repairing" ;) ) Now what? Well... nothing.. Excluding DKCR (and that's for the Wii which I don't own) there was nothing since almost 2 years and almost nothing in the pipeline. That's a "red alert! Situation critical!" ;) No new Jak or Ratchet at E3. No Shadow Complex 2. I'll probably finish Trine 2 some 10 times when it finally launches later this year, but that's not enough. I'll pray for a miracle so Sly 4 will be better than Ratchet:Tools Of Destruction. Who knows, I might even start to belive in God if that miracle happens. ;)
  • lawman2593733 - June 11, 2011 11:01 p.m.

    @JoeMasturbaby: Honestly I liked Carmalita's voice from "Sly 2" the best, that followed by "Sly 1", followed by "Sly 3" which her voice was "Eh its OK" @RonsonPL: I have my faith, with influence from "Sucker Punch" perhaps this game may still be what we remember from our childhood(for me anyway), this may still live up to the Thevius Racconus name. And I wish we could of seen a screen of Sly facing the camera. I want to see how huge his chin is!
  • Fusionmix - June 11, 2011 10:12 p.m.

    Wii minigame compilation...uh-oh.
  • Plasmahead321 - June 11, 2011 8:38 p.m.

    It seems very unlikely but I wonder if this will also be released on the Xbox 360. who knows considering that a new developer is woeking on it.
  • Cloud1Fair3 - June 11, 2011 8:10 p.m.

    I know this is off-based, but now that I know how it works: Why the hell can't a good rpg dev company like level 5 or something pick up the Legend of Dragoon Franchise from Sony? In the right hands, it would be sooo epic! Anybody, please get on this!
  • SadFace - June 11, 2011 5:30 p.m.

    I'm cautiously jazzed about this. But you guys make it sound awesome. Damn, now I have to buy a PS3.
  • RonsonPL - June 11, 2011 4:15 p.m.

    I'm still a little pesimistic about this. Conversion is conversion, but a whole new game? I'm afraid it's not a good idea to give such a great series to someone with almost no experience in creating great games. Conversion for PS3 was a big dissapointment in terms of graphic quality. I really though that Sucker Punch will make the sequel someday. Now it seems the series is "sold and dead" just like Crash and Spyro - look what happened when creators left it. It bounces from "terrible" to "mediocre". Not even close to "epic" like those series used to be (and no Jak & Daxter at e3, no new Ratchet, not even Trine 2 at E3. That's the saddest E3 ever, for platforming games fans :( Of course it still can happen that the new Sly will be good. Like 7/10 or 8/10 good. But just think what it would be if a proper Sly or Jak was made for the PS3. I mean - Sly 1-3 looked OK even on the PS2, so it should reeeeeaaly look alot better than what I see on the s-shots above. And the graphics are far less important than innovative gameplay and genius-touched level design - all of which is impossible under the hand of some lessser-known developer. Sad. :(
  • Yeager1122 - June 11, 2011 4:11 p.m.

    Having high hopes for this game love the sly franchise since the 1st to the 3rd really hoping this does well.
  • JoeMasturbaby - June 11, 2011 2:51 p.m.

    wonder what you meant by "original voices" because Carmelita has had a different voice every game and they all got progressively worse. maybe she just grunts and spits now instead of talking. (please tell me its the hispanic voice from Sly 1, because that's the only voice of her's that I actually liked.)
  • Wing126 - June 11, 2011 2:23 p.m.

    @ChickenFillet No it's not a joke. There's an ad campaign here in Ireland that has Cole standing on O'Connell Street in Dublin. There's the poster.
  • TheHungryLemur - June 11, 2011 12:31 p.m.

    I always wanted to get into Sly Cooper. I might get the HD Collection. By the way, I've been playing Infamous 2 recently... JAWDROPPING! ALL HAIL SUCKER PUNCH!!!
  • philipshaw - June 11, 2011 12:07 p.m.

    This is looks great
  • ChickenFillet5140 - June 11, 2011 9:38 a.m.

    Hold on, I just noticed something on the inFamous 2 ads scattered around the site. It has in small letters, "inFamous 2 is not set in Dublin". Is that supposed to be a joke? Because I don't see how anyone could mistake New Marais for Dublin. Anyone else see this?
  • ChickenFillet5140 - June 11, 2011 9:33 a.m.

    At long last! The wait is finally over. 2012 is gonna be an epic year for games.
  • NelosAngelos - June 11, 2011 4:14 a.m.

    Finally, FINALLY something new to look at concerning this. I love that the voice cast is back. Kevin Miller is the only guy that can be the voice of Sly. The teaser looks clear and beautiful. Kinda reminded me of a saturday morning/ who framed rodger rabbit type cartoon feel. I really cannot wait for this.
  • Xtapolapopotamus - June 11, 2011 2:24 a.m.

    I cannot freaking wait. Sly 2 is one of my favorite games of all time, and seeing the hype this game got when it was announced at E3, I'm glad to see more people like the series. I was afraid I was one of a few. Should be awesome.
  • ColonelKc - June 11, 2011 1:53 a.m.

    When heard it wasnt Sucker punch DIRECTLY developing the game, i was disappointed. But i read that sucker punch is still helping, and now i am PUMPED