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Stealing from Criminals, giving them to the Police.
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About the Game Series
Minor Story Spoilers
Thief. Sly Cooper is an overlooked series. Back in the Playstation 2 days, Sly stayed mainly in the shadows compared to likes of Ratchet and Clank and Jak and Dexter. I’m speaking from experience here as it took me around four years to track the first Sly game down (It was quite rare in Europe)...

I’m so glad I took the time to do so. I instantly loved the first game, and I still maintain that all four games are classics. Here is why Sly Cooper is one of the best video game characters and one of best platformer series.
Quote Look at this list of games from the past: Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Banjo Kazioo, Super Mario 64 and Ty the Tasmanian Tiger. All fantastic platformers, all have something in common: they don’t have much in the way of story or character development. The Sly Cooper series stands out because it does have fantastic characters and lots of story. I still maintain that the characters in this series are among the best I have ever played. So who are these characters?

The main characters in the series are the three members of the Cooper gang. You have Sly Cooper, the master thief, Bentley – the brains behind the operations the team perform and Murray – the muscle and get-away driver. The chemistry between the characters is one of the best aspects, as coupled with interesting dialogue between our heroes, (which is a lot more than the average platformer *cough* Mario *cough*) makes it a real joy playing through the games – you care about the characters and what the gang will get up too next.

Sly also has loads of story, throughout all four games (not just at the beginning of the first game and forgotten about). The developers have have gone to great lengths to create a whole back story for Sly, his family and his relationship with Bentley, Murray and Carmelita. Oh yes, Miss Inspector Carmelita Fox is the other main character. She is a policewoman who is always trying to arrest Sly and his gang, not fully understanding the gang’s focus on only stealing from criminals.

It’s not just having a big focus on story, it’s the way it tells it as Sly has another sneaky trick in his arsenal and is used in all four games - animated cartoon cutscenes. These look look incredible and feel like your watching a cartoon and the best animated cut-scenes I have ever seen. Normal gameplay use an underused but effective cel-shaded look, coupled with the remastered versions for the PS3 really show off the graphics.

So I have waffled on about story, characters and graphics (just like one of Bentley’s long operation slideshows) so since this is a video game, not a movie (not yet anyway!) then let’s discuss gameplay. Like some video game franchises, the first game feels almost completely different to the sequels.
[Sly]Sly doing what he does best - sneaking up behind Carmelita Fox and stealing keys from her pocket. Be careful Sly!
Sly Raccoon is still really fun despite this. Sure, it does have ideas used in similar games - collect 100 coins for a life, collect an object for immunity from one enemy hit, collect all the keys to move onto another world, but the way it's crafted together you will quickly forgive the game for it.

If you though the first Sly game was good, wait to you play the sequels. These games had a complete overhaul in it's gameplay, with massive hub worlds instead of levels. The player collect coins, find items and activate missions. These missions are set in the world itself or by entering into buildings to explore even more smaller locations.

The missions are nice and varied, with lots of different types of missions to complete. You have traditional Sly missions, where you have to pickpocket guards and steal something without alerting anyone to your presence. Bentley and Murray’s missions tend to be more hands on, like destroying a water pump station, escaping from Carmelita Fox's pistol, attacking helicopters, using costumes to gain entrance to secret lairs, hacking terminals in fun mini-games, racing around a dirt track with the team van, exploring an active volcano, flying RC helicopters, this is only scratching the surface.

These missions all have one playable character: Sly, Bentley, Murray or sometimes Carmelita. Each of these characters have their own strengths and weaknesses, which automatically adapts your gameplay style depending on who your playing as. Sly is good at sneaky abilities and moves, Bentley can put guards to sleep with his sleep darts, but is quite weak at combat. Murray on the other hand is extremely good in combat, but can't do any the sneaky stuff that Sly can perform. Carmelita is sometimes playable, with a shock pistol and giant leaps, with her shooter sections quite different to the other characters.

It wouldn’t be a Sly game without some stealing of some description. Collectables have been a staple of the series from the beginning – Sly certainly likes stealing from criminals! The main collectables are the clue bottles, which when all broken, gains you access to special moves from the safe. Collectable treasures are worth lots of coins if you can get them back to the hideout in one piece. These coins can be used on thief.net, which is where you buy new powers for Sly, Bentley and Murray to use in the field.

Closing Thoughts
Classic Classic
I'm just scratching the surface with these games. My second favourite platforming series behind Crash Bandicoot, the Sly Cooper series is a pleasure to play from start to finish. It very rarely puts a foot wrong, and with its excellent story, characters and gameplay, what more do you want from a cartoon series of video games like this? It has all the bases covered and I can’t wait to see if they do another game how the story of Sly Cooper will continue.

My One Big Highlight
Spiderman There's a number of moments I could pick for the series, but probably my favourite is from Sly 3: Honour Among Thieves. After spending months doing favours for people and gaining new members for the Cooper Gang, Sly eventually enters the cooper vault. Its a challenging level, but it is very atmospheric and interesting to learn a more about his family and how Sly has become the master thief because of the knowledge recorded in the Thievius Raccoonus.
Elephant In the Room
elephantIf you have played any of the sequels (Band of Thieves, Honour Among Thieves and Thieves in Time) before playing the original game, then you might be a little disappointed. The reason for this is simple – the sequels improved on nearly every aspect. The gameplay had a major overhaul, which means that Sly Raccoon has a different feel. This doesn't mean it shouldn't be overlooked through.