MP (militarypenguin) wrote,

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Sly Cooper: Pod People in Time

Finished Sly 4. Impressions beneath the cut, mostly negative.

First, what I did like about the game:

* The first thing that popped out at me were the environments. Save for maybe one level (the ice age level, a tad uninspired), they were all lush, gorgeous, and just amazing to look at. These, above all else, best captured the essence of the Sucker Punch games.
* The designs of the new characters.
* Sly's ancestors.
* The Guru keychain on Murray's binocucom. A very cute touch.
* This.

I'm sure there's more good things to be said about the game, and it may be perfectly enjoyable if you haven't played the prior three Sucker Punch-made games, but I've unfortunately got nothing but negative bias towards it. I was expecting to hate it after what I'd heard from it from my SO, but I didn't expecting to be hating it right from the very beginning. Most of the awful things I'd heard would come later in the game, and I just assumed if I was prepared for those parts, I could maybe stomach most of the game and at least get a fun experience out of it.

But no, the moment we saw Sly's POV in the prologue of how he was bored of his new life and decided to become a thief again behind Carmelita's back, the game was effectively dead to me. I'd already discussed why Sly's arc in 3 is wonderful, and why you can't simply have him go back to being a thief without undoing that arc, and that's what this game just did.

His returning to his roots was painful enough, however, without the addition of his being bored with Carmelita. It not only invokes the extremely tired and trite "man 'trapped' in a relationship with his girlfriend" trope, but it destroys the lesson Sly learned in 3 about no longer running away from Carmelita and his feelings for her, and it shows a blatant misunderstanding of their relationship in the prior games. Sly didn't just enjoy playing cops-and-robbers with Carmelita, he genuinely enjoyed just being with her. Remember at the end of 2, when he and Carmelita spent hours on end talking about their hobbies outside of their work, laughing together, enjoying being around each other so much they barely noticed how much time passed them by? Apparently, Sanzaru Games didn't.

The undoing of Sly's arc in 3 upset me so much I had a hard time concentrating on the game itself. I was playing with a pod person-version of Sly, not Sly himself. Any of the charm the Sucker Punch version had was sucked out by Sanzaru Games's version and replaced with a painfully immature manchild. This would be all well and good if this were a prequel chronicling Sly's earlier years before becoming a professional thief but...well, it isn't.

It's not as though I'm opposed to showing the less-flattering sides of beloved characters, either (I was, and continue to be, vehemently defensive of this aspect that turned many off from Book 2 of The Legend of Korra). But it makes absolutely no sense for Sly and, worse yet, was completely unneeded. The game could easily have existed without the "Sly goes behind his girlfriend" subplot tacked on. All it needed was to pick up sometime after the last game ended with Sly enjoying his new life, then getting news that his life was in danger. Boom. Done. No need to keep secrets from his girlfriend, no need to undo his arc and have him jump back into thieving just because he's "bored," no need for any additional nonsense, just a fun, time-traveling story.

The rest of the cast doesn't fair much better. In fact, one of them fairs arguably worse than Sly: Penelope, who decides she needs to get rid of Sly and his ancestry because....he was holding Bentley back. But that reasoning makes no sense, both because Penelope has never held any disdain for Sly (remember when she crushed on him, and still saw him as a beloved friend after realizing she had feelings for Bentley instead? Sanzaru Games didn't, again!) and because Bentley had already long-since stopped working for Sly and worked exclusively with Penelope all those years. It wasn't until Sly's life was in danger that he sprung back into action but...Penelope had already disappeared before then, so how could she know? And how could just saving his friend's life be the thing that was "holding him back"? I'm still baffled at how the writing staff took a step back and went, "Yeah, this is a perfectly sound explanation for why Penelope would turn against Sly."

And Penelope's sudden turnaround might (with an emphasis on might) have worked if the characters' reactions to it (aside from Bentley's heartbreak) made any sense. How could they simply sit back and accept that one of their dear friends was now set on killing them? That she's now suddenly, out of nowhere, a totally different person? No one questions it. Well, Sir Galleth asks "Wasn't she your ally?" but Sly simply answers "Not anymore." No further questions asked, no pondering about what could have possibly made Penelope do this. It makes no sense for Sly, who's able to show sympathy for even his immediate enemies (hell, he had to come to terms with accepting one of the people responsible for his father's murder on the team in the last game, even if he continued to be wary). It makes even less sense for Murray, who's the heart of the team, and who spent the most time with Penelope aside from Bentley, to just roll over and accept it.

And speaking of Murray....god, poor Murray. It's like Sanzaru Games just took one look at his character design and characterized him based on that (with sprinklings of "The Murray" so his pod person-persona here wouldn't be too transparent). You know how many times Murray brings up snacking in the trilogy? Twice. You know many times he brings it up in 4? All the time. A little bit of an exaggeration, but when he's not making food references the game goes out of its way to make sure we understand "He likes to eat. He's fat." at every turn with the animated cutscenes almost always including him with a big meal and his very idle animation including him pulling out a piece of broccoli and throwing it away, disgusted at it. You know who Murray in the previous games was? He was a tough guy with a big heart who was simple-minded but not dim-witted, who could be as observant as his teammates, who was determined, competent, extremely sensitive, and harbored some guilt and insecurities (none of which had to do with his weight!) that resulted in his friends making it their duty to make sure he could be confident and happy again. But that Murray isn't here.

Carmelita is my favorite Sly character, and I'd already been warned at how horribly mishandled she was in this game, but even after bracing for the worst I still left the game with a sour taste in my mouth at her treatment. Namely, what the hell was the deal with making her flirt with two of Sly's ancestors? What was with the "Don't worry, it'll be our secret" response to Sir Galleth's embarrassment that he'd been "rescued by a fair damsel" (and that she even seemed to take his phrasing as a compliment)? I was thankful that Sanzaru Games had at least remembered she was a cop on the occasion by letting her investigative and combatant skills come into play, but they didn't seem to understand enough just how dedicated she was to her job. If she saw that Sly was caving into his thieving ways, she'd see he was no longer sincere about starting a new life and arrest him. She wouldn't pull any bullshit with trying to change him--she loves him, but as shown in 2 and 3, she can and will arrest him and any criminal. The scene in 3 where she tells him he's her partner after he says he doesn't know who he is? I took that scene as a silent understanding between them--she knew this was him saying he was done with his thief life, she'd assign him a new position, and their life would go on from there.

But instead she deceives him--something that never gets addressed, and could be potentially interesting had it been addressed--and in short she, too, was replaced by Sanzaru Games-created pod person.

While, as said before, I liked Sly's ancestors, they were woefully underutilized here. I'd have thought that Sly, who'd been so invested his family's history for so many years, would be really interested in getting to know them and forming bonds with them. Instead he...just seems to tolerate them at best and be mildly irritated with them at worst? I get his life is on the line and they have no time to waste, but...plenty of time goes wasted.

Which brings me to my next complaint: most, if not all, of Bentley's missions felt disconnected and pointless. For example, there's a part that requires Murray to disguise himself as El Jefe's lover to get some information from him. You never actually see that happen--there's never a mission where you have to have a dialogue with El Jefe and be sure to pick the right answers without arousing suspicion or anything. For another example, there's a mission in which you need to catch fish to spike with poison so that they'll be made into sushi, fed to the guards, and put them to sleep. You never get any follow-up mission where you have to deliver the sushi or anything, and you never even get to see the guards feast and fall asleep. Even after some of the more difficult missions, it really doesn't have much rewarding payoff.

The villains are pathetic and not even worth discussing.

I think I've exhausted all of my complaints, though I may have more.

I'm really, really glad Sanzaru Games has no plans of making a sequel.
Tags: sly cooper
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