More than just Grand Theft Auto in Hong Kong
At first glance it is easy to write off Sleeping Dogs as being just another ‘GTA clone’, as you run around a city doing chores for others, causing mayhem and pissing a lot of people off. While you do end up doing all of these things, Sleeping Dogs takes the usual GTA/open world formula and adds a taste of John Woo to help create an intense yet fun exploration of the dark side of Hong Kong. Now as a major fan of John Woo films particularly Hard Boiled (If you haven’t seen it, go and watch it right now, you will not regret it), the idea of venturing through Hong Kong, having crazy shootouts with members of the Triad and doing it all while trying to hook up with Emma Stone sounded like my kind of thing (I know at least one of those interests you as well). I had the same hope when John Woo’s Stranglehold was released back in 2007 and with that being an unfortunate disappointment; I had fears of another disappointment being on the horizon when Sleeping Dogs was first announced as True Crime: Hong Kong in 2009, due to the utter tripe produced in previous True Crime games. The story of Sleeping Dogs sees you controlling undercover detective Wei Shen as he infiltrates the powerful Triad organization known as Sun On Yee. Having been childhood friends with one of the minor Sun On Yee members, Wei’s journey through the ranks of the Triads sees him face as many challenges mentally as he does physically. While Wei isn’t the most interesting character I’ve ever played as, I did find the character to be rather believable in terms of what was going through his mind during the game and the actions he makes, to follow the law or to break it. What helps make the story more engaging is the surprisingly solid voice acting by a rather recognizable cast consisting of: Will Yun Lee (Die Another Day), Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton), Byron Mann (The Man with the Iron Fists), Lucy Liu (Kill Bill), Robin Shou (Mortal Kombat), Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man) and other notable names.
One of the most underrated games I’ve played this generation
The missions and cases that you undertake for the triads and the police offer rather different objectives from what you might be used to from an open world game. From using a stripper as bait to find a smuggler, to chasing down buses so you can take over their route to even showing someone what life is like in Hong Kong by taking them out to pick up girls and sing karaoke, it’s all very unique and a lot of fun to do. When you aren’t doing missions or cases, you will be spending your time doing activities around the city and with Hong Kong being a nice alternative from the usual New York/Los Angeles areas that you play in, you will be introduced to some fun little Hong Kong activities such as cock fighting (My black cock was unstoppable…), training in martial arts school, street racing, karaoke and of course it wouldn’t be an open world game without collectibles as you have to search for statues to pray at, lockboxes to open and cameras to hack. Additionally you can buy food, drink and even get massages done which give you bonuses such as the speed in which your health recovers. The combat in the game isn’t anything you’ve not seen before, however it’s all done well enough for you to easily get into and enjoy, as the hand to hand combat is incredibly similar to the fast paced, counter-crazy battles you see in the Batman Arkham series. However, it’s not quite as fluid as there are moments where you find yourself wanting to make an attack but having a slight delay in doing so. The shooting mechanics are more than satisfying to use, however I actually felt that the majority of the game focused more on hand to hand combat with guns becoming more frequent towards the last quarter of the story which I liked particularly as shooting is usually the main focus of a game like this, so the emphasis on hand to hand combat and shockingly violent environmental takedowns were a plus for me. I mean come on, who isn’t going to love hanging Triads on meat hooks!? While there were a lot of features of the game that surprised me, none surprised me more than the amazingly smooth driving mechanics. Whether driving a supercar or a motorcycle, the control you have over the vehicle is simply tremendous and is something I would personally love to see in more games that incorporate driving. The action hijack feature which sees you jump from vehicle to vehicle in a bid to claim cars that just refuse to stop helped add that little bit of extra craziness to car chases. The only online component that Sleeping Dogs offers is a leaderboard for damn near everything you attempt to do in the game which goes up against what your friends have achieved, and makes you want to attempt to top each and every leaderboard, whether it’s for driving without hitting anything for the longest period of time, chaining the best combo together or killing the most cops. Many will see it as a way to gain bragging rights over mates beyond simply completing the main story. When people look back at gaming in 2012, Sleeping Dogs likely won’t be in many top 5 lists which is a shame considering in terms of story, gameplay & design, it ticks all the boxes in making a great open world game and when I look back in 5 years’ time and see the name “Sleeping Dogs”, I will remember it as being one of the most underrated games I’ve played this generation.
The Bad: Odd delays during hand to hand combat stop the combat from reaching the quality of Arkham