Title: Sleeping Dogs
Price: $49.99 (Steam)
System(s): PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Publisher (Developer): Square Enix (United Front Games)
ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs
Pros: Less emphasis on guns, great voice actors, totally different setting than what we’re used to seeing, easy to grasp combat system, good checkpoint system, plenty of side missions to do.
Cons: Some story elements are confusing, side missions are required to earn the best clothes and vehicles, combat can feel a little stiff
Overall Score: One thumb up, one thumb sideways, 88, B+, *** 1/2 out of 5.
Sleeping Dogs has come a very long way. After being dropped by Activision as True Crime: Hong Kong due to a fear of lower-than-required sales, Square Enix picked it up and carried it across the finish line. After playing through this game, I believe Activision should have held on to Sleeping Dogs with both hands.
Sleeping Dogs admittedly had to bring something unique to the table in order to avoid the somewhat negative stigma that’s attached to True Crime games. It would be all too easy to basically create a GTA clone and set it in Hong Kong. I’m going to tell you how Sleeping Dogs breaks the mold and gives a breath of fresh air to the open world crime games.
Fight Like A Man
Sleeping Dogs showed me that fighting rival Triads doesn’t require guns and loads of bullets. Don’t get me wrong, guns are present, but they aren’t introduced until a few hours in. Even after you gain access to guns, you never hold on to them for longer than unnecessary. There is no gun shop on just about every corner. You aren’t encouraged, either directly or indirectly, to break character and go on a rampage just for fun. Sleeping Dogs makes things clear from the start that you are a good guy. You are Wei Shen, an undercover police officer tasked with infiltrating and dismantling the Triad organization from within. He is not an outlaw, renegade or even given the chance to be a dirty cop. His form of justice involves cunning, street smarts and employing an extensive martial arts background.
Most of the combat in Sleeping Dogs is hand-to-hand. The game borrows the combo/counter system that was made popular by Batman: Arkham Asylum. Bad guys will surround Wei, but only attack one at a time. This formula works for the most part, but fighting isn’t as smooth or loose as the Batman games.
The fighting in this game can be quite robust. You can learn several different attacks that require different button presses to execute. If you can remember how to pull them off, you’ll be breaking limbs, rolling behind enemies and counterattacking like nobody’s business. I found myself forgetting about the new moves I had just learned because the basics are enough to handle most any situation.
There will be some situations where you have to use guns. When this happens, Sleeping Dogs becomes an average cover-based shooter. Wei is able to enter into slow motion while leaping over cover while shooting, but it’s really there for flair more than substance.
I have to give praise to the gunplay while you’re in a car. Sleeping Dogs automatically slows down time when you shoot from a car. Not only does this make aiming so much easier, it also brings a cinematic feel to the moment. You also maintain great control of the vehicle during these moments. I never slammed into a wall because I was too busy aiming.
Playing Both Sides
Playing as a cop and a Triad equally has its advantages. Both sides can be leveled up in exchange for new abilities. You’re encouraged to be good when you’re not on a Triad mission, and savage when you are. Constantly being a menace will only lower your cop score, therefore making it harder to earn cop abilities. You can also play the part of a helpful citizen which will earn you “face” points. Face points are needed to buy certain clothing and cars. Without taking part in these side missions, you’ll be stuck with some of the same clothes and vehicles throughout the entire game. Speaking of vehicles, there’s a definite learning curve to driving on the left side of the road. If you live in the U.S., prepare to violate many traffic laws on accident.
The acting in Sleeping Dogs is very well done. Each character’s voice actor is convincing and every character you meet that’s part of the story is unique in their own way. The overall story in Sleeping Dogs starts off simple enough, but it takes a somewhat confusing turn towards the end of the game. We know the real goal here is to take down key players in the Triads, the story changes to highlight internal power struggles involving rival factions that I felt was a little difficult to differentiate. I knew who the ultimate bad guy was (mostly because his name kept coming up), but the game didn’t give him enough face time to really make me hate him.
The Truest Crime
Due to its focus on hand-to-hand combat in lieu of guns and the radically different Hong Kong setting, Sleeping Dogs is one open world game you should really play. It can scratch almost any itch you may have for a modern open world crime game. You’d do yourself a disservice by passing up this game. It does enough things differently to get a nice round of applause.