After the amazing looking trailer that was released at E3 2012, the anticipation for Sleeping Dogs has been greatly increased. Originally another True Crime sequel instead turns into a new title picked up by Square-Enix and developed by United Front Games. Is this a truly gratifying experience or does it still feel like a True Crime game?
You play as Wei Shen, an undercover cop from America who is back in his home town: Hong Kong. He goes undercover to take down the Triad Society “Sun on Yee”. Wei Shun is joined by a large cast of characters that will help him on his journey making it difficult for him to be a straight-cop and a hardened criminal at the same time. Wei struggles to be an undercover cop since, well, it can literally mean his life if he’s caught. Sleeping Dogs is an open-world game, with a lot to see and do in the city of Hong Kong. Players can walk, run, climb, jump and drive their way through the city. There is an over-whelming amount of distraction including buying clothes for Wei, buying food and drinks for limited status increase, compete in street-races and accomplishing many side-missions along with busting drug-dealers and relaxing with some karaoke.
The latter two are the most interesting elements of the game since a lot of the other side-missions have been seen before. Busting on drug dealers has you go to certain allies (side street, alley, what have you) and beat up a bunch of thugs, after that is done Wei must hack into a local surveillance camera (which results in a simple mini-game of numbers), from there you must go to his apartment, watch the live feed on your TV and make the appropriate arrest. It sounds complicated but it’s a lot of fun and very satisfying to see. The karaoke section is very different as well, having Wei sing real songs like The Clash’s “I fought the law“. The fact that it’s the actual voice actors literally singing karaoke adds a whole new depth of realism. This is just there for your enjoyment.
Gameplay is pretty standard, go to a certain area, watch a cutscene, seek out target/mission, accomplish, and watch cutscene with results. Luckily the journey there is enjoying as the game focuses on more melee combat rather than typical action-packed shoot-outs. Although there are several scenes that feature gun-heavy moments the majority of time, your fists and feet will do the talking. Combat is relatively simple with Wei being able to do several combos with the right inputs which can be upgraded (at a martial arts temple). He can grapple, tackle and counter enemies, which is very reminiscent to the combat style of Arkham City, and that is not a problem.
One of the great additions is the environmental damage which acts as a fatality for any person(s) you connect with. This can be anything from kicking a thug through a giant aquarium to putting a thug’s face through a rotating fan. It’s very gruesome but strangely satisfying. The heavy gun moments are made simple with an almost never-ending supply of ammunition (found on bodies) and made even better with slow-motion gun play moment when triggered, making it easy to take out several targets. Although the combat is fulfilling there have been moments when the control felt like it “locked-up” and my button-inputs were disregarded resulting in many game over screens. I’ve tried 3 different controllers (to make sure it wasn’t my controller) and encountered this at least once with all three. It does get frustrating when you’re trying to counter and instead you watch Wei watch a wall while an easy foot kicks him in the back of the head. This is especially annoying when you’re trying to beat waves of multiple enemies and are losing because the controls are not reasoning, resulting in you having to do it all again.
The other main gameplay element is the driving aspect. There are several different cars to choose from including motorcycles. Luckily if you hit an Ant you won’t go flying through the air as Wei knows that he must hold on tight to drive those. Driving is pretty easy and the mechanics and physics don’t feel too real, meaning you can turn while going at full speed without worrying too much. You must however, worry about property damage. Wei Sen is a cop so he has to watch out for property damage and the killing of innocent people (which apparently counts even if you’re not in control). Losing too much will result in Wei not leveling up fast enough.
That’s right, there are some RPG elements added in. You can level up as a Triad and a cop. The more you accomplish specific missions the more you’ll earn respect as both. If you kill enemies during a mission you’re more of a triad, if you arrest someone you’re a cop. If you are clumsy you lose cop points because , well, running into a wall instead over it is just embarrassing. There is also a face meter which counts as Wei’s reputation. These elements will allow Wei to learn some new tactics and allow you to upgrade these things. Such as learn new abilities, able to grapple and other status increases. The face meter allows Wei to wear expensive clothes and drive expensive cars.
Graphically the game looks great. There are a couple of screen-tears at times but there aren’t as many pop-ins as one would expect, especially since there is a lot of terrain to explore, which brings up that loading times are very rare to see. Usually before or after a cutscenes and throughout the game it’s seamless. There does seem to be a framerate issue during cutscenes in which it looks like there are a couple of missing animations. There are a couple of great attention detail moments like when Wei is beaten up and bruised his clothes will get ripped and bloody while if it rains or if he falls in water his clothes will be drenched and remain that way until you change them or it dries. The facial animation of some characters are great, it’s not real enough to be uncanny, but real enough to be taken seriously. The environments looks absolutely fantastic with a lot going on in the streets. some moments looks so good you’d want to make it as a wallpaper for your computer (or hang it on your wall if you’re a freak).
Another great feature is the soundtrack. It features songs that I’ve never heard of along with some radio banter and North American music, the surprising part is I stuck to the music I never heard of because it’s really good. The voice acting is absolutely fantastic and adds personality to the characters which helps bring them to life. A lot of memorable voices make an appearance like Lucy Liu, Emma Stone, Will Yun Lee, Tom Wilkinson, Kelly Hu and Edison Chen. Even the soundeffects are well detailed since you’ll hear the difference of Wei running on gravel and running on grass.
Sleeping Dogs is a welcoming title in the ever growing games that feature open-worlds. The story is definitely the best part with some unique ideas thrown in for gameplay. The focus on combat rather than continuous gunplay is a welcome change and there is a lot to explore and see in Hong Kong, there are a lot of collectible objects that earn you rewards and an online leader board in various things in the “Social Hub”, from jumping to driving without an accident to seeing how long you can do a wheelie, you can compare it to your friend and of those all over the world. There are some technical problems like the controller freezing during combat and framerate issues during cutscenes but the voice acting and characters are great, include the mass amount of mini events and the amount of people and things on the screen really make it feel like a living, breathing world. Hell you can even get a “massage” if you feel like letting off a little steam. Sleeping Dogs is definitely a game you’ll want to try and at least it’ll be (for most of us anyways) the closest we’ve been to Hong Kong. It actually adds elements which I want to remain in other open world titles instead of reusing them.
Combat is fun
ConsControl issues during some areas
Framerate issues during cutscenes
We received a Sleeping Dogs review copy. All opinions are honest and of the minds of the staff of Paranerds.com.