Initially the game we now know as Sleeping Dogs, started out as True Crime: Hong Kong being published by Activision. Obviously in the end that didn’t happen and the game ended up being picked up by Square Enix and renamed Sleeping Dogs. While I still don’t get the name Sleeping Dogs, what I did find was an incredibly enjoyable crime game, with an open explorable world, and an engaging story.
Sleeping Dogs revolves around Wei Shen, an undercover cop who has just returned from the states to Hong Kong, whose job it is to infiltrate the crime syndicates of The Triads and help bring them down from the inside. Wei has a bit of a negative history with the Triads. Which in turn is what caused his family to move to the States.
This history with the Triads is what makes Police Chief Pendrew think Wei is the perfect fit for the job. And so Wei Shen makes his way into being a low-level member of the Sun On Yee. From here Wei makes his way up the chain of command of the Sun On Yee gaining friends and information as he goes. As the game progresses you can see the internal struggle begin to develop as Wei’s loyalty as an officer comes into conflict with his ever growing presence as a brother of the Sun On Yee.
Surprisingly the story of Sleeping Dogs ropes you in fairly quickly as you get to know its characters better and it becomes the main driving force for continuing through the game. I found myself surprised as I discovered attachments to characters that I didn’t know I had. This undercover cop tale is an interesting one. The fact that Wei almost begins to consider himself a member of the Triads is interesting especially because of his dedication as an officer of the law. This all makes the end of the game even more interesting. It may not be the best of stories out there, but Sleeping Dogs story is interesting and easy to follow and get into. Of course game play should stand up as well as story isn’t the only reason to play a game.
Luckily, Sleeping Dogs game play does in fact stand up well. The fully explorable open world, is completed by a fun, quick combat system and some loose gunplay. Of course a lot of people would compare a game like Sleeping Dogs to Grand Theft Auto. For the most part that’s ok since they are very similar.
The game is divided up into different missions that you can undertake. These appear on your minimap and for the most part you can undertake these whenever you feel like. Green missions highlight main story missions, blue highlight a new police assignment you can undertake, and yellow markers highlight various favors you can do around the world.
Hong Kong itself is fairly large and as the story progresses you’ll get more and more missions and favors in the four areas of Hong Kong. While also wandering around the city there’s a multitude of collectibles for you to find. Health Shrines increase your overall health, lockboxes have money and clothing in them, security cameras let you watch Triad activity, and jade statues will allow you to learn new martial art moves.
Also dotted around the city are clothing and vehicle stores to purchase from, food stands and massage parlors which will boost your stats temporarily, and a few other mini-games like racing or karaoke.
Game play for the most part is smooth, you control Wei and maneuvering through the city is easy whether it be on foot or in a vehicle. While on foot Wei has the ability to free-run, easily making his way over and around obstacles. Holding down the A button allows Wei to run, and tapping it makes Wei jump over obstacles or up walls while free-running. This system turned out to be a lot of fun, especially in a few chase sequences that you get.
Combat in Sleeping Dogs is split into two parts, hand to hand melee combat and shooting. The hand to hand combat is quick, fun, and brutal. The X button allows you to throw punches and kicks, with different timing adding heavy attacks, Left trigger locks you on to a single enemy, the Y button gives you the power to counter enemies when they turn red, and the B button will grapple enemies. The combat system could be compared to a martial arts version of the combat systems from the Arkham games or Assassins Creed games. The grapple button, allows you to do throws as well as grapple enemies into environmental kills. These kills especially are downright brutal sometimes, and some moves in the game are totally cringe inducing. This system turns out to be fast, and totally fun. Once you get in a rhythm it’s impossible for any enemy to take you down.
The second part of combat is the gunplay. Unfortunately this is the least polished part of the game. While the gun play is sufficient it’s definitely nothing outstanding. In fact shooting doesn’t even come into the game until you’re about half way through the main story, and luckily there isn’t a huge emphasis on it in the first place.
Music in the game is sparse, except for the radio stations while driving which feature a fairly wide array of stations and diverse music. The hustle and bustle of Hong Kong comes through in the sound effects as you travel through the city. Voice acting is absolutely top notch in Sleeping Dogs however. Almost all of the actors do a great job of really driving their roles home. Of course these are the main voice actors, random people around the world aren’t……. nearly as good.
Sleeping Dogs is a good looking game. Graphics wise, it’s very pretty to look at. Character models are pretty good overall, especially the significant characters. The city itself is well realized and feels pretty large, and one thing that really stood out to me was traveling through the city in the rain. Rain effects are great and the glow of the signs from the street all made it look fantastic.
To my experience I never ran into any significant bugs that broke the game or made me have to stop either.
Sleeping Dogs is one of the best games to come out this year, especially if you enjoy open world crime based games. The combat is fun and fluid, the story ropes you in, and the world is quite large and fun to just run around and explore. In all it’s an engaging experience that anyone should think about picking up.