Sleeping Dogs had a troubled development – starting life as a new game in the ‘True Crime’ series before being abandoned by Activision and picked up, sans title, by Square Enix. Initial footage looked promising but could developers United Front (makers of Modnation Racers) deliver a great, open world experience?
The short answer is yes and I’ll go into more detail on why…
Firstly Sleeping Dogs is hugely fun. It’s been a while since I played an open world game so over the top that I had a grin permanently attached while playing (that honour goes to Just Cause 2). While the game does have some serious moments, which I thought were handled quite well, this is a title in which you drive the narrative forward by hijacking cars from an already moving vehicle or beating up numerous enemies with some kickass kung fu.
The combat feels good, once you get into the rhythm needed for counters you won’t look back and some of the more brutal moves you can learn will make you wince on behalf on your victim. Then there are the environmental kills – activated by using items around you (an electric fan or the protruding nose of a dead swordfish) to impale, maim or just downright kill enemies.
You play as Wei Shen, an undercover cop in Hong Kong trying to bust the triad gangs. This gives you a nice game mechanic in terms of mission type. You can do side missions for the cops or the triads, which will raise your XP in each area and grant you new moves for fighting or disarming enemies. There are also a third set of missions that you do for just random folks on the street that raises your ‘Face’ meter. This gives you a damage bonus in combat and also unlocks different outfits for Wei Shen.
The game floats between Wei taking down bad guys as a cop and dishing out some pretty brutal beatings as a triad. Occasionally things felt a little forced in one direction or the other but in general the game gives you enough to do so if you want to take a break from the story you easily can.
The voice acting is top notch, with great performances from Tom Wilkinson, Lucy Liu, Emma Stone and Will Yun Lee, who plays Wei Shen. Shen’s voice acting is really well done and even the smaller characters are convincing.
There is no online as such but the game automatically compares various stats with your friends and will remind you what needs to be beaten as you do different activities.
Something that struck me as out of the ordinary for a game of this style was that you don’t get a gun (or encounter many armed enemies) until you’re about 2 or 3 hours into the game. This grants Sleeping Dogs a refreshing feel as you rely on the hand to hand combat for the early sections of the game. Even when you do get a gun you’ll often find yourself sticking with hand to hand, especially against big groups of enemies.
Overall, Sleeping Dogs is a fantastic game. It does lack a little bit of polish – there are some jagged edges here and there – but I found it to be an engaging and hugely fun to play game. Square Enix did a great job of picking this game up off the dumpster and releasing a really strong title. If you like open world games this is the perfect title to tide you over while the world waits to find out when we will finally get our hands on Grand Theft Auto V.