The first time you glance at Sleeping Dogs you would be forgiven for thinking that it’s a Grand Theft Auto clone, however that’s about as far as the similarities between the two games go. Sleeping Dogs is a game that brings fresh perspective to the open world gaming genre.
Sleeping Dogs is a game that has been in production for a couple of years now, originally labelled as a True Crime game and then bought by Square Enix and morphed into a brand new title. The graphics reflect this lengthy delay cycle, looking a little bit dated overall. When I was looking at some of the pre-release in-game trailers the graphics really had me worried, however in the final game they manage to do enough so as not to detract from the rest of the game’s efforts to provide an immersive experience. The bustling city of Hong Kong provides a vibrant background for the story with it’s twisting streets and sparkling lights setting the tone for the game.
The inclusion of some amazing voice acting provides an extra notch in the realism department and really helps bring the story to life. While the graphics don’t stand out, the overall presentation of the game is really good, and provides the vehicle to carry the story.
Shortly after popping in the Sleeping Dogs game disc into my Xbox I was totally absorbed in the story. Without a doubt the best attribute of Sleeping Dogs is the story. You play as Wei Shen, an undercover cop back from a hiatus in the US, as he sets about infiltrating a powerful Hong Kong Triad. As you continue through his journey, down into the depths of the Hong Kong underworld you are required to grow your trust (Face) both within the Triad as well as with the Hong Kong police. This constant battle between good and evil provides an interesting dynamic and is one of the major differences between Sleeping Dogs and other GTA like games.
For instance if you are driving through the city and damage property (hitting a lamp post) or injure anyone (smashing into innocent pedestrians) it immediately takes off some of your hard earned police Face points. So who cares? Well, leveling up your Face points grants you special unlockable skills. There are different skills on each side of the law and both sides are seriously useful and form a core element of the storyline.
The missions work in a similar way, with core story driven missions revolving around your journey into the belly of the Triad, building their trust and finding a way to take them down. However there are a lot of side missions throughout the game that provide you with opportunities to gain experience, acquire new skills and help the Hong Kong police clean up the streets.
Easily one of the most interesting and the most challenging parts of Sleeping Dogs is the combat system. Heavily reliant on the counter attack method made famous by the Assassin’s Creed and Batman games, you often find yourself surrounded by enemies and fighting to survive. The combat system is solid and easy to get into however there is quite a lot of mastery needed in order to take on some of the bigger and harder enemies. You can level up your skills by training with your martial arts teacher, unlocking special moves that become a very necessary part of surviving. These take the shape of combos – i.e. hitting X, X ,X , B triggers a roundhouse kick that stuns your opponent. Whenever I found myself stuck or overwhelmed by a certain mission/enemy I worked on my fighting skills a bit then went back to tackle it armed with a few new moves and managed to get the job done.
One of the most fun parts of the gameplay is grabbing an enemy and making use of destructible environmental objects to finish them off with. I experienced a great example of this during a mission within a nightclub. I grabbed a tattooed punk and smashed his head into a huge fish tank that took up most of the wall. The tank burst (as you would expect it to) showering myself and my other assailants with water and fish. I then grabbed one of these fish and slapped the other two enemies to death with a few well timed baseball bat-like swings. You have to love that!
I also have to mention the driving. Driving in Sleeping Dogs is a lot of fun, whether you are zipping through the backstreets of Hong Kong on a motorbike or flying down the hi-way in a sports car, the experience is great. Add to that the ability to shoot from out you window while driving and leaping from car to car and you cant help but grin.
Sleeping Dogs may not have the most original concept, ground-breaking graphics and technical innovation, but damn it’s an absolute blast to play. With the aim of the game being to enable the player to feel like an action hero in a blockbuster movie, I can safely say that Sleeping Dogs has achieved what they set out to do. The game remains fun to play throughout and keeps you glued to your seat and wanting more.