Out Now – Square-Enix- United Front Games – 1 Player – BBFC 18
Xbox 360 (reviewed version)/PS3/PC
Reviewed by Juanvasquez
Out of the ashes of an abandoned True Crime sequel, comes Sleeping Dogs, the Hong Kong set, action thriller, which sees undercover police officer Wei Shen, assigned to infiltrate, and work his way up, Triad gang Sun On Yee. After being arrested whilst on an undercover operation, Wei meets an old friend in the police station cells, low level Triad Vincent, who promises to set him up with some work. Seizing the opportunity to get in with the biggest gang in Hong Kong, his superiors assign him to the case, to try and take down the Triad from the inside. Starting out as a low level enforcer, you collect protection money, assist drug deals, and various other things, mainly involving your fists. And that’s where this game tends to differ from that of its ilk. Yes, there’s plenty of violence and crime, but a lot of it comes through hand to hand combat as opposed to endless shoot-outs. That’s not to say there isn’t any gun play involved, as there are several missions where you need a weapon to get yourself out of a tight spot.
The combat in Sleeping Dogs is much more than just punching and kicking. There are several combo’s to learn and master, as well as counters, grabs and certain environmental hazards to take advantage of. For those that are that way inclined, you may be pleased to know that the fighting in the game was choreographed by UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre (hence the DLC that comes with the Limited Edition). The environmental aspects of the combat make for the most fun. If there’s a surface, it can used. Be it to bounce your adversaries head off the wall, to trap them in a dumpster, or let them swim with a tank full of electric eels, it’s always fun trying to find new ways to deal with the bad guys. While the hand to hand combat is great fun, the gunplay could do with some improvements. The aiming can be a little off, as the amount of times you go to shoot a villain in the face and end up clipping a different body part or missing completely almost borders on frustration. That said, when in focus mode (when mantling a surface with the aim button pressed, things slow down, allowing you to get more shots off than normal. Think Stranglehold.), aiming does become more accurate, and the shooting becomes more fun.
Sleeping Dogs is, in essence, GTA Hong Kong. With vast neon lit streets, gorgeous looking hillsides and temples, and of course, endless highways and many, many vehicles. And to draw up more comparisons to Rockstar’s behemoth, the driving is substantially better. As per usual, there are fast, slow and sometimes, just plain silly vehicles (van full of chickens!), but the handling and sense of speed is much really shines through. There are plenty of vehicles, from smart cars, sports cars and a variety of motorcycles to put through their paces, along with many street races, to earn some extra money, and get yourself more recognised in the underworld. The overall plot and story is probably the most involving in a game of this genre, and it’s something you want to see through to the end. This is more than likely due to the fact you take on the morally ambiguous role of the undercover policeman/gangland thug. And as we’ve learnt from countless films, there’s always some elements that can cause an internal conflict, which is what captivates about these kind of stories.
One of the best things this game has going for it, is just that it’s all out fun. The tone, the story and some of the characters may be on the serious side, but once the game is in full swing, it’s probably this years most entertaining gaming experience. The main story may be something on the short side for this type of game, with only 30 missions, but there’s more than enough in the side missions, races, martial arts clubs and various other tasks, to really get the most out of the game. But for all its qualities, there’s one thing letting the side down. It can be quite buggy. On occasions, particularly towards the end of the game, the GPS system used for getting from A2B would send you in the wrong direction, or just not work at all. Quite often there would be some frame rate skip when mounting motorcycles, as well as textures not appearing in cut scenes and when driving. But overall these are but a drop in the ocean, as while they can be a bit jarring, it doesn’t dampen the experience. Quite possibly the surprise hit of the year, Sleeping Dogs is pure Pringles gaming. Once you pick it up, you’ll need an intervention to put it down.