Sleeping Dogs Review
Developer: United Front Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
The open world city game is a pretty tried and tested formula now that works well and attracts a lot of people to it due to its free roaming, go where you want, do what you want style. Sleeping Dogs doesn’t add much new to the open world city game genre, but it does everything very solidly and brings a new location to the table in the form of Hong Kong.
Sleeping Dogs has emerged from the wreckage of the True Crime series that you may remember from a few years ago. When Activision dropped the game last year due to the amount of time it was taking, Square Enix bought the rights to the game, but didn’t buy the rights to the True Crime name. Thus, Sleeping Dogs was born.
For once this game is not set in the USA which straight away makes for a nice change, but the neon lit bustling city streets of Hong Kong instead. This isn’t a painstaking building for building version of a city like in LA Noire, but more of a representation of the city that just gives you a feel for the place. The story of Sleeping Dogs is one of its strongest areas and anybody who has watched such films as The Departed or Infernal Affairs will be familiar with the undercover cop story that runs throughout the game. The story telling done through cut scenes. Voice acting is superbly done, with Hollywood stars like Emma Stone and Lucy Liu providing some of voices, so there was certainly no expense spared in that department.
You play the character Wei Shen who walks a fine line as a cop trying to infiltrate a triad gang, and also feed information to the Hong Kong police and doing special missions for them when they arise. You can do all the things that you expect of an open world game such as drive cars and ride bikes, visit shops to buy new clothes, buy food and drinks which give you certain perks during combat and take taxi rides to any area on the map. The game world is pretty large as you would expect for this type of game, but I wouldn’t say its as big as GTA 4 or Saints Row 3 for those of you that are familiar with those games.
One small criticism I would have with Sleeping Dogs, is that the game world can feel a little empty at times. There are very few other cars driving around, and not many NPC/pedestrians in many areas of the game. You can certainly feel the Grand Theft Auto influence on this game when you play it, but they have left out some of the more controversial activities that GTA is famous for, or should a say infamous. As you complete missions and side quests you earn experience points that enables you to level up both the cop and triad side of your character, and unlock perks which come in handy later on in the game.
There is a reasonable amount of diversity in the missions that you are given to do, as you are playing a character who is working for two different sides. Many of the police missions involve planting bugs, spying on drug deals and tailing people in vehicles. The triad missions tend to be a bit more action orientated with quite a bit of fighting and some gunplay missions here and there. Fighting does play a big part in Sleeping Dogs and for the most part is very slick in the style Rocksteady’s Batman games.
The environment can also be used to take down many of your opponents such as picking them up and throwing them into a dumpster or smashing there head into a large speaker, which is my own personal favorite. You learn new fighting moves the farther you get into the game. This is very handy, as the enemies do get tougher as you progress. You are also in general, heavily out numbered, so taking down enemies quickly is key as your health bar can go down pretty fast if they land a few blows.
Gunplay does not play such a big part in this game and it took several hours before I got my hands on a weapon which is both unusual for this style of game and quite refreshing. Gun battles work quite well, and there is the usual cover system that many games use now. There is also a slow-mo mode that works very similar to Max Payne.
When you don’t feel like doing missions and side quests there are quite a few other distractions for you to take a look at. There is, of course, the almost obligatory car and bike racing events. Additionally, there is also mahjong poker and cock fighting events for you to lose or win money on and a nightclub with a karaoke mini game. These events do become tiresome fairly quickly though, and you do tend to spend most of your time playing the main game as, as that’s where Sleeping Dogs is at its strongest.
Some have criticized the games visuals on console, but I personally played the game on PC and I can confirm all is well on this platform. For the most part the game looks very impressive on PC with high resolution textures throughout, extremely detailed environments, very high quality vehicle and character models and beautiful night time rain effects that look especially good on the neon lit streets.
There is also the option to download a high resolution texture pack for the PC version that weights in at 4.5 gigabyte, which I would highly recommend. You will need a powerful machine to see this game at its best, as enabling some of the graphical options does take a toll on frame rate in certain areas of the game, however I would give United Front Games a big pat on the back for making a big effort with the PC version and I wish more developers would do the same.
Sleeping Dogs does a lot of things very well, but nothing particularly outstanding. The gunplay, fighting and driving all feels very satisfying with the main story, and is probably its biggest strength. It keeps you interested until the very end, but it really doesn’t add anything new to the genre. Once the main story has finished there really isn’t much of a reason to continue playing the game, as there is no mulitplayer included. There is a good 20+ hours of gameplay to be had here and the developer has said that it will be supporting the game over the next 6 months with many DLC packages which will certainly extend the life of the game.