In a time where open-world games seem to be in abundance, Sleeping Dogs stands out and brings something fresh to the table.
Sleeping Dogs throws you straight into action as you start the game with a drug deal gone wrong and police quickly chase you. This is when you are revealed to be an undercover cop and you know from that moment on, your loyalty will be tested.
Whilst parts of the well-paced plot are predictable, some I can’t mention due to spoilers, United Front Games have done a great job on keeping you on the edge of your seat.
Explaining the plot to someone can be as easy as saying you’re a cop who’s trying to infiltrate the Triads and this sounds pretty straightforward, right? Wrong. You will constantly be changing your mind on who you think is in the right but nothing is black and white and the story is filled with betrayal, shifting loyalties and, this may be a shock to some of you, family.
The characters are very well fleshed out through masses of dialogue and your relationships with them. Our protagonist, Wei Shen, is haunted with past experiences that he’s failed to escape. He enrols in the police force after an incident concerning his sister and blames Triad gangs for her death. You’ll be meeting with members from both the Sun On Yee and the Hong Kong Police Department which both have their own unique way of dealing with things.
The Sun On Yee are a much more violent group but treasure family and relationships, classing their group as a family. The police feel that they can do whatever they like to infiltrate the Triad groups and take them down from the inside by using Wei Shen but not everybody agrees with them.
The combat is the main focus and it is brilliant, it features striking similarities to Rocksteady’s Batman titles with its free-flow fighting making it easy to string up combos, violent finishing moves and counters. You can also use weapons such as kitchen knives and batons, which are much more effective than your hands and cannot be blocked.
The brutal finishing moves really stand out but Sleeping Dogs managed to make me cringe and sometimes I had to look away when I was placing enemies in to incinerators, ice chippers, fans and hooks. The moves are spectacularly well done and are one of the best aspects of Sleeping Dogs and you’ll constantly be using the environment to finish off your enemies.
Driving is enjoyable and makes you feel as if you have complete control of your vehicle. You can drive cars, motorbikes, and buses, which all vary in speed, turning ability and they are also set in to classes if you wish to partake in a street race. The street races themselves offer variation but you will probably find yourself ramming other drivers as the rubber-banding always sees them not far behind you.
The gunplay is the weakest point of the gameplay, feeling slightly loose and the aiming reticule on all guns is quite large, making it feel that weaponry isn’t very accurate although it’s still very easy, and satisfying, to pull off a headshot. Pistols and small machine guns are the most common firearms but grenade launchers, assault riles, shotguns and other guns are also available to you. The hand-to-hand combat is much more thrilling, though.
There are various side-missions to complete too including dates with various women, offering your help to civilians, drug busts and, my favourite, karaoke.
Collecting statues and gaining respect from people is how you gain hand-to-hand and other fighting related upgrades. You will gain health upgrades by praying at health shrines placed all over Hong Kong.
Considering how big the game is, Sleeping Dogs manages to look outstanding. It has a great draw distance, character animations are top-notch and the weather is always changing. The rain on the Hong Kong backdrop looks sublime; it soaks through Shen’s clothing, patters off of the floor and vehicles and it makes Hong Kong look incredibly beautiful at night.
The lighting and scenery are brilliant, giving Hong Kong an authentic look and helps form a new playground that isn’t featured much in other titles where wastelands, mountains, and forests take precedence.
The frame rate is consistently good but there are issues with things looking blurry at times, especially when it’s dark. It’s never noticeable enough to be a serious issue and it will not detract any enjoyment that the game offers.
The voice acting is spectacular and features star talent including Emma Stone, Lucy Liu, Will Yun Lee and Tom Wilkinson. They all lend their voices to bring their respective characters to life in a way that perhaps other voice actors could not.
A nice addition is the broken English that some of the citizens have, especially when trying to sell you clothing or food. The whole city is alive with civilians calling out to you to buy pork buns, T-shirts, jeans, soup and more. To add to this, they will be disgruntled or appreciative depending on your decision to buy or not.
Most of the dialogue is English but Cantonese is also mixed in and so I highly recommend you have subtitles on so you can understand what is being said at all times.
Karaoke makes for a hilarious addition and you’ll want to see Shen sing Take On Me by A-Ha several times. Lee, voice of Shen, sings the tracks himself and isn’t half bad!
There is no multiplayer and it’s a shame because with the street races and various forms of combat available, I think an online component would have been popular. There are leaderboards where you can compare challenges with people from your friends list and around the world. The type of things you’ll compete in include who can drive the longest without hitting anything and longest kill-streak.
The story is a decent length, clocking in around 10 hours, and there are plenty of side-missions that will keep you busy but if side-missions aren’t your thing, then the gorgeous city and enthralling story will still make your purchase worthwhile and I fully recommend it.
Mitchell is a freelance journalist, Senior Moderator at Playfire. You can find more of his work at http://mitchjay92.blogspot.co.uk/ or contact him at www.playfire.com/mitchjay1992.
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