OXCGN’s Sleeping Dogs Review

OXCGN’s Sleeping Dogs Review

Does this dog have any new tricks?

by Daniel Geikowski

©2012 Daniel Geikowski

A drug deal goes sour. The police close in. After an action-packed pursuit along the waterfront, you’re cornered and taken in.

Sleeping Dogs, the new open world game from United Front Games and Square Enix, gets your attention from the beginning like a knee to the face.

Taking place in Hong Kong, the game revolves around Wei Shen, an undercover police officer tasked with infiltrating one of the city’s most feared triads, the Sun On Yee.

Finally seeing the light of day after being cancelled by Activision (originally True Crime: Hong Kong), it will inevitably be compared to the benchmark Grand Theft Auto series. Does Sleeping Dogs do enough to stand out from the crowd?

Bite worse than Bark

In one word, yes. Sleeping Dogs stands out beyond the shadow of the GTA series, fly-kicking and snapping legs along the way.

This is due in part to the focus around melee and hand-to-hand combat. Wei is highly trained in the martial arts, and the player will spend most of the game dealing out spinning heel kicks and broken noses as they ascend the ranks of the Sun On Yee.

Wei is also skilled in “Free running“, which allows him to leap walls and rooftops in order to chase down thugs in order to administer some street justice. This system is also very similar to that of Assassin’s Creed, although Wei cannot scale buildings.

The combat is made enjoyable thanks to a simple, yet deep fighting system. Each of the face buttons on the controller are used for a different combat function: strike, counter, grab and sprint.

Combos can then be created using these functions in order to dish out some satisfying punishment on nearby loitering gangsters, or innocent retail staff that harass you to buy their wares.

Sleeping Dogs really makes you feel like a badass, as the combat system allows you to attack and counter multiple enemies from all sides with ease. The system is very similar to the “Freeflow” system used in the Batman: Arkham Asylum/City games.

Combat never really gets stale due to the range of attacks Wei has at his disposal. All moves carry a satisfying weight to them, as seen on an enemy’s face as you snap one of their friend’s limbs.

There is no single power move players can spam in order to beat enemies either, as various enemy types force the player to mix up their attacks in order to get past their defences.

RPG elements are also present. As the player progresses, they gain both Triad and Police Experience that allows Wei to unlock more combos and abilities in order to deal out justice.

Various melee weapons and environmental attacks also add some visceral violence, as there is nothing better than throwing an enemy face-first into a Table Saw or Ice Chipper.

While the hand-to-hand combat is satisfying,  I can’t say the same about the gunplay. You don’t get your hands on a firearm until a fair way into the story; however, this isn’t a bad thing. Guns doesn’t feel as polished.

The gunplay uses the tried-and-true method of ducking behind and shooting from cover, with some bullet time elements thrown in.

The weapons don’t feel solid enough, lacking a satisfying weight that’s present in the melee combat.

While I enjoyed using weapons during car chases, I chose to stick with hand-to-hand combat unless I was forced into using weapons during various missions.

Blood Hound

The story of Sleeping Dogs focuses on the already-mentioned Wei Shen, going undercover to infiltrate and cripple the Sun On Yee Triad.

It is learned at the start of the game that Wei left Hong Kong and became an Officer for the San Francisco Police Department. Due to some unspecified actions, Wei is transferred to Hong Kong to help out the H.K.P.D.

During his stint in prison at the beginning of the game, Wei meets childhood friend Jackie Mah, a member of the Sun On Yee who gains Wei entry into the triad. Wei and Jackie start at the bottom of the pile, having to work their way up the triad ladder.

Along the way, missions range from collecting protection money, escorting VIPs to parties, stealing goods and wiping out rival triad members.

As Wei ascends the ranks of the Sun On Yee, he meets various childhood friends also situated within the triad. As Wei delves deeper into the Sun On Yee, the line between good and evil starts to blur, revenge taking precedence over duty.

Working his way up the Sun On Yee, Wei gains experience upon completing each mission.

Triad Experience is awarded for brutal takedowns and violence, while Police Experience is awarded for staying within the law.

This forces players to become more aware when traversing throughout Hong Kong if they want to raise their Police abilities.

The notion of loyalty is paramount in Sleeping Dogs, and players witness Wei facing an internal struggle on his loyalty to the badge and his friends. The story does well to take place front-and-center, instead of acting as a backdrop to the open world gameplay.

This is helped by the supporting cast of Sleeping Dogs. Although a lot of the characters have a limited appearance, their interaction with Wei drives the story.

Along with Wei, all the major characters have great voice acting, instead of having the stereotypical B-grade Asian acting of some titles.

This not only provides more gravity to the story, but the characters are much more believable.

There are some cliché moments throughout, but combined with the combat, overall it’s an entertaining story of Wei dealing with loyalty, deceit, greed and betrayal.

Walk the Dog

Although breaking bones plays a large part in Sleeping Dogs, being an open world adventure, there are various activities to complete.

Since Wei is a police officer, he can partake in crime-fighting activities, such as Drug Busts. These involve beating up local thugs, hacking surveillance cameras, and gaining evidence in order to arrest dealers.

Hacking cameras, planting bugs, and picking locks all involve mini-games. They are a neat little addition in the beginning, however by the time you’ve cracked your fiftieth safe it starts to get a little old.

Activities known as “favours” revolve around Wei helping out random individuals, which nets the player “Face” experience, in order to wear new clothes and gain new abilities.

Street Races are also a feature, as well as the ability to sing Karaoke (thankfully there is no microphone peripheral). Wei can even go on dates with girls, although it’s nothing like maintaining relationships in GTA IV, which is a plus.

Being an open world, graphically Sleeping Dogs is in the middle of the range.

The main characters have good character models, but apart from that nothing else stands out.

The game world has some interesting areas, but repetitive models detract from the experience after a while.

The world features no loading times whatsoever; players can traverse from one end of the island the other. Playing on the 360 version, I didn’t encounter any major graphical bugs apart from some jagged shadows and clipping issues.

Let Sleeping Dogs lie?

Overall, I found Sleeping Dogs to be a surprisingly good game. Not simply willing to be labelled another GTA clone, it works to tell a mature story about truth and loyalty.

Although no individual component stands out, it’s the combination of the story mixed with the hand-to-hand combat and Free running that makes Sleeping Dogs enjoyable in the 15 – 20 hours it takes to complete.

What lets the game down though is the lack of replayability. After completing the main story, apart from finding the various collectibles hidden throughout Hong Kong, there is little incentive to play through Sleeping Dogs again.

While the omission of moral choices didn’t hurt the story, it would have added much-needed longevity. Also missing is any multiplayer function. It would have been great to cruise through Hong Kong with a friend using the drop in/drop out method.

While it’s no Grand Theft Auto killer, it doesn’t aim to be. It tells the story of a man stuck in the middle, fighting an internal battle.

To any fan of the open world genre looking for an engaging story while uppercutting people, I certainly recommend picking up Sleeping Dogs.


©2012 Daniel Geikowski

Published by

Daniel Geikowski

Like many of you out there, Daniel has a great passion for video games. So much so that he quit his day job to complete a Bachelor of Arts: Games and Interactivity degree. Follow him on Twitter @Deus_Exer

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