Have you ever been sitting in your apartment, listening to these two women out in the hall. You are sick and tired of hearing them so what do you do? Break their legs of course. OK, maybe not, but in the world of Sleeping Dogs that is your reality.
Sleeping Dogs plunges you into the seedy underworld of the Chinese mafia. You take control of the undercover super-cop Wei Shen in the style of Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row. So how does Sleeping Dogs compare? Is it a GTA knockoff? Or does Sleeping Dogs dragon kick the competition into submission?
Sleeping Dogs lets you experience what I am almost positive the life of an undercover police officer must be like. You take the reins of Wei Shen. A San Francisco detective who at a younger age migrated from China to the United States. Your assignment if you choose to accept it, infiltrate the Hong Kong triad in attempts to bring down the whole house-o-cards.
Sleeping Dogs does an excellent job of keeping you entertained with its story. Weaving you in between entertaining cut scenes and action without making you deal with abrupt transitions or sad loading screens. The main thing the Sleeping Dogs achieves with its story is giving you a variety. One moment you may be stealing a truck back for a sad man with a gambling addiction and the next you will have to take Winston Chu’s (mob boss) fiancée out shopping for flowers. OK shopping for flowers does not sound like it belongs in this game but it works.
Sleeping Dogs does an excellent job of keeping you on point, in the story, but giving you enough room to travel off the beaten path to discover new sub-plots.
As stated previously Sleeping Dogs takes its gameplay style from the likes of Grand Theft Auto. Plenty of games have followed in these foot steps and generally they feel like a rehash or just a re-skin of GTA. This is in no way the case for Sleeping Dogs. Yes it does have similarities between it’s self and GTA but does them right. Can you steal a car? Yes. Are you chased by cops when you do the bad things? Of course. But that is where the similarities stop. Sleeping Dogs does most things correctly when it comes to gameplay and a few things wrong. Most of the game is based on 3 actions. No matter what your mission is you are either driving fast, doing sweet kung-fu, or sneaking around.
Sleeping Dogs serves up quite a few different mission types though:
- Drug Bust – find a group of guys standing around in the street and murder them…. now hack into a close by video camera with a tedious password system
- Go meet a girl and try to make her your girlfriend by doing random errands
- Steal an armored car and return it to the chop shop for some cash
- Help people on the side of the road, which usually ends up with your being bashed over the head and someone steals something from you
OK, that is not all the mission types in the game, but there is a ton of really random side missions you can do. The primary story in the game has you either being a cop and being a gangster. During these missions you have to balance being a cop and being a bad guy. Shoot the bad guys in the face but make sure you don’t hit that street sign or you lose experience points.
This would be an acceptable formula is it applied on a consistent basis. It does not, it only matters if you are in the middle of a mission. Once the mission is completed you are free to shoot, steal, murder, leg break, face smash, and obtain shady back alley “massages” all you want. This was surely done to allow for a fun open sandbox environment that does not affect the end game but it does create an imbalance in the world.
The driving very rewarding especially when you are jumping from speeding car to car or inducing explosions. There is a plethora of cars to obtain (either steal or purchase from some guy who stole them). The driving mechanic itself is very tight and handles like any other quality arcade style driving game – A+.
The stealth aspect of the game is also done very well. This is really only used while gaining intelligence on your targets or as a way to prepare yourself for a large fight. The game generally does not punish you for steering away from the stealthy action unless absolutely necessary (this is no Hitman: Absolution).
Now on to the real problem with the game, the fighting. The game does a great job with the combo system. It does not require you to memorize any insane button combinations to pull off an awesome knee to the face or round house kick. It takes a page from Batman Arkham [insert a word here] in the way the group battles occur and the final blow is finished up with a slow motion cue. This is done very well and is very satisfying.
Where Sleeping Dogs falls short is in the controls. During a fight you are expected to watch all 1-15 guys gang beat your body into submission, looking for one of the henchmen to light up with a red outline. That means you are about to get destroyed. You must quickly press the counter button. The new Batman games also share a similar mechanic. So correctly timing your counter will result in you not dying and a pretty awesome counter move, not pressing it at the right time will either end in a punch to your face or you completely freezing in place in a constipated stance just waiting for 2 seconds and most likely being punched in the face. This can lead to a very frustrating combat system. This timing system does take some getting used to, but once you do it really becomes fun.
On top of the so-so counter system, actual player control can at times feel very heavy. Sliding the sludgy camera around while timing parkour jumps and dives from rooftops or aiming at the bad guys while they ruthlessly unload gun shot after gun shot tends to lead to many deaths. This is not a deal breaker by any means as the controls still work and just take some getting used to.
On top of the great story line and enjoyable action Sleeping Dogs has voice actors. Voice actors you say? Yes reader, and good actors at that. This is no Science Fiction channel Shark-apoc-asaurus-a-don random boring guy address lifeless girl commentary. That is not at all the case.
Sleeping Dogs piles on a group of reputable and well spoken voices that truly bring life to an already entertaining script. Some very famous voices such as; Emma Stone, Yunjin Kim (LOST), Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins), Will Yun Lee (Die Another Day), Lucy Liu (Kill Bill/Charlie’s Angels/King of the Hill…) and Edison Chen (The Dark Knight). There are also quite a few lesser known actors that lend their talents but all equally as diverse and believable as the next. In total there is something around 2 hours of voiced story dialog. More than enough to create a full length motion picture.
The one gripe about this game is the case files. You will unlock these throughout the game while performing missions. They give you back story as well as further information on current and future events. The problem is there is zero dialogue here. You are expected to read through page after page of case notes if you want to get the full experience out of the cases you are solving. With so much work put into the audio for the bulk of the story, why couldn’t United Front or Square Enix thought about us lazy gamers who are fairly opposed to reading in a video game? Again this is such a little thing and the complaint here is minimal.
Is Sleeping Dogs the perfect game? No it is not a perfect game. Is Sleeping Dogs an amazing game that draws you in from the opening scenes? Why yes, yes it certainly is. From the very beginning all the way through this lengthy open world sandbox style kung-fu piece of gold you are drawn in. Great attention has been paid to the small things and the not so small. There are minor issues that can make this game rage inducing but they can be overlooked. Sleeping Dogs does a really good job at a lot of different things making it an absolutely enjoyable experience.