Developer: United Front Games
Publisher: Square Enix
ESRB Rating: Mature
United Front Games has made a name for themselves in the driving game genre with ModNation Racers and the upcoming LittleBigPlanet Karting, but are now taking aim at a different genre in the action/adventure sandbox genre with Sleeping Dogs. The game was initially meant to become True Crime: Hong Kong, but was cancelled by Activision. It was then picked up by Square Enix and re-packaged as the game brought forth today. Now that Sleeping Dogs has been unleashed to the public, does the game have bite, or should it be put to sleep? Call shotgun on this road trip to Hong Kong: here's the review.
Really? No “Let Sleeping Dogs lie” Pun?
Sleeping Dogs follows the story of Wei Shen, an undercover cop who's infiltrated the Sun On Yee Triads. Born in Hong Kong, Shen's family moves to the United States to escape the Sun On Yee. Shen spends most of his adult life in the States, becomes a cop, and moves back to Hong Kong. On an undercover assignment, Shen is arrested and meets up with a childhood friend who provides Shen's way into the Sun On Yee gang. Along the way, we meet a cast of characters Wei helps out and a few that need to be targeted.
The open world of Sleeping Dogs has a lot to offer the player. Along with the story, Wei can participate in solving police missions, racing, gambling, helping random people on the street, and finding collectibles throughout the city. Just about everything done in the game offers its own reward. The story missions reward the player with triad advantages, police missions upgrade police advantages, and favors upgrade the face advantages.
Every advantage upgrades different facets of the game. Police, Triad, and Face upgrades offer different types of advantages to upgrade, but the game doesn't have a moral system to confine a player to choose sides. The closest thing to a moral system occurs during story missions. Should a player crash into property, cars, or injure civilians, points are subtracted from the Police Score you are given at the end of the mission.
Wei can also alter his look in the game with different clothes. Rather than just being an aesthetic change, certain combinations of shirts, shoes, and pants offer special bonuses, like as discounts on cars, extra melee damage, and other perks. Those advantages, along with shops that offer their own advantages, help out in their own way and can make the game simpler for the player at times.
Undercover, The Rules Are Different
The gameplay in Sleeping Dogs takes elements of other games and (for the most part) does them well. Given their background, United Front Games has made smooth driving mechanics for the game. The fighting system is martial arts based and is reminiscent of Rocksteady's Batman games. At first, the combat can be a little tricky, but as upgrades are earned, fighting gets easier. However, problems with the combat system arise during boss battles. During those fights, the player only gets to counter, then attack until the boss recovers.
One of the weak points in the gameplay happens to be when guns come into play. Aiming is inaccurate, and the player usually has to rely on a “pray-and-spray” type mentality. Usually with weapons like SMGs and shot guns, that would work; however, even basic hand guns don'
t have the steady accuracy of other shooting games.
That's What Worries Me, You're One Of Them Now
As noted earlier, Sleeping Dogs takes place in Hong Kong. The city itself is a nice change of pace from the usual New York, L.A., or any other American city that players constantly see in other games. Parts of the map go from gritty, urban areas to high-end metropolis. Hong Kong might generally look like other cities in other games, but the feel of the city in the game has a nice effect. Just remember: they drive on the left side of the road.
Graphically, Sleeping Dogs is a nice looking game and is on par for current generation consoles. However, the game has the occasional bug, and graphics do degrade at times during the game. This doesn't hinder the game's performance, but it's just something that was noticed during gameplay.
Wait, The Guy That Played Liu Kang Is In This Game?
The cast in Sleeping Dogs does a great job with their voice acting. Will Yun Lee (Wei Shen) does a nice job of a man trying to balance getting in too deep with the triads with the “by the book” mentality of a cop. At times, it's hard to tell where Wei's allegiance lies, which adds intrigue to the story. Standout Hollywood actresses Lucy Liu and Emma Stone also loan their voices to the game, but have small parts in the game. Still, every character is voiced well, adding drama and, at times, some comedy to the story in the game.
You're A Strange Guy, Old Salty Crab
Sleeping Dogs isn't without it's occasional problems. Though gunfights are problematic, gunfights combined with car chases offer a fun experience, especially when a tire blows out after being shot. One weird issue with the game comes up when fighting off enemy gangs on the street, either in between missions or in the free play after the story. Ordinarily, if a cop catches Wei in the act of carjacking or beating up civilians, the police will pursue him. Should a cop find himself in the vicinity of Wei beating up enemy gang members, the cop just walks along.
One final mark against the game is the tedious nature of some of the gameplay features. Specifically in some of the mini-games, such as lock picking and bug planting. With the lock boxes, some are unlocked and others require the player to rotate the left analog stick like a combination lock to crack it open. In planting bugs, both analog sticks are used to find the right frequency, and then is repeated again to finalize the frequency.
Those looking for an online mode for races or free roaming will be disappointed. The game only keeps track of how well the player does in missions, races, and other stats, such as how long a player can drive without damaging the vehicle at a certain speed.
Despite the problems that arise, Sleeping Dogs is a mixed bag of gaming done well. The driving and races are fun, Hong Kong is fun to explore, and there are times when a player will just look for trouble by finding random enemy gangs just hanging out. The unarmed combat is a lot of fun and done very well, rewarding the player with violent finishing blows and the occasional environmental kill.
Sleeping Dogs is worth the money. Hong Kong has incentive for the player to explore and gives some nice activities to keep the player entertained. Though Sleeping Dogs may seem like an open-world sandbox crime drama, it adds the feel of a Chinese action movie, which by no means is a bad thing.
Final Verdict: Sleeping Dogs gets 9 Old Salty Crabs out of 10.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Sleeping Dogs by United Front Games, distributed by Square Enix.