Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: United Front Games
Release Date: 8/14/2012
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Sleeping Dogs is actually True Crime: Hong Kong for most people who didn’t know. Does anyone care? No, because the True Crime series had two previous games that were mediocre to poor and there was little hope for this game. Square Enix picked up the project, seeing the potential in the game, and released it as Sleeping Dogs because they did not buy the name from the previous company. What we have here is probably the best GTA clone since Saints Row and that’s saying a lot. There have been many GTA clones but very few are any good or do anything different. Sleeping Dogs features a fluid martial arts system, a huge open world, a gripping story and characters, and a few side missions.
The story is actually very gripping and entertaining. You play as an ex-triad member turned cop named Wei Shen. You are working undercover to bring down the Son On Yee triad gang and bring in their Chairman. Your rival gang is the 18K which is relentlessly making hits on your turf. This isn’t just your typical gang war story. You actually get to really like the characters and feel for all of them in different ways. While you were working for the triad you can do cop missions on the side as well as bust drug deals throughout the city. This story is pretty epic and has a satisfying ending; I never once felt bored or detached from the story.
If that isn’t enough then the combat system should help bring you in. The combat system is simple, but deep and requires some skill to stay alive. You can counter when enemies turn red, but you must use the attack button and hold the button in combination to bring them down. The animations are fluid and you can really feel the punches. This isn’t just some wailing and kicking combat system that feels half-baked and broken. Some enemies may have weapons that you can take and use, but they are pretty rare because they do so much damage. If you are doing really well you will go into an adrenaline-type state and start to heal while enemies may flee from you. The other half of this combat is the gunplay which is really smooth and well designed. The cover system works great because as you leave cover you can go into slow motion and shoot out enemies who might be an immediate threat. This also goes for jumping from ledges. Once you actually start completing missions you will earn Cop, Triad, and Face experience which allows you to upgrade to better moves. Each one can be upgraded to level 10, but I reached this level way before I finished the game so I felt all that experience, later on, was wasted. There just aren’t enough upgrades in the game.
Another main feature of the game is a parkour system similar to Assassin’s Creed. Chase sequences play out often, but instead of climbing up walls you can climb ledges and jump gaps. The trick here is to hit the sprint button just before each obstacle so you smoothly go over them. Keep fumbling over everything and you will lose your target. This is something that has never really been incorporated into a GTA clone, and Sleeping Dogs nails it perfectly.
Of course, you can travel around the huge open city of Hong Kong, but there isn’t much to do. There are the drug-busting side missions, favors, races, and random events, as well as finding hidden boxes for money and clothes. That’s about it. I wound up doing all the favors and most drug-busting side missions but didn’t care for the others. There are some hacking mini-games thrown in here as well as lock picking, bug planting, and other mini-games which are fun. There’s a lot of detail put into the gameplay of Sleeping Dogs, but I just wish I could do more in this huge city.
After you finish the main story there’s no reason to really go back unless you want to collect all the boxes (which can all be shown on your map thankfully), but after you finish this you will probably have had enough. The driving works great, there are lots of different cars, taking taxis is convenient, and there are other things you will be familiar with within this kind of genre, but Sleeping Dogs masters the story, characters, and combat system very well. My biggest complaint is only the lack of side mission variety and the large about of bugs and glitches in the PC version.
The PC versions do give us some nice DirectX 11 visuals with a free high-resolution texture pack for people who have 1GB video cards or better. There is a huge difference with the game maxed out over the consoles. The anti-aliasing and FXAA make the game look smooth and flawless, plus the ambient occlusion adds a little extra that consoles can’t do. The PC version is by far the superior version, and most of the bugs have been ironed out by now since there have been 5 patches released thus far, but a large number of crashes and bugs were unacceptable at launch.
Sleeping Dogs is a beautiful game both in execution and spirit. The game really captures the Chinese culture, atmosphere, and triad feel of Hong Kong. This is a must-buy for any fan of the genre, and if you have a high-end PC, make sure to pick that version up.