Review | Sleeping Dogs Is A Sleeper Hit

Originally announced as True Crime: Hong Kong in 2009, Sleeping Dogs is an open-world third-person shooter developed in collaboration between United Front Games and Square Enix London Studios. You are Wei Shun, an undercover cop who must infiltrate a fearsome Triad organization, the Sun On Yee.

For most of his life, Wei Shen lived in the United States, so the game opens up with him reunited with his childhood friend Jackie in a Hong Kong jail cell. Jackie tells Wei he can get him some work in the triad once they’re both releases. As promised, Jackie introduces Wei to Winston and his goons, who are all suspicious of Wei since they either don’t recognize him nor do they remember him living in Hong Kong as a child. Being an undercover cop, Wei Shen attempts to persuade the gangsters to interrogate their enemies rather than killing them in cold blood. In doing so, Wei Shen uses his intel to arrest criminals, such as drug suppliers.

The story is a lot deeper than I had expected it to be. Initially, the criminal code of honor and your loyalty to the badge seems black and white but somewhere down the line, it all becomes gray as rival triads get closer and closer to war. I found myself so immersed into the story that I decided I wasn’t going to sleep until I completed it. The main story is 10-11 hours and United Front did a spectacular job at balancing action and drama. Character development was at such a nice pace throughout the story that I found myself caring for characters more than I normally do in open-world games.

Voice acting and character animations are spot on in Sleeping Dogs. Shortly after the start of the game, I felt like I was watching a movie rather than playing a video game. Environments are also a looker, with many buildings having their own unique design and the few that have interiors, such as nightclubs, are beautiful. However, there have been times when I’ve seen screen tearing on one or two occasions such as when a woman is sitting on a man’s lap or when you back an enemy up against a wall. It doesn’t break the game, but it’s visibly noticeable at times.

Because of strict gun laws in Hong Kong, firearms are a rarity in Sleeping Dogs.  Though there are a few missions that require you to shoot at your opponents, most of the fighting is done with your fists. The combat system is similar to Batman: Arkham City’s freeflow combat system and will allow you to counter enemy attacks in multiple ways, disarm knife-weilding foes, and perform bone-crushing combos. The amount of combos you can do with martial arts makes the game much more fun than it would have been if you had to settle all your problems with a gun. New martial arts moves can be learned each time you find a Jade Statue scattered across Hong Kong. If you want to practice your fighting skills, there are four different martial arts clubs in the game in which you earn money for completing six rounds.

Gunplay in Sleeping Dogs works well. The cover system is acceptable, however it becomes a pain when you want to move out of cover over to somewhere else. You would need to stand up and sprint to your point of interest rather than simply using your analog stick to roll in that direction. You can vault from cover and enter ‘slow time’, similar to Max Payne’s ‘bullet time’, which allows you to take out multiple enemies. Slow time can also be used in vehicular combat, which can be compared to another Square Enix title, Just Cause 2.

Sleeping Dogs features role-playing elements such as XP to level up your character and buy upgrades that allows Wei to break into cars without setting of the alarm and reducing damage received from melee weapons. In each mission, you will receive Triad XP, which can be earned in combat by countering attacks and using the environment to brutally finish enemies.

The player can also earn Cop XP, but unlike Triad XP, it won’t start out as empty and increase as you go along, it starts out full and decreases depending on your actions. Performing actions such as carjacking, killing cops, or even being clumsy while free-running will result in the playing receiving lower Cop XP. Triad XP can only be earned in story missions while Cop XP can be earned by hacking security cameras and busting drug dealers and the cop cases that can be given to him throughout the game.

Players can also earn Face XP by completing favors, events, and street races. Face XP comes with perks such as discounts on cars and making Wei more tolerant to pain. When shopping for clothes or cars, your Face XP would need to be a certain level in order to make purchases. Clothes give bonuses as well. Wearing matching designer clothes increases your melee damage, the amount of Triad XP you get from missions, etc.

Wei Shen is so undercover that only a small handful of people in the HKPD know about it. So it’s very easy to get chased by the police in the game. Evading the police isn’t a hard task, as you’ll probably have to knock their vehicles off the road to escape their line of sight but once you do so, they make no further effort to hunt you down. As soon as you escape their radius, you can continue to go about your business in the beautiful city of Hong Kong. This takes away from the realism that the game delivers.

There isn’t any online multiplayer in the game, however you can compare your game stats with those on your friends lists and players around the world through the game’s Social Hub. The Social Hub shows the world the awards you’ve won and high scores for each mission. You can access the Social Hub via Wei’s phone or the pause menu.

There are collectibles scattered all throughout Hong Kong for players to find: 11 Jade Statues, 50 health shrines, and 90 lockboxes. From the start of the game, these items will not be marked on your map but going on a date with each of Wei’s girlfriends will grant you these privileges. There are also cop cases you can complete after the game. Each of the four cop cases are enjoyable and lengthy but I felt like with all of the illegal activities going on in Hong Kong, there could have been more. There are 30 jobs you can do in your free time such as extortion and stealing cars to sell for tons of cash, but this gets repetitive after awhile and there’s no reason to continue unless you’re going after trophies. All in all, Sleeping Dogs comes with a satisfying 25+ hours worth of content.

Closing Comments

Sleeping Dogs is a mixture of all of your favorite games. It has the mission structure of Grand Theft Auto, the free-running aspect of Assassin’s Creed, the melee combat mechanics of Batman: Arkham City, the slow-motion shooting of Max Payne, and the vehicular combat of Just Cause 2. Combine all of that with a deep storyline, and you have the most must-buy game of the summer.

Pros

  • Amazing story
  • Fluid gameplay
  • Plenty of things to do around the city
  • Voice acting is spectacular.
  • Melee combat upstages gunplay
  • Better than anyone could have expected.

Cons

  • Screen tearing here and there
  • Shortage of cop cases
  • Repetitive triad jobs
  • HKPD give up way too easily

9.5/10

Editor’s Note: A free copy of Sleeping Dogs was provided to iGo Gaming by Square-Enix for review purposes