KGB favorite AGTurbo is back. This time, he takes a look at Sleeping Dogs. How strong is the kung-fu of United Front Games' open world thriller? Does he enjoy it as much as Chris did? Read on and find out.
Sleeping Dogs is an excellent open world adventure game set in Hong Kong. Originally debuted as part of the True Crime series before being dumped by Activision, it was also codenamed Black Lotus and it was to be developed by Treyarch. Thankfully Square Enix picked up the publishing rights and rebranded it as Sleeping Dogs.
In Sleeping Dogs, the main protagonist is Wei Shen; an undercover cop set to infiltrate the Sun On Yee triad in Hong Kong. While he is undercover he has some personal vendettas such as a rival gang member, “Dogeyes,” introducing his sister to heroin, of which she later overdosed. Wei Shen starts small time and works his way up the criminal ladder through the help of a childhood friend Jackie Ma.
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Wei Shen is written well. He's a genuinely likeable guy who has to do some pretty terrible things. Unlike True Crime games in general, you actually feel like an undercover cop. Wei has trouble walking a fine line. When Wei gains the trust of the gang, he feels conflicted that sooner or later he will have to betray them all. While Wei Shen is an effective undercover cop and gets results, his handler Raymond finds him to be a very dangerous man.
The story reflects the gameplay well in this regard. It’s doesn’t have the ludonarrative dissonance of Grand Theft Auto IV: the story doesn’t contradict the gameplay. The characters are written well showing their motivations and fears. Sleeping Dogs is one of the few games where Asians aren't portrayed as ridiculous caricatures. I felt sadness, and regret when some characters died, to brutal gratification. Sleeping Dogs would be the result of John Woo directing Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and Yuen Biao kung-fu fighting into a videogame.
The map of Hong Kong is not as large compared to other open world games, but is used effectively. It is divided into 4 sections, and the entire map is accessible from the start. One thing Sleeping Dogs has compared to Just Cause 2 is vibrancy. Pedestrians talk and go about their business. They use umbrellas when it is raining outside. Neon signs light up the night. For driving there are 10 radio stations that range from 70’s Soul, 80’s pop, Classical music, rap, electronica instrumentals, and rock. However Cantonese pop and hip hop gives Sleeping Dogs its most effective atmosphere.
Many gameplay mechanics are implemented well in Sleeping Dogs. United Front Games is a collection of developers from Volition, Epic, and Black Box, the creators of Saints Row, Gears of War, and Need For Speed, respectively,and the mechanics are solid. The driving, shooting, and melee combat are implemented very well. The action hijack mechanic of jumping car to car is solid.
The cars in Sleeping Dogs are responsive for slight left and right turns, but for hard turns it takes at least 3 lanes of road. The cars in that regard remind of L.A Noire due to the high radius needed in order to take 90 degree turns. Another slight problem of driving vehicles that gets noticeable is there is only one camera angle. Compared to other open world games there are at least multiple camera angles such as zoom out and zoom in. Another slight problem with the vehicles is when starting a car when the character is perpendicular to the screen. The camera goes into an odd panning motion for the first second makes it impossible to see where you are driving then it goes to normal.
The main mechanic Sleeping Dogs focused on was the melee combat and it was executed incredibly well. Wei Shen plays like an Asian Batman, only with more martial arts and more brutality. If you ever wanted to play as Bruce Lee, this is the closest it comes. Opponents that are glowing red can be countered the way a flashing sign for opponents in the recent Batman games. Wei can grapple opponents and do environmental takedowns. After grappling an opponent Wei moves the enemy toward an environmental object that is glowing red. The instant takedowns range from fish tank, meat hooks, telephone booth, trash can, swordfish heads, electrical power grids, coals or furnace. There are also multiple enemies with different strengths and weaknesses. Some enemies can only be hurt by grappling, the larger brutes, cannot be grappled, but can take 3 to 4 times the damage of a regular thug. It’s not as smooth as the Batman Arkham games. Wei Shen doesn’t go into a combo system where he can flip kick people that are 40 feet away.
There are skill trees to level up in fighting, shooting, driving, and defense. Leveling up the cop skill increases skills for shooting and driving. Leveling up Triad skill increases skills for fighting and defense. There is another level for Face, which is the more favors and missions Wei does, the more perks he will receive.
The collectibles are well done. Going to shrines increases your maximum health, money and sometimes guns are rewarded for unlocking lockboxes. Finding Jade statues unlocks new combat moves. There are also activities to do in Hong Kong like bet on cockfighting, karaoke, racing, Import Export garage, and drug busts.
Sleeping Dogs is what I wished True Crime Streets of LA was when I played it back in 2004. The game uses a heretofore ignored location for open world games and combines multiple gameplay mechanics very well for open world games. For me it is the most well rounded open world game using gameplay, story, characters, and setting this generation. If you want to play a new open world game, I strongly suggest Sleeping Dogs.
FINAL VERDICT: 5/5
Makes my ½ Asian ass proud.
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