ReviewXbox 360

Sleeping Dogs

[gameinfo title=”Game Info” game_name=”” developers=”United Front Games” publishers=”SQUARE ENIX” platforms=”” genres=”” release_date=”August 14, 2012″]

Sleeping Dogs is an open-world game. Therefore, it’s been compared countless times to the Grand Theft Auto series and for good reason. Like those games, Sleeping Dogs has much to offer. It takes a lot of content and many ideas from GTA IV. This isn’t a bad thing. As Darksiders II showed (a game that came out on the same day as Sleeping Dogs), taking ideas from other games isn’t intrinsically bad and can lead to a good game. This especially happens when a game takes those ideas and expands upon them, much like Sleeping Dogs does.

Sleeping Dogs was once True Crime: Hong Kong. This may mean nothing to you (for those games are quite old now) but it does have implications for the story. In all True Crime games, you straddle the line between police and criminal. The same is true in Sleeping Dogs where you play as Wei, an undercover cop who is trying to infiltrate the Triads. The story in Sleeping Dogs is where the game shines. Through the course of the game, you begin to truly sympathize and care about the members of the Triad while also remembering that you, as Wei, cannot get too close to them. This is a very in-depth emotional response. You, as a player, are worried Wei is getting to close to the Triads just as you are beginning to care about them, too. Never has a game got me to care more for a group of criminals, or for the characters as a whole, than Sleeping Dogs.

The story does have some issues, however. There are multiple plot points taken directly from GTA IV. I’m not going to spoil which ones but you see them coming, you hope they won’t do what you think they’re going to do, and when they go against your hopes, you roll your eyes at how blatant a rip-off it was. This happened only a handful of times (and one big time) but was noticeable and detracted from an otherwise fantastic story.

There are far too many aspects of the gameplay to explain them all but, suffice it to say, the gameplay is great. I’m going to go over the basics first: melee, shooting, and driving. A good half of the game relies on hand-to-hand combat. This plays much like Batman: Arkham Asylum does. You attack, then people turn red when they’re about to hit you, and then you press a button to counter. This is a great update to the melee system of other open-world games which have you blindly punch at an enemy. However, it takes a while to get the timing down and sometimes countering doesn’t actually cause you to counter. A small gripe but one that could be frustrating at time. The shooting is good but nothing has evolved from the same reticule and lock-on system of other open-world games. The driving is well done and the game gives you a great sense of speed. Nothing is more fun than cruising through the neon-lighted city of Hong Kong, the engine revving, and the sides of the screen blurring with speed. It’s awesome, to say the least.

Deeper into the game is a vast experience system. This is the biggest evolution of an open-world game. In other games in this genre, side quests net you money and maybe a new gun or quick upgrade if you’re lucky. In Sleeping Dogs, everything gives you experience which unlocks new skills such as combat moves, less recoil when shooting, faster ways to steal cars, etc. Each of these is under a different set of experience points. One set is for doing side quests (face upgrades). Another set is for killing people, causing destruction, etc. (triad upgrades). Another set is for not killing innocents, not causing damage (cop upgrades). And, the final one is for simple melee combat, unlocked when you find collectibles. In each mission, there is a triad and cop meter. It’s hard to fill both in one mission but it forces you to play the game both violently and safely (as ridiculous as that sounds). This means, rather than speeding on the sidewalk, killing pedestrians, like you do in a GTA game, you need to watch where you’re driving and not even bump into a car. This adds another layer to the gameplay that makes it more difficult but more intriguing as well.

Speaking of side-quests, there are a lot. There’s racing, favors (which are small tasks that different people send you on), and dates. Each of these can become repetitive (there are even only a handful of possible favors) but if you cycle through them rather than focus on, say, only doing the races, they’re different enough to allow you to level up your face upgrades without getting annoyed.

The graphics in this game are great. Of course, there are a few hiccups in frame rate and glitches in places  (such as getting into your car), but that is to be expected in a game of this size. Overall, though, Hong Kong looks superb with its neon lights hanging from buildings, vendors yelling at you to buy their food (which gives you health), and people (a lot of people) simply walking down the street. There is that weird instance when you need a car and a downtown road is suddenly barren of them, but again, small things like that are impossible to get rid of in an open-world game.

The sound, in regards to music, sound effects, and especially voice-work, is awesome. The music in this game comes from the radio of your cars. I have a suspicion, however, that during certain missions, the game tactfully changes the radio station to one that suits what you’re doing. The first time I noticed this was when I went on a date and some smooth jazz started playing. I laughed and it was a great addition for the ride to my date. The guns pop like guns and the engines of the cars rev with a lot of power. The voice-work is where the sound really shines, though. This game has a lot of known actors in it including Emma Stone (yes, you can date “her”) and Tom Wilkinson (to name the few known to American audiences). Without the excellent voice cast, the feeling I wrote of above, the feeling of becoming a part of the triad and caring for my “brothers” in it, would never have been possible.

Score: 9.5/10

Sleeping Dogs had very little fanfare upon release. It has the potential to be the sleeper hit of the season. With the amount of gameplay contained within it (it took me about 25 hours to finish the game and I by no means did everything), there is always a reason to come back. Coupled with the emotional story and the fun gameplay, this is a game other open-world games will have to strive to surpass.

Josh Ricker

Josh lives just outside Boston. He fell in love with video games when his parents bought him Mario Bros for Nintendo and he's been gaming ever since. In his online dating profiles, long walks on the beach are never mentioned. Instead, he lists the desolate rubble of the Capitol Wasteland as his ideal vacation spot.

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