PS3, XBOX360, PC
By Janus 32
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it has certainly been a long while since the open world games of True Crime had come back. To be specific 7 years since True Crime: New York City. Why am I mentioning True Crime when this game is Sleeping Dogs? Well if you have been living under a rock, here is the very very short story.
Sleeping Dogs was going to be the third instalment to the True Crime Franchise, but with numerous delays and failures and developers bailing and whatever excuse, the True Crime 3rd instalment did not come to fruition and whatever was worked on was considered dead.
Until developers United Front Games and Square Enix (crazily enough) jumped in to take what was left and make it their own.
And Sleeping Dogs was created.
But is Sleeping Dogs just another GTA clone? Or should it have rightly been what was True Crime 3?
Detective Wei Shen is a cop from the United States brought into (a fictional town supposed to look like) Hong Kong to go undercover and to take down a powerful Triad group known as the “Sun On Yee”.
The only problem is being undercover, the rules change drastically, especially in Shen’s case as a police officer as he faces professional killers and ruthless Triad members hellbent on their own agendas against other Triad groups and having zero tolerances on police rats.
Loyalty for one side must be chosen.
It cannot done both ways. What will be Shen’s choice?
To fight for justice for the police, or give in to the loyalty of the Triads?
The True Crime games have always been a open world affair. Where players, just like in GTA as the main comparison, can do jobs, free roam, purchase items/weapons and vehicles, the overall premise of Sleeping Dogs follows the same formula. But of course there will be differences.
As players gain the feel of the game and in control of Detective Wei Shen, they will probably have a very warm feeling like revisiting an old friend, but in a more younger body in terms of control and maneuverability. Even the Heads Up Display (HUD) looks and feels the right way. It isn’t too big that overcrowds the screen nor too small to read. Of course included is health, ammunition count when you have a weapon, health meter, mini map and a larger map of the gaming area complete with legends and markings.
Players can do their free roaming and side missions at their leisure and follow the story mission. Again nothing new in this department. its the basics of the open world environment that is covered and well thought out in terms of story setting and information that is given to the player. Touching on the side missions, varients such as car jacking, illegal racing, cockfighting (yes, rooster against rooster fights), gambling, triad missions/police missions and even dating are available to do and complete. All side missions have their rewards. But the three that are the most standout of the lot is the Triad/Police missions and Dating.
The Triad/Police missions can be done, or not even attempted whether you favor one side or the other. It’s up to you. So why do them in the first place? Well, completing missions for either factions grants you experience points in that field. Examples such as Triad missions can build up experience points for more devastating/offesive techniques to use on opponents when you’re engaged in hand to hand combat, which is 90% of the time in the game but more on that soon. The Police missions unlock moves that are more defensive type that relates to an officer of the law such as better accuracy using a firearm, weapon disarming techniques and jumping between vehicles, again more on that very soon.
The dating aspect is actually pretty neatly done. Though not as part of the storyline as aforementioned, the dating of girls has some great rewards, and we are not talking about the getting laid part. Completion of dates can unlock hidden gems on your mini and larger map. What these gems are? Players can find around the maps alot of…items if you can call it. Most of them do relate in such a way to chinese mythology, which creates a more plausible and tangible effect to the setting. Two of these traditional items are Small Shrines and Jade Statues. The Small Shrines are plentiful, visiting 5 in a row will upgrade Shen’s health meter. Of course the more you find, the more you build up your health meter.
The Jade Statues, which i find impressively interwoven into the story, provide unlocking more martial arts offensive/defensive techniques. Upon collecting all statues, Shen will attain a devastating attack that is quite easy to execute and delivers a horrendous amount of damage to enemies. The non-traditional items that you can find and unlock are lockboxes that hold items such as clothing, guns but mostly money and are usually guarded by punks/thugs.
Sleeping Dogs seems to mainly concentrate its gameplay especially on fighting. Like Hong Kong movies of old (i.e Police Story, Armour of God, Dragons Forever) and 90’s Hong Kong police movies, hand to hand combat is mainly featured and favored compared to gunplay. Shen starts off with some easy combos to master, but like any student to the martial arts, his reportoire grows as you progress further ingame through (as aforementioned) statue gathering and unlocking new techniques with experiences points accumulation. The fighting can be compared to the Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City games where the main protagonist will always be facing multiple enemies (this is another great throwback to Hong Kong Cinema). The fighting is focused mainly in counterattacking, players will know when to push the corresponding button to counter when another enemy is about to attack and is flashing red like rudolphs red nose and the fighting goes into slow motion for a second or two, then Shen will deliver the counter. If pressed a second too late or too early, the counter will not work. The same princple applies when you are fighting armed enemies that have knives, night sticks, etc. Except the animation is very very different and brutal. Though if you want to mix things up, you most certainly can use environmental weapons. Where Shen can grab his enemies and (again the environment will flash red) push them to say a telephone booth and beat them to death with the telephone and the door, resulting as an instant kill. Brutal, but so effective.
In relation to fighting, I did mention about unlocking police techniques with experience points by completing police missions. Shen will not always be fighting hand to hand combat, he will of course need to use a firearm and things get very devastating when it comes to shootouts. Firefights can deplete your health quickly, so cover is a must which can be easily done by running up behind a wall or cover by a push of a button. But the handling of weapons like a pistol, shotgun or automatic feels a bit off kilter. Shen can have a primary weapon and then have a secondary on him, so easy switching of weapons is able to be done on the fly. But shooting just feels clunky and hard to initiate. Though animations are pleasing to watch as you can vault over cover with a gun then you go into slow motion and can shoot multiple enemies, its a bit hard to get used to.
But there is so much more to explain,but little space for you readers that may make you fall asleep to. If you want to find out more, and there is plenty more to look for with bonuses and etc, you’ll need to buy the game, theres just TOO much to list and not explain but to be experienced!
Sound wise the game is really pleasing. From the streets of Hong Kong and the atmosphere of spectators swearing in a mix of english and cantonese to the different radio channels that also have the mix of english (literally english/british voicing) and cantonese radio, it is pleasing to hear that it all feels relevant setting and roots back to history.
The sounds of fighting as well are pretty gruesome and crisp. When Shen is dealing or being dealt with an ass whooping, the sound is weighty and devastating, especially if its mixed with a liquidy or splash sound of blood. Its meaty sounds rings very very loudly in headphones and crystal in dolby surround.
The overall presenation is impressive. As you sometimes will need to chase thieves for pickpocketing you or racing along the freeway in a high powered sports car, the bustling city that is supposed to be in Hong Kong is alive. Albeit in during the day, or night, in rain or shine, non playable characters (NPC’s) look as good as they can be. Not as detailed with pores or pimples, but character models look shiny and something out of a hollywood action film its aesthetically pleasing and easy on the eyes.
If players want to do their homework as well, Sleeping Dogs gains extra brownie points with its lineup of voice actors. Such actors/actresses like Will Yun Lee, Tom Wilkinson, Byron Mann, Edison Chen, Parry Shen, James Hong, Emma Stone, Robin Shou, Lucy Liu, Tzi Ma, Kelly Hu, Lindsay Price, Chin Han, Steph Song, Yunjin Kim and Terence Yin. All these actors and actresses have reputable resumes under their belts and all deliver great performances in their portrayal of their characters. Another celebrity featured, though not as a voice actor is MMA Welterweight Champion Georges “Rush” St Pierre. In a downloadable content, players can have GSP’s clothes to wear and do his signature “Superman Punch” that he is famously known for. This amount of celebrity pull sometimes doesnt work, but in this case, brownie points are scored well.
Just like the above picture, enemies will bleed and Shen of course is no exception. One presentation that I thought really impressed me is, when you are badly hurt and bleeding all over, you can go back to your house/apartment and go to the bathroom to clean yourself up. The animation is of Shen washing his face but then the blood and stains just disappear. It’s a nice touch and honestly, when you’ve looked like you have been through 10 rounds of fighting with, whoever, looking all cleaned up looks quite impressive.
Predominantly the game is outstanding in the way its approach to the open world environment and carrying on the spirit of what could’ve been the next instalment of the True Crime franchise. With no multiplayer in sight, the game is single player, story driven and filled with bonus missions/items to be unlocked which extends its longevity. The only few things that stop it from being a very highly rated game is its gun mechanics/gamplay, the car handling (which was not mentioned in the review at all) and some campy writing here and there.
Get it. Sleeping Dogs may be considered by alot of gamers as a GTA clone, but the game stands alone with its gameplay and the way it has been designed. it has alot of features and its fighting mechanics are smooth and enjoyable experience. Though can be lacking in gameplay hours, estimated about 12 hours or more depending if you go for all extras. Players can play the game, experience it for its greatness (and very minimal shortcomings) until the next open world game and even add to it for future Downloadable content and will know when finishing the game, it was worth the time.