Review: Sleeping Dogs
Title: Sleeping Dogs
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (Reviewed on PC)
Developer: United Front Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Tagline: The Open World Genre Visits the exotic location of Hong Kong
Family Friendly: Click here for more information.
Verdict: Buy it Already
Looking back at the road Sleeping Dogs traveled to make it to store shelves. This is a game that went through three name changes, two publishers and several years of development, so seeing it released is probably a success in and of itself for developer United Front Games. The fact that Sleeping Dogs is also a great open world experience should be considered a cherry on top of all of these facts. Sleeping Dogs blends together solid hand to hand combat, gritty story elements and a unique setting for a great open world title.
Sleeping Dogs makes its first solid impression with its location, setting the game in Hong Kong, a city set with a rich history and relatively unused when it comes to video game worlds. Part of the charm of Sleeping Dogs is this location, with is constantly changing landscape of sweeping vistas, banks of neon lights and narrow back alleys that look as if danger lurks in every shadow. The backdrop of Hong Kong beautifully sets up the story and background of Sleeping Dogs, as Hong Kong allows us to have new rules and boundaries for an open world game.
One of those ideas is that weapons and shooting take a backseat to up close and personal action of martial arts. Looking at a watch as I was playing Sleeping Dogs, I noted that it was about six hours before I actually had an opportunity to use a weapon. You read that correctly – six hours before a weapon was introduced. Instead, Sleeping Dogs focuses on making combat brutal, up close and personal. Sure, it cribs quite a bit from Batman Arkham Asylum with its attack and counterattack button system, but it moves this ahead with a fantastic combo system, making combat as rich as you want it to be. Don’t want to learn the extra moves – you don’t have to, but if you invest time into learning all the upgrade moves, combat becomes sublime and strategic. Mixing in the environment to the combat system only heightens the experience, as wall fans, meat hooks, electrical panels and more can be used to finish off opponents in a grisly manner.
Solid combat mechanics can only get you so far, and then you need a well-designed story to knit it all together into a great experience. Players are dropped into the world of Sleeping Dogs as undercover detective Wei Shen. Shen has experience on the streets of Hong Kong, as he grew up around most of the triad members here, but left for the US after his sister died from a drug overdose. His return is prompted by his familiarity with the streets of Hong Kong and the low level triad members that he knows. This helps you infiltrate and become one of the Sun On Yee triad. Of course, allegiances are pushed and trying to separate the worlds of cop and triad become a difficult line to follow over 20+ hours of main story.
Looking past the combat and other items found in Sleeping Dogs, it doesn’t break new ground beyond its superb hand to hand combat. Weapons as stated are rare, if only because you are in a country where it is difficult even for hard core criminals to get guns on a regular basis. It could also be the fact that weapons generally are lackluster, with aiming feeling floaty and with a lack of accuracy. Story conventions work the same as other games as well – go to highlighted mission, finish mission, and go to next mission objective. Sure there are lots of side activities like racing, escort missions and more, but these are all filler just like any other open world game. But even with these similarities, I found Sleeping Dogs to be much better at making its world more of an experience than most, and that includes Grand Theft Auto IV.
I did mention earlier that Sleeping Dogs looks great as a game on any system, but I did want to make quick note of the PC version for those out there looking at Sleeping Dogs for their system of choice. Take solace in knowing that Sleeping Dogs is not a port. It has options designed from the ground up specifically for the PC version, with the detail options giving all sorts of granularity for any system. It is rare when a developer takes the time to give PC players a unique experience, but it should be noted that Sleeping Dogs is probably best experienced on a solid PC setup to see the best looking version of the game.
Of course, looking at everything up to this point, Sleeping Dogs could be considered a mixed proposition. Hand to hand combat is great, but the weapons feel underwhelming. The setting is unique and exotic, but the mission structure is part and parcel with every other open world title. The intangible however, is the idea of how much fun you have in an open world game and here is where Sleeping Dogs won me over. It is a great game to just drive around and explore, seeking out hidden missions, or new places to see. Hong Kong becomes that driving factor for fun in Sleeping Dogs.
Sleeping Dogs ended up being a surprise gem in an otherwise dead part of the year. Its focus on a new location, hand to hand combat and a gritty story make it a sure fire bet for most gamers. There is a lot of entertainment to be found in Sleeping Dogs, with the key word being entertained.
- Hong Kong location is exotic and unique
- Hand to hand combat is fully realized and fun to use
- Story is well told and full of intrigue
- Guns are not that fun to use
- Extra missions sometimes become tedious
- Does not bring much new to the open world genre
Sleeping Dogs is a great experience, but only if you are over 17. The violence is not for the feint of heart, with cleavers chopping at chests, hot stoves burning off faces and legs and arms snapping in wrong directions, it is very violent. There is a large amount of implied sexual conduct, but nothing is actually seen on screen. Language is also strong with most of the seven words you should not say on TV making an appearance several times over. Keep Sleeping Dogs in the hands of adults.