Sleeping Dogs is the next installment, (or meant to be) in the True Crime series. Shelved by previous developers, Square-Enix stepped in and took over game development and re-named it Sleeping Dogs. (Though I’m not sure if the re-naming was done by previous developers.)
In sleeping dogs you play as Wei Shen. An undercover agent and Hong Kong native that has spent the last decade and a half in San Francisco. Now back in Hong Kong, your objective is to infiltrate the infamous Sun On Yee gang and take down it’s leaders. Along the way you learn a bit about Wei’s past and his real motive for wanting to take down the Sun On Yee. You run into old friends and acquaintances along the way. Helping them out and proving your loyalty to the gang to infiltrate its ranks. Blurring the lines between where your loyalty truly stands. Sleeping dogs delivers an action packed game from beginning to end. It is one of the few games that will make you want to try everything at least once.
It may sound like your typical undercover cop story, but Square Enix threw in a few good surprises and plot twists to keep you interested in the story. Most missions are well executed and thought out. It doesn’t get too repetitive. And the combat makes it all more interesting.
The combat/fighting in this game is awesome. You’ll need to collect statues and bring them to the Kung-Fu master to unlock new abilities. And beating up rival members also earns you triad points which can also unlock new abilities. The game also rewards you for helping local law enforcement. You’ll earn cop experience. And with every mission you successfully accomplish, you are awarded face points. The points go towards Face upgrades, which affect combat skills and the effects food and drink have on Wei Shen. It may sound a bit complicated, but the system is very simple to follow. Combat is simplified and is reminiscent of Arkham City style combat. While simply mashing the attack button will work against basic thugs early in the story, it will get you killed later on. The combat is one of the things I absolutely loved about Sleeping Dogs. I spent countless hours jump kicking civilians in the face and hopping over cars, food stands, fences, garages and whatever else I could find to climb. You also have the ability to jack other vehicles while you’re driving a car. And can work to your benefit if being chased by police. Switching vehicles gets them off your tail. The cars are fun to drive. There’s a dedicated ramming button that allows to ram vehicles in any direction you point the analog. I often found myself plowing through civilians using this button. And for the most part. It’s the only way you’ll get out of a police chase, continuously ramming police vehicles. The shooting mechanics are good. In fact, the shoot outs are a lot of fun. You can hop over your cover, cars or anything in your way to initiate a slow motion mode that allows you to target enemies easily. But most of the games focus is on combat, which I don’t mind at all.
For the slower cars, the driving physics land somewhere between GTA IV and Saint’s Row. The driving gets really annoying once you step in a fast vehicle. It seems the games lambo and ferrarri equivalents have the turning radius of a Mack truck. Even when you’re moving slow. As for the motorcycles, they don’t drive so well in my opinion. You can also drive boats, though you may want to stay clear away from them too. The boat physics in this game will, or should, forever be the prime example of how NOT to make your boats drive in a game.
The graphics aren’t great, but they’re good. The voice acting is on point. And most character models look awesome. But the games overall look could have definitely used a little more polishing. The draw distance is pretty bad. Leaving the buildings in most of the background and city scape looking muddy unless you’re close by. The map isn’t too big, but the city is very beautiful and filled with famous temples and sights from Hong Kong. They did a good job with making the city feel alive. People react to things you do around them and voices don’t sound cheap, or corny. The accents sound authentic. But the graphics suffer mostly due to a lot of screen tearing and jaggies. Some of the wall textures look like they belong in last gen. And stuff like that tends to stand out when a cut scene is playing and the only thing that looks good are the character models.
As a sandbox style game, Sleeping Dogs disappoints me a bit. The cop chases are only fun in the beginning. They rapidly turn into a frustrating part of the game you don’t want any part of. Police gun fights are not fun at all. Sure, getting them to chase you through the mall is fun. One of the only ways to get away is on foot through the mall. But when you get more than heat level 2, you get quickly gunned down. Most of the time you have no gun. The more I played the game, the more I just wanted it to be over. I usually spend months just messing around in sandbox games, I don’t care if they’re crap games as long as I can have fun in the city. Sleeping Dogs is just not a fun sandbox game.
In conclusion, Sleeping Dogs for the most part is a good game, I had fun playing it. But I also ran into a lot of frustration. There are few things that I really did not enjoy about sleeping dogs. Here’s what ruined it for me:
While the combat is awesome, at times it feels useless. Basic thugs can block all of your moves. ALL of them. Leaving you to use your counter move more often than any other attack. I don’t mind the game being focused on combat, but it gets quite uninteresting after a while. Even when you learn a new move. I found myself beating up civilians just to try out new abilities. After a while I just avoided fights all together. Fighting thugs is the most repetitive part of the game.
Police chases are a chore. A lot of things can trigger the cops on you. Hitting pedestrians, hitting parking meters, hitting other cars, hitting just about anything can trigger police on you. Even if they are not in the vicinity. Just getting to your next mission destination can be ruined by rear-ending a vehicle. Too many times I found myself trying to get away from cops over stupid things like hitting a traffic light. I don’t mind a little realism, but why stop there. There’s nothing realistic about a 1996 Ford Aerostar type police minivan keeping up with a Ferrari. Getting away without having to ram several cop cars is almost impossible, every time you think you’re about to get away they spawn a car in front of you or on top of you. Literally. Police chases became a frustrating chore in this game.
Guns. Where are the guns?????? They pretty much send you on an Easter egg hunt for guns. Only to take them away within minutes. Guns don’t seem to last in your possession for more than ten minutes at a time. Too many situations I found myself wanting a gun and could not find one. More often than not, I was the only asshole that brought a fist to a gun fight. I don’t mind the game being focused on combat, but it’s mighty unfair that you’re an undercover agent, and a high ranking member of the gang at one point in the game. But you have no access to guns. And they often disappear without you even noticing. Shotguns and rifles can’t be hidden once in your possession. You’re forced to empty the mag and get rid of it while you can, or the game will make it disappear once you enter a vehicle.
Sleeping Dogs fell short of my expectations. I doesn’t feel like a True Crime. It’s fitting that they changed the name. I realize that some people won’t be bothered by some of the stuff that ruined it for me, so I’m not going to bash it and say it’s horrible. It’s a good game, just not one I’ll ever be going back to.
Genre- sandbox/action- 6.5
Score average- 7.5