Sleeping Dogs Review
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Sleeping Dogs offers one of the strongest narratives in recent gaming and drags you through the gritty streets of Hong Kong's mob underworld in the process. Its gameplay doesn't offer many new ideas, but it delivers what it promises. Namely, an engaging story, fun combat, slick driving, and solid gameplay.
- Terrific narrative and characters
- Solid gameplay elements
- Beautiful presentation
- Minor bugs
- Some boring missions
- Melee combat offers little challenge
It is not every day you can sympathize with a cold-hearted killer. But in Sleeping Dogs, the sprawling sandbox action game from United Front, it’s hard not to be on the side of detective Wei Shen. He beats gangsters to death with his bare hands, slams mob bosses’ heads into table saws, flattens police officers in an attempt to maintain his secrecy, and feeds young thugs who betray their duties to a morbid chef. Despite his bloody fists, he’s a steady, firm man. Yet in all his dedication to the mission, Wei Shen rarely accepts orders—from police or his mob bosses—without questioning how it will impact his next move. He is a complex man and a ruthless killer. If this is the brutal, story-driven kind of action and character development you like in your games, Sleeping Dogs absolutely deserves a spot high atop your summer play list. It is, without a doubt, the blockbuster very few saw coming.
Through the narrative of Sleeping Dogs, we begin to unravel Wei Shen’s past and learn more about his connection to organized crime in a fictional Hong Kong. Tasked with infiltrating the Triad of Sun On Yee, Shen works his way through the ranks in classic mobster story fashion. Early in the game he roughs-up rival gang thugs, collects money from those protected by his boss, and reclaims more land. But as he earns trust from the heads of Sun On Yee, his seemingly simple tasks turn into elaborate plans of blackmail and mass murders. Before long, Wei Shen—and the player, for that matter—will not have a clear picture of the good guys, the bad guys, and the ones caught in the middle.
And here rests one of Sleeping Dogs’ greatest strengths. This narrative draws you in and keeps you engaged throughout the 10+ hour campaign (there is a lot more here than just the campaign, however). The twists and turns, the subplots, your allies and enemies all become this tangled web, this tapestry of complex narrative directions and emotions that it’s hard to put Sleeping Dogs down without daydreaming about what could happen next.
For all the praise on narrative styles, themes, and directions, Sleeping Dogs’ gameplay shines. It’s a third-person action/shooter set in a vast open world. When you add in solid driving mechanics and simplistic role-playing game elements, you have the makings of an extremely rich and deep overall experience. Sleeping Dogs pulls a lot of ideas from well-established, successful games.
The melee combat, while far more simplistic, is similar to Batman: Arkham City. The bulk of combat is hand-to-hand combat, and as a martial arts master, Wei Shen rips through enemies with angry fists and flying kicks. Melee combat is quite smooth but falls into the button mashing mayhem a bit too easily. With the bulk of your melee combat tied to a single button, outside of counter attacks, differing attacks are performed by various combinations of how quickly you tap and hold the attack button. It’s a solid system but definitely takes some time learn and master. By the end of the game melee combat will likely be too easy, which is one of the game’s minor faults.
Sleeping Dogs is a beautiful game. Character models are quite well done, although no one seems to have the right size hands. Most of the men, Wei Shen in particular, seem to glow and glisten with sweat or rain or some kind of watery substance. It’s something that looks cool at the beginning, but you have to wonder if the guy just needs to take a break for a shower once in a while. They game mostly relies on dark colors to represent the dark underbelly of the city. While on occasions you’ll see brighter colors shine through when walking around temples or nightclubs, it’s mostly a dark game. Given the game mostly takes place in the rain; there’s a nice washed look to the buildings as you speed through the city in your motorcycle or sports car. This is definitely one of the better looking open-world games.
Navigating Hong Kong is a breeze thanks to solid driving mechanics, similar to that in other open world games like Saints Row, and the king of them all, Grand Theft Auto. Sleeping Dogs definitely plays a lot ... (continued on next page)