Sleeping Dogs is a game that has been through hell. Development hell. It was originally announced by Activision as True Crime: Hong Kong, a reboot to the suffering series. Although its creation was for a while, up in the air. The project was picked up by Square-Enix and in August 2012 we were graced with Sleeping Dogs. Thankfully, Square-Enix and United Front Games nailed it.


Story:

I want to give a brief outline of the story but there may be some minor spoilers. Nothing that goes past the first hour or so of the game though.

Sleeping Dogs stars Wei Shen, a Chinese policeman who returns to Hong Kong, his home, after a long stay in America. Wei is an undercover cop who is working with the Hong Kong Police Department in order to gain valuable information and bring down the Sun On Yee –an incredibly large crime organisation. The story follows him and the two conflicting sides of his life. His duty as a police officer and his faked life of crime.

Wei goes through much inner conflict. When he sleeps he has nightmares of recent events and is torn between his lawful obligation and his feelings towards his criminal brethren. I felt for Wei and all he was going through during the course of the game. It is easy to empathise with him, but Wei doesn't have a lot of personality of his own in terms of his dialogue. His companions and important characters almost always standout, but Wei, although still a great character, could have been a little more fleshed out.
The story and most of its characters are engaging, but some got more attention than others. I feel like the game could have benefited from longer cut scenes and story explanation in some parts. It is still superbly written and overall enjoyable. Sleeping Dogs has many unexpected surprises and is very much worth seeing through to the end.





Graphics and Presentation:

Sleeping Dogs is a good looking game that sometimes looks great. Character models are usually top notch and lip syncing (something that a lot of games do poorly) is believable. Driving about Hong Kong is a fantastic sight and lots of detail has gone into the game world. It isn't an exceptionally sizeable city, but it is dense and rich in content.

The main and pause menus are serviceable but the HUD during gameplay is important and the map is just the right size to be useful but not get in the way. I also feel that the camera angles are spot on when it comes to distance from the player character. Too many games have it too close or far and Sleeping Dogs has a dynamic camera that adapts to the situation well and isn't so close that you can't see where you're going.

Playing the Xbox 360 version, installed, I still found a fair amount of texture pop in, low resolution textures and screen tearing. There was also a bit of environmental pop-in when driving around. Twice Wei got stuck on an object where I had to save and then load to get out of. These gripes are present yet minor and don't take away from the whole experience.


Sound:

Sleeping Dogs has an impressive soundtrack, not only from a musical standpoint but the voice work is astonishing and often portrays real emotions. Most dialogue is spoken in English but some of it is in Chinese. Whether that be that a character only speaks in the native dialect or when a character is cursing or says something under their breath in Chinese. This adds to the immersion and realism of the game. I strongly recommend playing with the subtitles on so that you don't miss anything.

The music really shines in key story moments and set pieces. It is generally exciting and helps represent the mood of the game well. While driving around Hong Kong you have access to many radio stations that can be changed on the fly. The highlight of the soundtrack for me is the Roadrunner Records radio station. Roadrunner Records is an actual company and all of the music on that station are bands under that label such as Fear Factory, Killswitch Engage, Soulfly and Trivum. I knew 90% of the songs very very well on this station and it is what I listened to during the majority of the game. Other stations are also strong and include many non-English songs that I found pleasurable and refreshing. Of course, radio ads are present as well but are kind of amusing.






Gameplay & Controls:

The core gameplay has three main portions; fighting, driving and shooting.

Unlike most games of its style and genre, Sleeping Dogs has a larger focus on hand to hand combat than it does on shooting. Fights involve a four button combo system with counters – similar to what is found in the Batman: Arkham games. This is enhanced by brutal attacks and environmental finishes like throwing someone into a fish tank or slamming them into an exhaust fan. Outside of combat, general movement is fluid, tapping A lets you jump or vault over objects and holding A makes you run. This is much preferred to continuously tapping A like in Grand Theft Auto.

Guns in Hong Kong are not incredibly common, and are present more so in the later half of the game. There is still lots of shooting to do in Sleeping Dogs, but it isn't a constant. Aiming and shooting controls are smooth and there is a slight auto aim to assist. There is a cover system too, that is handy not only in fire fights but also in stealth and infiltration missions.

Driving around Hong Kong is very fun, not only because I got a sense of normality at last by being able to safely drive on the left hand side – but you can also action hijack. Which basically means if you're driving along the highway and see a better, faster car, hold A when you get close an indicator will show up, tap A again and Wei dives onto that car and kicks out the driver. It is a great mechanic that I'm sure will show up in more games.
Hong Kong is rich in activities. There are many side missions and distractions to take part in. Cleverly, many of these are woven into the storyline and mission structure in a way that isn't intrusive and doesn't feel like they are forced. But instead introduces them and gives you a chance to try them, if street races aren't you're thing– simply don't do any more after the few in the story (which are really fun).

Sleeping Dogs has good pacing that does feel like it builds up as the story progresses. Wei can learn new moves and tricks as he levels up, like a stronger counter or the ability to steal a car without the alarm going off. My main complaint is 'boss battles' against high ranking or important characters. These sometimes drag on for far too long, particularly towards the back end of the game, because enemies have a ridiculous amount of health and can only be damaged significantly with counters. These got frustrating, quickly.






Multiplayer:

Sleeping Dogs does not have a multiplayer component. I am going out of my way to stress this. Quite frankly I'm glad and it doesn't need one. Too many games have a shoehorned in multiplayer that is half baked and unsuccessful.

What Sleeping Dogs does have though, are leader boards for all story missions that can be compared with friends and worldwide. They don't intrude too much in gameplay and its nice to see how good you are compared to friends. There is also leader boards for various statistics and challenges, like driving without hitting anything for the longest period. This is an acceptable way to add a social component to a game without butchering it with online play.


Conclusion:

Sleeping Dogs is a new IP that pushes boundaries and isn't afraid to be different. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game and would recommend it to anyone who likes some good open world action or a great story. If anyone is still hesitant, feel free to try the game out as a demo is available on Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and Steam.

+
Engaging Story
+
Tight controls
+
Believable and interesting game world
+
Soundtrack

- Some characters/story arcs could have had more attention
-
Dull and lengthy 'Boss' fights
- Occasional glitches


8/10