After being in development since 2009 by United Front Games and Activision and then canceled by Activision in 2011. The third installment of the True Crime series would never be. That was until Square Enix picked up the publishing rights and rebranded the name. Sleeping Dogs is finally ready to rid the crime filled streets of Hong Kong. Having the spirit of True Crime behind it, Sleeping Dogs might be the spiritual successor that Activision abandoned. Does Sleeping Dogs open a door to new possibilities for United Front Games and Square Enix or should this game stayed buried in development hell?
Sleeping Dogs puts the player into the role of Wei Shen, an undercover agent from San Francisco returning home to Hong Kong and is given the duty to go deep undercover and bring down the Su On Yee, an old fashioned, extremely dangerous and well known Triad organization. Wei must work his way up the family to get to the Dragon Head or leaders of the Su on Yee and attempt to take them out from the inside while trying to keep his sanity and discern right from wrong. Even when what is wrong may very well be keeping him alive.
From beginning to end, the story’s plot will keep players interested with great acting and creative dialogue. Players will feel connected to nearly all the major characters throughout Sleeping Dogs. Wei Shen the main protagonist in particular offers great character development. Players will feel connect to Wei Shen’s personal struggles throughout the game unlike Niko Bellic from GTA IV who was somewhat dry and bland. The overall story will last about 8 hours and players will love this interesting, yet unique story of true crime within the confines of Hong Kong.
Gameplay wise, Sleeping Dogs is an open-world third person action game. Players will explore the environment, complete a variety of missions, fight using both hand-to-hand and gunplay, and much more. That’s the basic foundation of your traditional open world game. What sets it apart from games like GTA IV and Saints Row 3 is that it blends the line between realistic and fun so it doesn’t sacrifice one over the other, along with streamlining gameplay features.
From the beginning of Sleeping Dogs, players can explore the environment without boundaries. Players will drive an array of vehicles ranging from automobiles, boats, and especially motorcycles to get around Hong Kong. Sadly, there are no airplanes or helicopters or even an airport for that matter in Sleeping Dogs. Besides the lack of air transport, players can explore the terrain even further by using free running to get to certain areas within Hong Kong. While exploring Hong Kong, there will be rewarding collectibles to find (Health Shrines, Locked Chests, and more), activities to complete like fight clubs, karaoke, cockfights, gambling, and tons missions to complete. Sleeping Dogs makes Hong Kong an extremely fun, yet rewarding playground for the player to explore even with the lack of airplanes or helicopters.
Like most open-world games, players will need to complete missions to progress the game. The main story missions have a great mixture of action-packed movie like chase scenes on foot and vehicle, hand-to-hand combat and gunplay, undercover missions, and more. Just like the story missions, the side-quests are much of the same, but smaller in scope. Most of the sidequests will have players helping citizens of Hong Kong, doing drug busts, racing, and more. Nearly all the missions have great variety, but there will be few that will stick out from the many that the players will love.
Combat wise, Sleeping Dogs will switch between hand-to-hand and gunplay. Hand-to-hand combat has some strong influences from Batman Arkham Asylum/City. It will basically play out same way, but Sleeping Dogs adds its own unique flare to this formula. Players will have to chain a variety of combos and counter combos together, while using the environment and free running to his/her advantage. At first fighting will feel clunky, but with time it becomes fluid and enjoyable. Gunplay on the other hand is somewhat a hit or miss in Sleeping Dogs. It functions well for the most part, but at times weapons don’t pack the needed punch and the enemies are complete bullet sponges, sometimes taking two shots to the head.
During the course of the game, players will gain experience points to one of the three general reputations; triad, face, and police – depending on how he/she performed during that mission XP amounts will vary. Each reputation has its own skill tree and perks. Triad perks will help with the overall fighting mechanic by either reducing or increase damage. Police perks help either with car or gunplay mechanics like increasing ramming damage or having better accuracy with guns. Face perks have a single skill tree with general, yet helpful perks like calling for a valet services. There is also another perk list based on unlocking deadlier fighting combos, which can only be unlocked by gather unique statues along the way. Ultimately, players can level all three reputations equally, but doesn’t have a major impact on story, only gameplay features.
Sleeping Dogs presentation is possibly the best immersive experience that a player will find in an open-world game. Graphical wise, Sleeping Dogs offers detailed characters, while the environment feels like a living breathing Hong Kong. There is little to hamper the experience of Sleeping Dogs beside the rare instance of pop-in here and there. The voice acting is top-notch with Will Yun Lee (Wei Shen), Tom Wikinson (Police Inspector Pendrew), and more playing their respected characters with unparalleled believability. Soundtrack wise, radio stations have a mixture of created track and licensed music – especially during karaoke where most of the songs are American based like; I ran (so far away) and more.
Sleeping Dogs is a unique, enjoyable, and immersive experience that an open-world game has to offer. Unlike other open-world games before it, Sleeping Dogs has a lot of aspects that work well. The great story will keep player interested with creative dialogue, great character development, and great acting. While gameplay in Sleeping Dogs offers rewarding exploration, good mission variety, and fluid hand-to-hand combat, Sleeping Dogs did miss of some opportunities during gameplay like; a moral system, choosing a side doesn’t have much of an impact, and gunplay could have been more fun and fluid. Presentation wise, Sleeping Dogs has great and detailed graphics, immersive environment, top-notch voicing acting, and a good selection of both radio and karaoke music. Those looking for an excellent open-world experience, Sleeping Dogs will take you for a ride within the true crime streets of Hong Kong.
Audio/Visual – 4/5: Sleeping Dogs is a detailed and immersive game with great graphics, top-notch voicing acting, and a good selection of created and licenses tracks. There will be times of rare pop-in and some goofy animations here and there, but will do little to hamper your experience.
Gameplay – 4/5: Sleeping Dogs has a rewarding exploration, a good variety of missions to complete, and fluid hand-to-hand combat. Sadly, there are some missed opportunities for more gameplay elements and at times Sleeping Dogs feels like it played it safe from time to time.
Innovation – 4/5: Sleeping Dogs might have taken some gameplay mechanics from other games like Batman: Arkham City, Assassin’s Creed, and more, but Sleeping Dogs uses their gameplay mechanics for its own unique flare.
Value – 5/5: Sleeping Dogs will keep players busy for quite some time. The 8 hours story, finding collectibles, completing missions, and perfecting all activities will add up the gameplay hours. Friends can even compete within the social hub to see how rank in missions and activities.
Final Score: 4.5/5