Sometimes you just have to accept a game for what it is, and not criticize it too much for what it isn’t. Sleeping Dogs IS an extremely entertaining game with smooth and varied gameplay and a surprisingly engrossing story, with a wonderfully realized Hong Kong setting. Sleeping Dogs IS NOT a game with new, unique ideas looking to bring something original to the table. If you can except what it is and what it isnt’t, you should have a blast with Sleeping Dogs.
You play as Wei Shen, who grew up in the rough streets of Hong Kong and after his childhood moved to America with his family in search of a better life. Looking to change his ways Wei joins the police force in America and is then assigned to an undercover job in Hong Kong to infiltrate and take down the Triads, the most vicious gang in all of Hong Kong. This is where the story starts off as Wei gets in with the Triads through his old friend Jackie. As Wei gets introduced to the Triad leaders he has to prove himself worthy so that he can be accepted as a true member.
On the other hand Wei is still an officer of the law and can’t do anything too drastic or he will be released from the case. The game is split between Triad missions and cop missions and depending on how well you perform you get experience points for both sides.
For example if you are on a mission and you kill a civilian, your cop ranking will go down. If you are on a triad mission and you don’t beat up a bunch a people and generally cause havoc, then you will get less triad points. These points can be spent on upgrades from new melee takedowns to the ability to action hijack cars (which is awesome and will be explained shortly).
The split between Triad missions and cop missions provides a great balance between beating the crap out of a bunch of people, stealing cars, running from cops, shooting people and all kinds of other crazy things. To actually doing real police work like hacking Triad leaders computers to bugging rooms and sneaking around taking pictures of drug deals in order to bust them. It is paced very well between the two and is nice to come up for a breath of fresh air in the more subtle missions. It also creates a sense of tension throughout the game and working on both sides takes a toll on Wei which gets worse and more stressful as the game goes on.
As the story plays out you develop real relationships with the triad members as you try to take down the rival gang together. Eventually you start to question if Wei is getting too deep because of his relationships with the Triad members but you feel for him because as the player you have become invested in these characters just as Wei has. It makes the story much more engrossing and will ensure that you are interested in the final outcome.
Not only is the story surprisingly good, the gameplay is an absolute blast in every aspect. Sleeping Dogs takes gameplay elements from a few other popular games and while this may seem like they are ripping off those games, you won’t care. Sleeping Dogs melee combat is a lot like the Batman Arkham series where you can punch and kick people in the face with the press of a button and can counter attacks when the enemies turn red. You can also use the environment to take down your enemies. These opportunities are extremely violent and pleasing.
Melee moves can be upgraded as you level up throughout the game. The melee combat simply never gets boring. Its gunplay is like the Max Payne series, where you can go into slow motion as you rack up kills or it will automatically go into slow-mo as you jump or slide across a barrier. Running up to an enemy, sliding over cover, punching him in the face, disarming said enemy then barrel rolling into stance while shooting the other enemy in front of you all in one fluid slow motion movement makes you feel like a total badass. However the shooting itself is not as slick as other third person shooters.
A lot of the times you will be hiding behind cover trying to peek out real quick and score a headshot only to miss even though the aiming cursor seemed to be right on. Despite the slight un-accuaracy of the guns, it’s still always fun. The free running and parkour is a lot like the Assassins Creed series. You can climb onto ledges, run up walls and jump from unrealistic heights. While for the most part fun, the sections where you have to chase after somebody are sometimes a little too drawn out and always feel a little clunky.
However if you can get past how goofy Wei looks when he runs and sometimes stumbling on a surface every now and then it isn’t a big deal. The driving is a little more on its own standards as it’s a lot more enjoyable than GTA’s driving and not as fun as an actual driving game such as Need for Speed, but that’s OK, it’s not a driving game. There are a lot of cars to choose from once you get enough money from doing missions and side missions around the world. The car chases during missions are fun because the driving is just fluid enough for it to be enjoyable and you can shoot while your driving. During a car chase you can shoot a cars tires out which sends the car into a totally unrealistic action movie flip and then you can shoot the under side of the car to make it explode before it hits the ground. Its awesome and just another aspect of this game that never gets boring.
You can also get the ability early in the game to perform an action hijack. Which has Wei open the car door while behind another car and once you get close enough you can press A which will make Wei jump out of the moving car onto the top of the other car. He then opens the door and throws the poor victim to the ground and flips into the car. Again extremely unrealistic but extremely awesome. While all of the gameplay elements of this game are not very unique and are for the most part ripped from other successful games, you will not get bored with what you are doing, whether it be fighting, shooting, running, or driving.
Sleeping Dogs offers all kinds of other stuff to do in the wonderful setting of Hong Kong. There are many side missions to find around the world and other random events that you can choose to do or not to do. The side missions don’t really create any extra narrative they are more of fun distractions from the more serious main story. You can participate in street races, help a Triad member escape from the cops, and a bunch of other random things. Most of the side missions are fun and worth doing although some of them are more time consuming than entertaining.
There are car shops and clothing stores scattered around the world which give you options to customize what your character looks like and what he drives. You can also participate in martial arts clubs to test and practice your melee combat skills and if you can win the final round you will get a nice cash reward. Also scattered around the world are health shrines that you can pray at to increase your max health. The main story will take you from around 10 to 15 hours itself and you can easily up that to 20 or 30 if you try to do everything the game has to offer.
Like I said, Sleeping Dogs is a game you will love if you accept it for what it is, and accept it for what it isn’t. The story will suck you in and make you actually feel like an undercover cop and what it would be like to play for both sides. You will develop relationships and feelings for the characters that you are trying to take down and it will make decision making harder as the game goes on, which is a good thing. Every gameplay element is a joy to play in its own right, and the extra stuff that is scattered throughout the the wonderful Hong Kong setting will keep you busy past the main story. While Sleeping Dogs has it’s fair share of flaws, it’s a fun game from beginning to end.
Final score: 4 out of 5