"Sleeping Dogs, from United Front Games and Square Enix, is a Grand Theft Auto clone with Batman: Arkym Cityís combat and Burnoutís driving."
Sleeping Dogs, from United Front Games and Square Enix, is a Grand Theft Auto clone with Batman: Arkym Cityís combat and Burnoutís driving. That is an awesome framework for a video game, and Sleeping Dogs succeeds in utilizing it to great success.
You play as Wei Chen, an undercover cop trying to infiltrate the Hong Kong based Sun On Yee gang. The previous attempt to infiltrate the powerful gang ended up with the officer being buried alive. So this time around, Wei has been authorized to do whatever it takes to bring down the Sun On Yee, including massacring every gangster in sight. Wei slowly works his way up to the top ranks of the gang, getting everyone he can arrested or killed along the way. The story and characters are predictable; gangsters act like gangsters, cops act like cops, and pop-stars act like pop-stars, but the story never felt stale.
The main campaign has Wei traveling around Hong Kong in stolen cars, gaining the Son On Yeeís trust by helping them deal with ďproblemsĒ that all crime syndicates run into. Missions are incredibly varied, ranging from taking a starlet shopping, to having a shoot-out at a funeral. There are also optional missions which involve helping the police on other cases that pop up around Hong Kong. One case has Wei tracking a kidnapper; another has Wei taking down a drug ring.
A few of the missions are awkward and get in the way of the fun, like a karaoke mission. The karaoke mini-game isnít terrible, but it isn't fun either. I donít want to insult Will Yun Lee (who does a fantastic job overall as the voice of Wei), but he is not a very good singer. The entire voice acting cast was pleasing, with characters at times switching between Chinese and English, just like many residents of Hong Kong do in the real world.
One problem I had is that a few characters seemed to just get shoved into the story rather than introduced. Wei is originally from Hong Kong, but his family moved to the States when he was 10. So, since Wei and some of the characters are childhood friends, there is no need for introductions between the two, even though I had no clue who a few people were. There are reports about each character that can be read after seeing them in a cutscene for the first time, but this system made the story feel choppy to me. It was easy to forgive any faults regarding the story though, because of the amazingly enjoyable gameplay.
The gameplay is very similar to the Grand Theft Auto franchise, having players roam around an open city in stolen cars to do missions for various inhabitants of Hong Kong. If too many innocent people are killed, or if Wei gets into an accident a cop can see, police will try to arrest him. Even when the cops are trying their hardest, they only send a few cars and a van to try to stop Wei. Ramming cars off the road is simple, and cops are perhaps too easily dealt with by ramming them off the road.
The melee combat is stolen straight from the Batman: Arkym franchise. There is an attack button, a counter button, a throw button, and a grapple button. Enemies glow red when they are about to attack, prompting when to press the counterattack button. Wei canít counter two attacks at once, which is a problem at times. Luckily (I guess), the AI rarely ever has more than two guys throwing punches at the same time, curbing the damage from unblockable attacks. Enemies are sometimes equipped with knives and other melee weapons, and if Wei can get a hold of a melee weapon he can do a good chunk of damage. Weapons however have very limited durability and will break after a few hits.
Striking enemies fills up a face meter, which can be filled faster by varying attacks. Once full it will activate a mode for a short time that grants Wei life each time he strikes a foe. This ability activates automatically, which eliminates a great chance for some strategy during combat. As Wei levels up, this mode grants further buffs, such as bonuses to damage and armor.
There is not a lot of variety to the enemy types, but there are enough to keep the combat from feeling repetitive. Some enemies block all attacks, requiring counter attacks to defeat; other enemies canít be grappled. Adding even more satisfaction to combat, certain objects in the environment can be used to kill enemies while you are grappling them. Wei can shove enemies into fuse boxes, he can hurl enemies into dumpsters, he can shove an enemyís face into a table saw, he can hang an enemy on a meat hook in a butcherís freezer, he can throw enemies off of ledges, and more. The assortment of strategies needed to defeat enemies, though constrained, managed to keep combat pleasantly engaging throughout the game.
Sleeping Dogs also has some gunplay, and the shootouts are just as much fun as the melee brawls. Wei can take cover behind walls, tables, boxes, and other obstacles scattered around. When firing a gun while vaulting over obstacles, and also while leaning out of a car to shoot, time will slow down Max Payne style. Shootouts while driving are made more enjoyable by giving Wei unlimited ammo, making the focus less on conserving ammo, and more on shooting everything you see. To make gun fights a little easier, there is aim assistance when targeting enemies.
There are three separate kinds of experience to gain; Triad, Cop, and Face. Triad experience is granted by attacking and killing foes during missions. Brutal attacks and environmental kills increase the amount of Triad experience gained. Cop experience is gained by not causing too much havoc during missions, and also by helping the police solve some of the many cases that spring up around Hong Kong. Gaining Triad and Cop experience allows you to upgrade numerous abilities, like reducing the time it takes to steal a car, or decreasing damage taken from attacks. Face experience is granted by doing favors for the people of Hong Kong; deeds like catching thieves, or helping gangsters escape from cops. Each of the 10 Face levels unlocks perks or buffs, such as having access to a valet who can deliver a motorcycle to Wei wherever he are. There were many opportunities to gain Face experience, and I was able to reach the maximum level of 10 about two thirds of the way through the game.
Other side-missions include collecting money for loan sharks, stealing specific cars, competing in street races reminiscent of Burnout, hacking security cameras, going on dates, beating up groups of drug dealers, competing in fight clubs, and more. All in all, I was able to complete 90% of the game in about 20 hours, and every one of the numerous aspects of Sleeping Dogs remained amusing for the entirety of the game.
Overall, Sleeping Dogís is a great mash up of the GTA and Batman Arkym franchises. A decent story moves things along pleasantly, though predictably. Any fans of the GTA or Batman franchises will appreciate Sleeping Dogs.
Community review by Chris_Strott (June 06, 2013)
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