[Review] Sleeping Dogs

ESRB:M
ONLINE:No Multiplayer. Social Hub/Stat Tracking Available.
INSTALL:Yes (Mandatory Install: 4.6GB.)
RELEASE DATE:August 14, 2012
PLATFORM:Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC & Steam
PUBLISHER:Square Enix
DEVELOPER:United Front Games
ONLINE PASS:

“Undercover, the rules are different”

Story

Winston Chu and Wei Shen meet up.

You play as an undercover cop by the name of Wei Shen, sent to Hong Kong to infiltrate a notorious triad known as the Sun On Yee and take them down from the inside.

The story hearkens back to Hong Kong action films like Hard Boiled ( 1992 ). It’s great, well written, and well delivered thanks the the high caliber cast with the likes of Lucy Liu (Kill Bill: Vol. 1), Emma Stone (Zombieland, The Amazing Spider-Man) and Will Yun Lee (Die Another Day, Total Recall (2012)) just to name a few.

It’s good stuff, and definitely fits within the True Crime series as a whole.

Presentation

Let me start by saying the game is quite beautiful. The city of Hong Kong is very detailed, and feels alive, more so than most Open-World games like this that I’ve played.

Characters get wet when they enter water, or when it starts raining. Their clothes become stained and wet with blood in vicious fist or gunfights. Neon is vibrant, windows reflect their surroundings – it’s a very pretty game to watch.

The framerate runs pretty stable, I never ran into any bad framerate drops during my time so far – even when the game was getting hectic, with enemies, allies, guns and explosions all around.

Light even blooms realistically around objects.

It’s not the best looking game ever created, but it definitely holds its own against the big guns.

The sound work is good too. Guns sound pretty aggressive, fists and legs impact with solid thuds, bones crunch and snap unsettlingly. The soundtrack isn’t bad, but if you don’t like it, you can use a custom soundtrack.

This is done (On the PS3), by simply going to the XMB, selecting the song/playlist you want to play, and then starting it up. It works, and while you’re in a vehicle it disables the in-game radio. However, it also continues to play while you’re out of the vehicle, and on foot.

It would have been nice to see a true custom soundtrack set-up, though.

The in-game soundtrack is pretty good, as well, featuring music that runs the gamut from Electronica and D’n’B, to Death Metal, to Hip-Hop. Some of it even Cantonese/Chinese. It features artists such as Trivium, Dream Theater and Flying Lotus. Radio stations seem to be split by record labels, so there’s Rodrunner Records, Kerrang Records, NinjaTune, etc.

I honestly never used the custom soundtrack option, as the music chosen fit the bill perfectly – the guys at UFG have pretty good taste.

Gameplay

I really enjoyed the gameplay. The controls work really well, and don’t get in your way too much. The camera can be a little wonky, but it’s not too bad.

Gunplay works well, albeit, it’s fairly simple – L2 aims, R2 fires, and the right stick controls your view. That’s all there is to it. You can also fire while vaulting/action-hijacking, the game slows down time while in this mode so you can aim better. You’ve seen it all before in other games, and it’s not done any better or worse here.

The hand to hand combat, on the other hand, is phenomenal. Wei has a multitude of attacks and counters at his disposal, and they are all simple to pull off. This is honestly the first game of this style where I’ve genuinely wanted to fight hand-to-hand more than with weapons.

Wei can pull off some seriously devastating combos and grapples.

Enemies have different classes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Normal enemies are fairly straightforward, but other enemy types throw a wrench into your plans. Brawlers block a lot of your attacks, and can’t be interrupted while attacking. Grapplers rarely block at all, but are difficult to grab, and can inflict heavy damage. Weapon carrying enemies are very dangerous, and can make short work of Wei if you don’t counter them well.

Vehicles handle decently – some more than others. Bikes in particular are a little hard to control. L2 brakes, R2 accelerates, the Square button performs a ramming move that you can use in any direction [other than directly behind you] to take out other vehicles, L1 aims your weapon if you have one, and R1 fires.

When aiming from the car/bike, the game slows down time when aiming at an enemy vehicle. This allows you to accurately shoot either the driver, or the tires of the vehicle. You also don’t need to stop driving, and can even steer the car while aiming.

Another ability at your disposal is the “Action Hijack”. This is eerily similar to the stunt hijacks of another Square Enix published title, Just Cause 2.

So similar in fact, that users with a JC2 save can access a Rico outfit that makes this ability more useful.

It’s a nice addition, and it works, but it’s not exactly necessary. You won’t find yourself using it much outside of the times where a mission actually makes you use it or when trying to hijack an armored truck to sell for some extra cash.

Throughout the game, you earn 3 different kinds of experience – Cop, Triad, and Face. Cop XP allows you to unlock new weapons and vehicle abilities [Such as earning a key to open up Cop Car trunks to obtain firearms. You start with max Cop XP for a mission, and depending on things you do [Injuring/Killing innocents, property damage, etc.], you lose it.

Triad XP allows you to unlock better attacks and also strengthens your base attacks either bare-handed or with weapons. You earn Triad XP by fighting enemies. The more your vary your attacks, the more XP you earn. You also gain it for environmental attacks, and special moments during missions.

Face XP gives you different perks, such as regenerative items lasting longer, nullifying enemy abilities, and making your attacks un-interruptable. However, most of them only become active when your Face meter is full during combat [Which you fill by landing attacks] – and the meter only lasts a short time. You earn Face XP by completing “Favors” – side missions and events found throughout the game world.

Replay Value

I’d say the replay value of this title is moderate. There’s a lot of content here, with Square Enix confirming at least six months of extra DLC, including mission packs.

However, once it’s all done, there’s nothing really left. You can always replay missions and try to go for a higher score, and compete against friends who have the game thanks to the Social Hub that tracks your stats, but that’s really it.

The game’s trophies/achievements are fairly straightforward, but it will be a time consuming 100%/platinum that requires you to complete the game to 100% – and there’s a lot to do. Thankfully, the game tracks everything – from the collectibles you’ve found, to the cars and clothes you’ve purchased, and all of the stat challenges you’ve completed.

The game shows you where collectibles are located on the map, making it easy to find them.

Overall

The game is a lot of fun. If you’re a fan of Hong Kong action movies – check it out. If you’re a fan of open-world, GTA-style games, give it a whirl. At the very least, give it a rental – but I think you’ll be plunking down the $60 for it before you know it once you start playing.

It’s just that much fun.

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PROS CONS
  • Solid gameplay - combat, gunplay, driving - it all feels great.
  • Slick visuals and great storytelling.
  • World feels more alive than any open world I've ever played in.
  • Falls into the problem of "Not a lot to do when it's all over".
  • FINAL VERDICT
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    About James Headrick

    James is an aspiring game reviewer that plays primarily on the Playstation 3 & 4. He also works freelance as a graphic designer, doing print and branding based design.
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