Sleeping Dogs do lie?
Sleeping Dogs is a Hong Kong action movie stretched into an open-world game that is something of a combination of Grand Theft Auto and Shenmue with some pretty darn good combat thrown in for good measure. But is Sleeping Dogs a case of style over substance?
The short answer is no, the long answer is definitely no. The world of Sleeping Dogs is polished to perfection, it oozes style and on the PC with high-resolution textures installed it looks gorgeous. Neon shop signs reflect off the floor, the streets are highly populated and there is a ton to look at in awe and amazement. Sleeping Dogs is one of the best-looking games you will play as long as you have the high-resolution texture pack installed. The amount of detail put in to make Sleeping Dogs’ world believable is outstanding, as good as the best of them.
Sleeping Dogs doesn’t fall into the issue of boring gameplay either, driving around feels tight, gunplay is slick and the combat is great fun. Sure, the game is structured around each of these three aspects, but the developers made sure they were as smooth as can be. The amount of cars and motorbikes to drive is an awful lot, and it is very simple to just pick up and play for short bursts, or long sessions for those that enjoy their eyes bleeding. The controls are simple and intuitive, making the combat something similar to that of the Arkham games, mixed with a little of Assassin’s Creed – countering is key.
Indeed, in combat, the way you can quickly incorporate guns feels smooth and intuitive, and then comes the shooting mechanics; when you pull out a gun, Sleeping Dogs turns into a third-person shooter. As with any third-person shooter, Sleeping Dogs works on the caveat of cover, but moving from cover-to-cover is great fun. When you jump over a cover, the game goes into slow-motion, allowing you to shoot with pin-point accuracy for a short time – and, as always, headshots are paramount to success.
What’s good though, is that each gun feels different, machine-guns feel like machine-guns, pistols like pistols and so forth. The same goes for cars, which are by far the fastest way to get around, each type of car feels different, and I’m sure you will find your favourite cars to drive, as you will with the radio stations in the game. Indeed, there are a number of radio stations, each catering to different tastes in music, like metal? Got you covered. Like techno? Got you covered. Like Classical? Got you covered, the same goes for jazz, hip-hop, etc… Whatever you’re in the mood for, Sleeping Dogs has you covered and there are enough tracks on each station to leave you satisfied.
Incorporated and integral into the design of Sleeping Dogs is the free-running. This isn’t as smooth as like in Assassin’s Creed (where the whole game is built around the concept), but it has its own tricks up its sleeves. You cannot climb buildings, you can only climb up areas covered in a kind of green plastic or whenever a prompt is shown on screen, but it works, limiting the free-running strikes me as a little more realistic and feasible than that of Assassin’s Creed and in Sleeping Dogs, it is only part of the overall aesthetic of the Hong Kong action flick.
Anyway, more on the combat, you flow between grabs, kicks and punches with ease – the real touch of class is that you can incorporate the environment into your fights, throwing people into skips is a great touch; you can even pull off different combos – which you can unlock more of. To unlock new moves, you can level up by completing missions with a good cop and/or triad score. You start with a high cop score, which goes down if you do violent things or drive badly (crashing into stuff), and you gain triad score by fighting well, shooting well: that sort of stuff. You also gain more moves for combat by finding jade statues for a martial-arts tutor; just one of the many side-quests in the game.
To make the world more interesting there are several side-quests to take part in: races, finding jade statues, doing favours, hacking security cameras for drug busts, etc… To help find these side-quests you can schmooze three women, if you perform the necessary tasks for them, you gain access to seeing icons on maps to tell you where things are. However, although there are side-quests to take part in, they are not the most fun (other than the races and favours), in fact, the drug bust ones in particular are too repetitive and just plain annoying when there is no way to quick travel. The lack of quick travel is apparent throughout, you will want to, but you can’t; good thing the driving mechanics are good.
There is more than enough to get on with in Sleeping Dogs, but the main missions are where you will want to spend your time, as with any game. This is where Sleeping Dogs falters a bit however; as it gives the game time to focus on its writing. Now, the plot of Sleeping Dogs is fine – revenge, getting caught up in things, etc… – but the writing is a tad annoying: it focusses too much on extreme violence and foul language – it comes across as trying too hard. I’m fine with violence and bad language, hell, if it’s handled well, it can improve games, but Sleeping Dogs is kinda like watching a kid purposely trying to be obscene, imitating what films they may have seen or games they might have played – it all feels a little forced and unnecessary.
Despite this, Sleeping Dogs is a fun game, with a fun story absolutely packed with content. It even uses online well. No, there is no multiplayer (unless I’m being an idiot and there is), but it records everything, and pits your scores against those of your friends, it’s a great touch, one that I applauded Need for Speed Undercover for as well, but also like that game, I didn’t feel inclined to play more of Sleeping Dogs once the story was finished the rest of the game just isn’t compelling enough and I’m not enough of a completionist. I did however finish the game in around 22 hours, nowhere near 100% complete, but if that’s your thing there is enough content for at least 60 hours of gameplay here – take that as you will.
Sleeping Dogs is a good game, a stylish, gorgeous game that has some awesome combat, great gunplay and fantastic driving mechanics (for an open-world game), all held together with a good plot and a good use of online. The game is marred by some dodgy writing but that is down to personal opinion more than anything.
Sleeping Dogs is worth your time, especially considering these days it’s going pretty cheap on PC, 360 and PS3.