Players of the original True Crime games rejoiced when United Front Games and Square Enix London Studios picked up Sleeping Dogs to develop into a fully-fledged stand-alone title – instead of being the third game in the True Crime franchise.
Assuming the role of an undercover policeman who needs to enter the seedy world of the Chinese Triad in Hong Kong, players will get to do all sorts of wondrous things while being taken on a tumultuous journey through a world of greed, betrayal, violence and fast girls.
The great thing about the game is that players who played the previous True Crime games will feel right at home. The graphical style is somewhat the same and the general feeling is very much along the same lines as previous titles.
The game starts off a bit slow, with players not knowing immediately what to do or where to go next. The game is more complex than what it portrays.
The title makes use of several different skill trees (melee and weapons), with each giving the player a boost in different areas.
The Police, Triad and Melee skill trees are the most important to focus on, but then there is the Face skill tree as well, which provide minor upgrades to make life a bit more manageable on the streets of a very busy Hong Kong.
Players of Saints Row (and to a lesser extend Grand Theft Auto) will find the running, walking, driving and hijacking of cars a piece of cake, but the hard part is the combat. The melee will take some getting used to and players will definitely benefit from some training.
When the character is engaged in combat, he can make use of the variety of moves that are unlocked throughout the game. While attacking isn’t the hard part, the counter moves might leave gamers pulling out their hair. An attacker will flash red for about a second before striking, and in that time the player needs to press Y to counter. If the Y button is hammered, the counter will be lost and the player will take a punch to the face – and probably stumble (leaving him open for more attacks). It does get better with a bit of practise, but can be the source of a budding love-hate relationship with Sleeping Dogs.
The rest of the control scheme is also a bit strange – players need to hold down A to sprint, and tap it again to jump over obstacles. It’s not a hindrance to fleet-footed gangsters, but feels a bit odd in the beginning (it will definitely get better as the game progresses).
In terms of graphics, the title is superb. The design style truly gives players a taste of what Hong Kong can be like, and the attention to detail is down to an intense level. When it rains, the player’s suit will glisten in the moon light as the water is reflected from it. Step through blood or mud, and players will leave a trail wherever they go.
There are however a small number of issues that gamers might experience. While the voice acting from the main cast is good, street vendors, side-quest givers and pedestrians could have fared much better. The body language they use when talking to players is also a bit repetitive and often only involves waving one hand back-and-forth. There are a large number of vehicles to choose from (or hijack) in the game, but most of them don’t come close to responding like real-world cars.
Being a sandbox-style, open-world game, the title makes progress through the plot by means of the player choosing which task or mission they would like to tackle next. The main missions consist of Triad and Police missions, and those need to be completed to finish the plot. There are a number of side-quests, such as helping out friends, entertaining girls while singing karaoke, racing various cars and searching for lost objects.
As mentioned before, when players complete a mission, a final mission score will be given and the player will gain experience points in the mission type (e.g. Triad or Police). When gamers level up in a mission type, they will gain the next level’s ability, while making progress to the top level of 10 for each type.
If players can forgive the game for its small hiccups and weird-ish combat control system, Sleeping Dogs should keep them busy for a while with an entertaining story, great fire fights, a lot of back-stabbing and swearing- Hong Kong style.
Players who love open-world games will pit the most out of it, as it involves a lot of free running, driving and generally just exploring, but action-seekers will also be able to enjoy the thrill of it. It’s great title for True Crime fans and definitely worth a buy.
* Interesting facts about Sleeping Dogs: While the game features the gang 18K, in real life there is a Triad gang called 14K. The main Triad is also called Sun On Yee, while the real gang is actually called Sun Yee On.
Our score: 8.6/10
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor