Sleeping Dogs Hands-on Preview
After exiting the restaurant, Wei steps directly into a Chinese New Year celebration, replete with loud fireworks and a capering dragon — not exactly the most subtle way of establishing a sense of place. The mission’s titular “Night Market” is much more effective, stuffed full of shoppers, colorful stalls, and aggressive shopkeepers hawking their wares. Wei’s first stop is a friendly local vendor who points out his target, who promptly spots Wei coming and sprints away.
A madcap chase through the market ensues, showcasing some neat animations that trigger when Wei brushes past confused pedestrians. In true Hong Kong style, the target is soon climbing acrobatically up walls, and players will have to be alert for Gears of War-style A-button prompts that, when timed right, keep Wei in hot pursuit.
Eventually, the target takes refuge among a group of wife-beatered thugs who stride forward, fists raised. This was the first example of the game’s martial arts combat, touted as one of its most alluring features. A pity, then, that it so closely resembles Rocksteady’s sublime combat in Batman: Arkham Asylum/City — shorn of its fluidity, power, and grace. For the uninitiated: before an enemy attacks, an indicator flashes above his head; if a player counters correctly, he can string together combos of relatively free-flowing combat. Wei’s repertoire of kung fu brutality was satisfying, if not particularly memorable.
Unlike Batman, Wei is also adept at using the environment to dispatch enemies. Grapple a thug, and you can frogmarch him over to a nearby dumpster, window, exhaust vent, table saw, or oven, to gorily satisfying effect. “Night Market” ends with a frenzied rooftop brawl; Wei relieves his target of a knife and teaches him a harsh lesson in violence.
The developer walkthrough continued with another chase mission. After selecting a vehicle by talking to the parking attendant in front of his apartment building — a clever touch — Wei sets off to track down a malefactor by the name of Johnny Ratface. When driving to a particular location, players can follow the fat, primary-colored, suspiciously GTA-like lines on their mini-map, but Sleeping Dogs also provides large, hovering arrows at key intersections.
On the way to Johnny Ratface’s hideout, the developer at the controls paused to complete a sidequest. This was a simple affair: an unlucky street racer asks Wei to smash up an adversary’s ride using a tire iron, and Wei happily complies. Still, the voice acting was solid, and the tire iron makes a satisfying sound when it hits the car’s outraged owner in the face.
The confrontation with Johnny Ratface showed off Sleeping Dogs’ gunplay mechanics. Overall, it appeared very stylized. Mantling over obstacles triggers a kind of bullet time; Wei has no trouble dispensing slow-motion headshots. After his thugs are all dispatched, Ratface takes off in a car, while Wei must pursue on a motorcycle. After riddling the gangster’s car with bullets, Wei steers close and, when prompted, deploys a crazy stunt, leaping onto the car and muscling his way inside. It’s the kind thing you can imagine Jackie Chan gleefully pulling off — hopefully the game offers lots more in this vein.