Sleeping Dogs Review

Full disclosure: I have not played a True Crime game before, but I have extensively played every Grand Theft Auto game other than GTA IV, which I only played for a few hours.


For those who don’t know Sleeping Dogs’ dirty little secret, the game was initially in development under the title True Crime: Hong Kong, a sequel and reboot of a short-lived series that petered out when the second installment was met with mixed reviews and relatively low sales numbers. Activision canceled True Crime: Hong Kong in 2011, but Square Enix swooped in to save the game, acquiring its publishing rights and rebranding it Sleeping Dogs.

Given that Activision had little faith in the game’s ability to be a commercial success after investing heavily into its development, did Square Enix make the right move in saving this puppy from the kennel, or should the developer have just let — you know it’s coming — sleeping dogs lie?

Sleeping Dogs
Platforms: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: United Front Games, Square Enix London Studios
Publisher: Square Enix
Released: August 14, 2012
MSRP: $59.99

In a nutshell, Sleeping Dogs is Grand Theft Auto: Hong Kong, a sandbox game that drops you in an open-world city and lets you run amok, with carjacking, violence and vandalism on the menu. There are some key differences, however, and the first ties into the game’s story and themes.

Sleeping Dogs is a crime drama, telling the story of police officer Wei Shen who goes deep undercover to infiltrate the Triads in an effort to take down one of their societies. Wei is a lost soul — born and raised in Hong Kong, he moved to the United States after personal tragedy and became a cop, only to one day have a mission send him back. Caught between the life he made in Los Angeles and his old life in Hong Kong, Wei no longer knows where home truly is.

Throughout the course of the game, Wei struggles with his obligations as a police officer as he forges friendships with members of the Triad, who come to accept him into the family as one of their own. Sleeping Dogs touches on the themes of brotherhood, betrayal, loyalty, revenge, and duty, and executes its storyline with finesse. While the plot won’t be winning any academy awards, it can easily be translated into a Hollywood blockbuster.

The characters drive the story and succeed in being more than just cookie-cutter gangsters; we sympathize with hard-boiled crime lord who has been softened by love and is engaged to be married, or the fledgling mobster that is rethinking his chosen life path after his first act of manslaughter. We feel the weight on Wei’s conscience, knowing he has to betray these people. The characterization is aided by voice acting that ranges from good to exceptional, with celebrity talent lent by the likes of Lucy Liu, Emma Stone, and the legendary James Hong.

While some can argue that the game’s main story, which weighs in at a dozen hours, is on the short side, plot elements progress at a fast pace, and a lot happens in those twelve hours. The climax of the story doesn’t hit as hard as it could have, and the denouement isn’t as satisfying as I would have liked it to be, but the plot remains engaging throughout — engaging enough to keep me away from just driving around aimlessly like a maniac.

Apart from the carjacking and driving aspect — which even allows you to leap from one moving vehicle onto another for an “action hijack” — Sleeping Dogs is packed to the brim with game systems: street races, Rock Band-esque karaoke singing, free running, martial arts combat, fight clubs, cover-based shooting with action-movie maneuvers, gambling on cockfights, and a number of faux-investigative mini-games to triangulate cell phone calls, plant bugs in vents, pick locks, and hack security systems.

The martial arts combat system is a whole game of its own, simple enough to appease the button-masher, but with enough depth to take some time to master, allowing for a variety of situational attacks, counters, and takedowns, all executed with cinematic flair. Fatality maneuvers let you interact with objects in the environment — generally by ramming your foe’s head into them somehow — and are just one more spice added to flavor the game.

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10 Comments on Sleeping Dogs Review

SweetPea

On August 14, 2012 at 8:19 am

90/100 is way too high for this game.

CJ Miozzi

On August 14, 2012 at 9:08 am

@SweetPea:

Normally, you play a game before arguing with its review score. Just a suggestion to give you more credibility for next time.

max

On August 14, 2012 at 12:18 pm

i just got the game, i can fun battlefield 3 maxed out with no lag, and i can t run this game maxed out, so high resolution graphics must not be that bad, im gonna buy a new video card in the next week so i can enjoy this game to the fullest, im not playing it until then, but the graphics must be fine from what i saw from the 1st video. im getting a xbox controller aswell because i realized in the menu that it would be better that way, some games have High Requiments to enjoy them at the fullest, thats how life is.

SweetPea

On August 14, 2012 at 12:35 pm

@CJ Miozzi

Yeah, and you haven’t played GTA IV to know how incredibly unfair it is to rate Sleeping Dogs a 90/100.

It’s basically an average game. The combat system isn’t all that good, it gets repetitive and the enemies of course attack one by one. The enviromental kills are a great addition, though.
Also, I wouldn’t call the story engaging, it was very predictable and as you said the ending could’ve been better. Graphics is fine, but nothing special.
I think it takes more than that to reach a 9/10. Feel free to disagree.

James

On August 14, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Well taste is subjective.

I couldn’t play GTA IV after the first few missions. It is just boring as hell and the cars (I played PC Version) handles way too badly. It seems they somehow made tires having zero traction.

The GTA I liked the best is still Vice City.

Sleeping Dog right off the bat is better than GTA IV already. Though I only finished downloading it on Steam and finished the first 3 missions before going to bed. Too early to see if 9/10 is an good score but so far I already like it better than Vice City.

David

On August 15, 2012 at 7:36 pm

This plot has already been made into any number of Hollywood movies, of which my fave was Donnie Brasco.

Mr Glassback

On August 16, 2012 at 9:05 am

I have to agree with Sweetpea here, I can’t see how this got 90/100.
It’s not a bad game by any means, but if you are going to copy a game that came out 4 years ago, then at least improve it by a decent margin. Sleeping Dogs is so similar to GTA4 that it could almost be an expansion pack. (it even copies GTA4′s flaws??)
I did play it and enjoy it but don’t buy this unless you liked GTA4 and want more of the same but with minimal guns and a basic combat system.
Hopefully they will copy Rockstars DLC practices too and create some decent expansion packs.

NekoMode

On August 19, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Anyone who is calling the hand-to-hand combat system ‘basic’ hasn’t played it enough. Part of the RPG-like unlock system is unlocking new skills combos and moves. What you begin with is not 1/3rd of the full moves list. Likewise while guns are not common till the end-game its the lack of guns that makes the gunplay and the gun scenes that much more powerful.

David

On August 19, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Great game !

Super

On August 20, 2012 at 8:54 pm

I just finished the game and I really enjoyed the story. It made me care about the characters, which is something other open world games have yet to accomplish. Adding to the fact that Wei is generally a nice person makes his situation even more compelling.

As for the gameplay, Nekomode is correct is saying that the melee combat has a lot more depth. By mixing different moves together, the game rewards the player with more mission points which can then be used to get more upgrades. And the missions themselves are very well put together and no two missions feel the same, which is yet again something that all open world games tend to lack.

The only gripe I have with the game pertains the lackluster implementation of “favors.” That is the only aspect of the game which gets repetitive. So, a 90/100 sounds good to me.