Sleeping Dogs

Expertly produced.

By Daavpuke, Posted 19 Aug 2012

Gamers don’t lack open world experiences. Usually, these action games offer a “do whatever the hell you want” element that quickly shows the lack of morality in human beings. Sleeping Dogs aims to change that. Its excellent vision for a whole new point of view also yields a different game within the same genre. It builds upon that with tons of cinematic action and drama, for a genuinely enthralling end result. Sleeping Dogs is good; very good.

The lead in this story is Officer Wei Shen. However, there’s a slight twist: Wei is in deep cover inside the triad gangs in the bustling city of Hong Kong. Therefore, Wei does things a bit different and he’s not afraid to show some muscle where needed. Both the triads and the cops will try to use Wei to their best ability, which sends us all throughout the districts of Hong Kong, from crowded markets to open roads and the vast apartments of the exotic location. Wherever situated, we’ll be met with tons of detail and a sea of ambient lighting that makes the atmosphere in this game. The open world has a lot to offer and the genuine feel of traditional Asia along with the sleazier aspects of modern times are represented beautifully in this feature. Neon lights, lanterns, shacks and tons of active people will make Sleeping Dogs feel like an open world just screaming to be explored.

An excellent sound design strengthens the whole with eastern string compositions, genuine voice acting and another perfect clash of contemporary radio stations mixed with Asian influences. The soundtrack only has a few known songs and most of those come in a karaoke mini-game, yet the chosen tracks make a much better fit to keep players in touch with the medium Sleeping Dogs is trying to create.

Still, it’s the writing that will truly engage players, with a set of well performed characters. They invite the player to know more about them and the entire background they operate in. The end might not capitalize on this aspect fully, but this title will divide players with a set of differing missions that rack Wei with tough dilemmas. The duality between good guy and bad guy can take a few vicious turns and the game will add several other topics to it that might make the player feel uncomfortable at times. A chilling take on women in the crime syndicate, in particular, can sometimes make for seedy situations, which are not always handled with poise. The crime world is a rough, immoral place and Sleeping Dogs does tribute to this, for better or worse.

Sleeping Dogs - NoobFeed Review

To take down the syndicate from within, Wei will need to be capable in a set of skills. His foremost call to action is martial arts, which translates in a clever combat system that is as simple as it is fluent and effective. Only 1 button is used for most commands, but switching this with other connections results in nimble fights. More so, Wei can use his environment to perform deadly attacks, such as dropping enemies in dumpsters or less subtly skewering foes on meat hooks.

No martial artist is complete without some effective parries and so Wei will also be able to counter or perform grappling moves and even disarm opponents and turn the tables on them with their own weapons. With firearms, the game switches to gunplay that will involve leaping over cover and aiming in slow motion for added effect. All aspects of Sleeping Dogs are based on the cinematic grandeur of the Hong Kong movie scene and the bluster of high-octane missions involving all elements, like car chases and shootouts, really put that in the spotlight.

Another trait of our athletic hero is free running. Hong Kong is filled with nooks and crannies cramped up against each other that create a playground to run around in, grapple and climb just about any building. This will often be required to pursue cowardly thieves or to try to access otherwise blocked off sections or to infiltrate buildings.

Sleeping Dogs - NoobFeed Review

In case it isn’t clear enough, variety is king in this game and most aspects are explored just enough to be substantial, if not better. Wei can use a phone to hack terminals or unlock a few mini-games such as tracking signals and breaking locks. Changing clothes gets significance by adding slight bonuses to wearing outfit sets. There are tons of collectibles and side-missions around Hong Kong that yield bonuses. That alone will keep anyone busy for hours.

However, there’s still the matter of leading a double life and that brings us to the game’s main missions. Sleeping Dogs separates 3 different tiers of experience: One for the police, one for the triads and one for presence. Aside from the excellent mix of the two that will make players feel like they’re in charge of the decisions, dividing experience also adds more choices on how to enhance Wei and his skills. Additionally, pursuing these routes will offer new ways to fight or boost skills, offer more stylish clothing possibilities and so on.

Sleeping Dogs - NoobFeed Review

The whole will be founded on a lawful nature. At his core, Wei is still an officer of the law and that means that he can’t just do as he pleases. This aspect of adding morality, rather than forcing it, is Sleeping Dogs’ claim to fame. It’s not the end of the world to break laws, as crime activity will often require it, but the game taps players on the wrist whenever they do. The game makes players feel bad for not doing the job as clean as possible and often reminds them just what this morality means to the world Wei lives in. This completes the tough to tackle genuine condition of good versus bad within the life of an undercover agent.

If there is one reason to complain in this tour de force, it’s the ironic element of choppy driving. Ironic, since developer United Front Games is known solely for racing games. Driving in Hong Kong is slippery and jerky, which makes clean driving without breaking objects and therefore also the law quite impossible. As this is also a portion of the action movie scene, a lot of missions will need it or in worse cases it will add shooting to the mix. Even if the latter is helped by slow motion, it’s still strenuous to complete, as is hijacking cars by jumping from a speeding vehicle, quite like in Pursuit Force. Luckily, an alternative is presented by sprinkling cab rides all over town. Then, there are the occasional glitches or hard to maneuver parkour elements, but other than that Sleeping Dogs does an excellent job offering a ton of varied content, each with its own feel.

Sleeping Dogs - NoobFeed Review

Some might view Sleeping Dogs as an alternative to other open world experiences like Grand Theft Auto. That view might be a little short-sighted however, as there is much more depth to enjoy here. With gorgeous and engaging scenery, the horizon beckons players to dwell within the seedy world of Hong Kong. Even if it has a few slight issues, they can be forgiven when leveraged against the expertly produced content brought to the table. Anyone would be hard-fought not to be both entertained and moved by the time the credits roll. Even so, there will be much more to complete after said end. Sleeping Dogs is good; very good.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed. (@Daavpuke)

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General Information

Sleeping Dogs

88/100

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Publisher(s): Square Enix
Developer(s): United Front Games
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Open World
Release Date: 2010-08-14

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