Sleeping Dogs | Flashback Review
Sleeping Dogs review (PC, Xbox 360, PS3)
Itching for some explosive Kung-fu action? Than look no further than Sleeping dogs, released on the 14th August 2012, developed by United Front Games, published by Square Enix and Namco Bandai! For this review I hope to cover whether you should consider going back and playing this game by looking at the good stuff and the not so good stuff, but first, what is Sleeping Dogs about?
Right from the get go you’re placed into the shoes of undercover cop, Wei Shen. After a bit of police manipulation that leads to a tutorial of vaulting over objects, Wei manages to get inside a prison and eventually in touch with an old childhood friend by the name of Jackie. This sets the scene for Wei’s infiltration into a part of the underground world of Hong Kong, the Sun on Ye. Wei is then required to perform a variety of criminal activities, such as beating people up in nightclubs, and espionage for the police, such as catching criminals in the act through the use of your mobile phone’s camera. It goes without saying that this also leads to a lot of spinning kicks, face punching and broken bones.
As you play the game your given options as to whether you wish to do the police or gang missions first, but more often than not you will have to go back and do the other mission types before you can progress in the story. Completing each mission type will award you with experience in the relevant area. For example, triad missions will reward you with triad experience for performing well in combat, while police missions will reward you experience for driving carefully and avoiding innocent civilian casualties. The experience gained from these missions is than used towards unlocking abilities Wei can use such as being able to silently jack cars or perform special counters. Other abilities that you can unlock come from increasing your face meter, improved by helping out strangers who offer side missions, and collecting models for your old Kung-fu teacher, who teaches you new moves in return.
Wei’s story is quite engaging as the effects of being undercover wear him down throughout the course of the game. A close call of being uncovered as a rat puts Wei on edge and a dodgy police framing begin to blur the lines of morality, this all fairly early on in the game. Scenes, such as Wei waking up to the sound of a gunshot depict this, and you start to feel for the guy.
The combat system in this game has been implemented very well and is debatably the main selling point of the game. Wei’s Kung fu style allows for a flurry of kicks, punches and tackles that can take a while to get used to initially, but eventually flow rather smoothly with the use of an Xbox 360 controller. There are even environmental take downs which make for some pretty spectacular finishes, whether you kick someone into a telephone booth, throw them into a dumpster, push their head down the toilet or perhaps one of the best ones I’ve seen, bang their head into a giant display fish tank. There is even an achievement for than picking up a fish and knocking someone out with it! There is also some limited gunplay, but this is given more of a backseat to the fist fighting that frequents the game.
On top of this there are a huge variety of activities to participate in, including races, karaoke, finding collectibles or health shrines and fight clubs. Gamers with online connectivity who have friends that have played the game previously will be able to compete against records they have set in challenges, including how long you can maintain a maximum speed in the highest class vehicles or how many headshots you can score in a row. This certainly helps to increase the overall level of playability the game has to offer.
There are some real pretty moments in Sleeping dogs, the weather and environmental effects are at times quite decent to look at. However this is marred by the occasional creepiness of NPCs talking and general AI stupidity. The game isn’t completely without its bugs either, at one point I could constantly hear a police siren until I restarted the game, but it is very unlikely that any of these will be particularly game breaking. Perhaps the main issue with this game is that, while it’s overall a very well designed game, there is a lot that is strikingly similar to the GTA series, only without the same level of polish. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as GTA is a great series and GTA with kung fu certainly sounds like an appealing idea for game design. However there is little here that particularly separates itself from the series short of the combat style, a few activities and being set in Hong Kong. Even the police missions feel more like your standard, tail some guy to his hideout and plant something nearby, objective. Sometimes the police aspect can actually prove frustrating as you attempt to run a gangster of the road only to get penalised in cop experience for driving recklessly.
Overall Sleeping Dogs is a very well designed game with an engaging story of the effects going undercover has on Wei, especially when both sides are not simply portrayed as black and white but are marred with shades of grey. The combat system is pulled off very well and there are even some pretty moments to be had while cruising around the populated areas of Hong Kong. For GTA or similar genre fans, there will be nothing here that particularly blows your mind or converts you and the AI can slightly ruin the level of immersion. However there is still enough game play here to justify giving it a go.