Sleeping Dogs functions just like a Hollywood action flick. This game was bound to be a ‘sleeper hit’ straight from the get-go. This open world game is a title that would please any fan of Asian culture and action thrillers. Set in the active city of Hong Kong, players take the role of an undercover police officer known as Wei Shen. Wei is faced with a dangerous task of aiding the police in taking out one of the world’s most notorious criminal organizations, the Hong Kong Triads. The player will have the chance to explore the Hong Kong islands in an open world setting. Sleeping Dogs justly captures the true essence of the Hong Kong culture; the island is set up perfectly with flawlessly styled buildings and city streets. The player is forced to feel as if they are in Hong Kong. It is a game that some can find true enjoyment in; a gritty over-the-top action packed game that is sure to keep players on the edge of their seat… What could possibly be wrong with that? However, with all the games glory comes a few draw backs. These draw backs could leave those same players who love that face-paced action, ripping the hair straight out of their head.
Sleeping Dogs is a game of beauty and street violence. The game puts the player at first hand with crime that is affecting the Hong Kong life. This is a game that sets itself apart from other games with its originality. The uniqueness comes in form of location and that personal feeling the players will immediately feel when the characters pop on screen. Yet there is still something, still those few little things that keep this game from being favored on a shelf.
One of Sleeping Dogs obvious strong suits is the dynamic storyline. It is a great reason to play for hours on end. The story is one of high points and low points; a story of over-the-top action and great emotion. The player controls a man left in a very dangerous situation. Like stated above, Wei Shen takes the role of protagonist and he is an undercover cop. He is placed in a situation where he’s in the middle of a renowned criminal organization. Wei’s cover is the only thing keeping him breathing, yet he still has a mission to carry out and must remain truthful to the law. Being an officer of the law means the law must be enforced but Wei has to do so in an indirect way. When twists emerge in the plot, Wei’s emotions start taking a toll on the choices he makes; digging deeper and deeper into the heart of goods story telling. Naturally the two lifestyles he is leading begin to clash which develops that story that players yearn to uncover.
To get a better perspective on what to expect in terms of Sleeping Dogs plotline, think of an old Hollywood action film. There are plenty of dramatic scenes and for a game its story would compare to the large blockbusters people pay good money to see on the big screen. There is no shortage of action and no shortage of emotion, providing a perfectly concocted cocktail for keeping people interested. The one thing this game lacks in terms of story is good soft-hearted humor. Everything is serious and the jokes that are told are to hurt someone else’s feelings. It’s nice to let loose and laugh every now and then but in Sleeping Dogs reality and drama is all that is taken into consideration. With that being said, the story still does prove to be one of the games strongest points as it is what keeps the player wanting more… wondering what will happen next.
One of the more unique points involving story and Sleeping Dogs is how in-depth it allows the players to dig. If desired, the players can dig deeper then what is said on screen to learn more about characters, circumstances and the past. After each mission is complete the player is rewarded with a number of different things. Some of the rewards that are given are things like character biographies, case files and psychological reports on specific characters. The player has all of this written information at their disposal to read whenever they please. This is an effective way to learn about the people you will meet on your journey through Hong Kong that is more than just what is acted out on screen. It is also a way that makes the setting, story and characters feel more personal to the player. But that is if desired, meaning this is a point in the game that gamers could merely look over or ignore (not recommended).
With such a strong story, we would expect that greatness to be met via gameplay as well. Sadly, with Sleeping Dogs that is not the case. As you dig deeper and deeper into the gritty storyline you will find yourself getting annoyed at the repetitive combat style. Although the controls are easy to grasp in one’s mind they are simple in terms of fighting off enemies. As in most games there would be specific button combinations to signify what you wish the character to perform on screen, in Sleeping Dogs it’s more of a mashing one button kind of thing. If you tap the button in a different rhythm them you will perform different moves but there is no way to decide whether you punch of kick, all of that is done for you. There is of course a different button to block, grab and a different button to counter but something just seems off about the fighting style. It seems like the player is in less control then they should be, almost as if the look of the move is more important than the actual action it takes to perform the move.
Gamers will find themselves in the same situation nearly every time they enter combat. There will be your character, Wei, faced with a few enemies. After that group of enemies is defeated then another group will show up almost as if in waves. After you progress through the random number of waves of enemies your mission will be complete and you will be ready to watch another really cool cut scene and do the whole wave thing over again. Maybe stating it that way is a bit rough; there are other aspects to missions then just waves. There are great chases and sneaky cop stuff too but the majority of the game seems like battling the same looking enemies in the same way. At points it can get repetitive and frustrating due to the fact that Wei does not have any weapons at his disposal.
Bringing us to our next issue is the fact the Wei does not have any weapons, besides his own fists, that he can use when ever. The simple truth is, we are gamers, we like weapons blood and violence. Sleeping Dogs has weapons but hardly of which the player can use in an effective manner. For the beginning portion of the game we were left wondering if guns were even going to be incorporated in any way shape or form. Thankfully, our worries did not come true and the player eventually has a way to get a hold of firearms. It’s just the way weapons are acquired almost makes them seem inadequate compared to the power of the human fist.
When the battle starts there will be an area surrounding that can either destroyed for weapons, there may be something laying around that you can use or you must disarm an enemy for their weapon. The problem comes into play with having to pick up a weapon in mid fight and use it while being attacked by the opponents surrounding you. Once you finally acquire a weapon you can use it on your enemy but only for a set amount of hits before it breaks. The weapons seem to break rather quickly too, making them cause more damage to you for picking them up then the actual damage you are able to dish out with them. By the time you get your hands on a weapon your health is already going to be significantly lower than when you started because Wei takes damage while the player is not in control of him while he is bending down to pick up a weapon. When you think about it though, Wei is an undercover cop shouldn’t he have a gun on him to pull out when he pleases… I guess guns are a rarity in the city of Hong Kong; only enemies get to use them at their disposal…
The health system on the game is rather odd also. It’s not on an automatic refill which, quite frankly, is the best way to go about a health system. In real life a person would need to go to the emergency room to get to feeling better after what some of these video game characters go through so automatic renewal of life is usually an outlandish option. Sleeping Dogs has it to where every time you land a hit in battle a separate bar is filled up. Once that bar is filled it will automatically be set off and will refill your life and intimidate the enemies around you. The system is actually set up a bit backwards. When you land good combos and hit the opponents around you, you don’t need life because you’re doing fine in battle yet that is when the meter will drain and the life meter will be refilled. When you are doing poorly in battle you need that life recharge and you cannot trigger the meter to go on your own. It makes thing a bit hard when you aren’t in synch with the controller but is understandable why it would be that way. They sure didn’t make the game too easy, which really is a good thing as it does take somewhat of a skill to get passed each mission which seems to lack in modern gaming.
Sleeping Dogs has a magnificent leveling up system. You can actually feel Wei getting better as you progress through the game. His improvements are important to the game because him getting better can greatly aid players in passing harder parts in the story. There are a few different bars that allow the player to level up. The three main bars would be Triad, Cop and Face. The Triad is of course the criminal aspect of Wei. Every mission has a score of each Cop and Triad. The more you follow the rules of the Triads the more that gauge will feel just as the more you complete the Cop wishes the more that gauge will fill. Each measuring device allows the player to unlock different upgrades.
The Triad completion meter is geared toward the worse things you do in a mission. Things like taking out enemies and environmental kills will fill this indicator. The Cop meter differs and starts out at the top and will gradually be taken down for things like reckless driving. Each mission allows the player to fill a certain number of shields on each the Cop and Triad scores. There are three shields in total for each mission and they act as a grading system. It is a good way to base how well you did and which side you tend to lean more towards during the story. The upgrades are vitally important to improving your skills so doing well in these aspects of the missions is actually important. It adds a bit of an extra challenge to the initial aspect of the mission.
There is also a Face meter that allows the player to access other upgrades for Wei. The Face gauge is filled by side quests and exposure to the world around you. Like stated above, it is of importance to get these meters up as it will be the main way Wei gets better at doing things.
There is plenty to do in Sleeping Dogs as there is a whole bunch of side mission type of things to complete. There are favors to complete for random people, random things to do just around the city and plenty more to keep you busy for a long time. This game will keep you occupied for a lot longer than other games out there because of how jam packed it is of random things to do. It is easy to get sidetracked in favors for people which each present their own little unique story to complete. Along with favors are collectables and hijacking. Explaining every little side thing to do on the game would take days. The side missions are a great way to show off the true culture of Hong Kong. There are just a lot of great things to do and a lot of statistics to complete.
Sleeping Dogs has a very nice start menu. In the menu the player can view all their game statistics in a very orderly manner. These stats have anything from how far you are in completing story missions to how many different items of clothing you have bought. There is an area to show you how many collectables you have gotten and how many favors are completed. This is set up very neatly for those who are perfectionist when it comes to games. People who love trophies and achievements would be very pleased with the statistic menu because it keeps track of nearly everything making it easier to understand how close you are to getting those points.
Sleeping Dogs ended up being enjoyable as it should be. It presented a great story and an accurate example of the city of Hong Kong. The side missions and separate activates provide the player with a lot of play time with the game. If it weren’t for choppy and repetitive combat this game would be perfect for most players. It is a prime example of a well executed open-world game that is jam packed with action. If you are a player who likes fast-paced drama and Hong Kong culture this is the game for you.
Sleeping Dogs hit store shelves on August 14th 2012 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. This isn’t a game for everybody but it is a game to keep in mind when you are planning on purchasing. It is a lot of fun with a lot of playtime. It is sure to keep most people’s interest.