Sleeping Dogs PS3 Game Review
If you want to check it out...
Sleeping Dogs has had a very tumultuous journey to have even been published which makes it’s critical and consumer success even more important. Starting out with the interesting title of Project Lotus, it was picked up by Activision and was planned to be the 3rd instalment of the successful PS2 series ‘True Crime’. It then became ‘True Crime Hong Kong’ and was starting to look great under the development of United Front (Luxoflux developed the previous two titles). Almost to 90% completion, with previews in the press, it was cancelled by Activision stating it wasn’t polished enough to compete in the open world genre with the big hitters – essentially it wouldn’t make enough money for them was the bottom line. Staff lost jobs, consumers were confused and petitions were started to bring it back from the dead.There was great promise and many thought Activision did the game a huge disservice.
Six months went by until a miracle happened – Square Enix picked up the game. Already experienced in producing quality sandbox games with vibrant worlds and many layers (Just Cause, Deus Ex: Human Revolution), they saw the bigger picture to make it a great game in its own right – one that could be a quality game. The game was then renamed ‘Sleeping Dogs’ (due to not acquiring the name rights from Activision) and became an original IP.
Welcome to Hong Kong
Being the first open world game to have a Hong Kong setting means an exciting new world for players to discover. It’s not an exact representation (unlike the GPS accuracy of True Crime: LA) of Hong Kong but has lots to make it feel like you ARE in Hong Kong – from the roads, neon signs, hawker stalls you would associate with Lan Kwai Fong (a fairly seedy area) to enormous glass buildings of Central which is a big business district. Hong Kong is a really diverse place and the game does a great job of making the districts seem different. The rain particularly makes the streets looks fantastic especially at night. You will hear Cantonese split with bits of English dialogue in the streets, arguments between citizens and even tourists asking for info. Having visited Hong Kong fairly recently before the game came out it was great to have a bit of nostalgia playing this game. The development team took countless photos and spoke to past and present Triad members to get the best feel for the game and this really comes across.
Hong Kong Hero
You star as Wei Shen who is both a police officer for the Hong Kong Police Force but attempting to infiltrate the Sun On Yee (a powerful Triad gang) with the aim to bring down the Triad leader or ‘Dragonhead’ as an undercover assignment. Wei Shen is seen to be the best man for the job of infiltrating as has connections to the area in which the Sun On Yee operate, knows the lay of the land and has past connections from school. The man to be the most trusted to bring them down from the inside. After a drug bust goes wrong and Wei Shen is put into prison, he meets an old friend (Jackie Ma) a low level member of the Sun On Yee which brings his introduction to the criminal underworld. As the line between right and wrong starts to blur Wei Shen must decide who he really is. The story itself is very good for a game and clearly draws a lot of inspiration from some classic Triad films such as Infernal Affairs or Election. It’s full of memorable characters, superb set pieces and quality voice acting from heavyweights like Tom Wilkinson (memorable for his role in Rush Hour), James Hong and Lucy Liu.
Kung Fu Fighting
Unlike most sandbox games Wei Shen has the ability to dish out some pretty in depth combat moves – it puts anything GTA has done to shame in all honesty. Acting more like a 3rd person brawler, Wei can punch, kick, grab, combo, counter and use the environment to his advantage to great length. His abilities can also be upgraded over time through the gaining of XP as well as collecting hidden jade statues to learn new combat moves from a Kung Fu teacher. Environmental attacks are scattered about flashing red indicating you can use them to take down an enemy when you’re grabbing them. They are ‘one use’ only during each fight but kill foes instantly and can be gruesome and over the top however they are all really satisfying to do – from throwing an enemy into an air conditioning duct to shoving them in a phone box! Guns are available from time to time also but the focus is more on the hand-to-hand combat.
Good Cop/Bad Cop
As Wei Shen has to tread the thin line of good and bad it makes sense that his actions have consequences on his personal development. There are three growth trees that impact this – Triad XP, Police XP and Face XP. Each mission rewards you with various XP specific to the growth tree – either Triad or police. Triad XP is gained for brutally finishing opponents, using hand to hand weapons and essentially acting like a ruthless triad. Police XP is gained for safer driving, keeping innocent civilians alive and general actions of a good police officer. Balancing this is important and you can get maximum rewards for each mission if you play it right – you can replay missions however and get XP you may have missed out on and play in a different style. Face XP is gained separately and affects how people react to you in the street and how much respect you can command. The clothes you wear and the car you drive all go towards this. Wear some street clothes and you may get some Triad bonuses for wearing the full set and the same works for police clothing. It helps to mix and match what you wear as some bonuses give you discounts on cars, make attacks stronger or help give XP bonuses. It really gives you a sense that you have to work your way up to that nice suit or fast superbike – a natural progression you can aim for.
Hong Kong Tourist
In between missions there are lots to keep you occupied as well and luckily lots of these are genuinely fun, link back to the story and Wei’s progression as well as adding to the atmosphere of the game world. Gambling on cock fights, underground fight clubs, street races, helping the police or civilians with their problems, hijacking rival triad vans, going on dates... there’s enough to keep you busy. Not only that, but all of your actions can be tracked online with the rest of the world so you can see how you stack up and what you may have missed.
I must also make a special note that the soundrack really is special. Wide variety of music tracks and radio stations to the point where I have searched for certain songs or entire playlists - there is something for everyone from Electric to Rap to Mandarin pop.
All being said, Sleeping Dogs is an atmospheric, emotionally charged game that flings you deep into the world of the Triads. The script and acting is superb and it’s a story you definitely will not want to miss as well as hosting some of the great action set pieces. Do yourself a favour and try this one out if you’ve missed it. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the experience just as much as I have.