Some of the best game experiences come from highly detailed, extensive and immersive sandbox games, and with Sleeping Dogs you can expect just that. Set in Hong Kong, which is an unusual setting for video games, Sleeping Dogs puts you in the shoes of an undercover cop who must try and bring a Triad down single handily. With such an impressive opening you are probably wondering whether there’s anything bad that can be said about this one - read on to find out.
You’ll be spending your time in Hong Kong as the detective, Wei Shen, who has recently arrived from the United States to help the local police take down an up and coming Triad by the name of ‘Sun On Yee’. The opening mission sees Wei dealing drugs with some thugs when his partner, one of the Sun On Yee, decides to kill one of guys you’re doing business with. This forces the police watching you to intervene and begins the action-packed adventure you’ll be spending the next thirty hours or so playing. This first piece of action is in the form of a cinematic running sequence from the police and sees Wei jumping, sliding and climbing over various objects to make his escape. On this occasion Wei is unsuccessful but this starts his undercover mission as the members of the Sun On Yee now believe he’s one of them.
In a game that has been compared to Grand Theft Auto, you can expect to engage in combat quite a lot of the time, but one thing you may find a little odd is you’ll rarely be wielding any guns. Sleeping Dogs features a combat system that can be loosely compared to the one found in the Batman: Arkham games, which involve standard attacks being made most of the time, but whenever enemies attack you, you must react quick enough with the right buttons to block, dodge, or counter. This is actually really refreshing and also plays into the whole ‘Hong Kong’ setting where martial arts play a big role in people’s lives. You do have the chance to use weapons every now and then, but it’s not as simple as just running and gunning. Once again, Sleeping Dogs adds another spin on a normal concept by adding bullet time when you slide out of cover, which extends in time for every head shot you make.
One of the most exciting aspects of Sleeping Dogs is by far the city. Split into four districts, North Point, Central, Aberdeen and Kennedy Town, Hong Kong is a fantastic setting for a sandbox game. You’ll find that each district has its own personality and types of people while still remaining consistent enough to blend well. You’ll find all manner of places to visit from massage parlours, where you become rejuvenated and gain some temporary increases to your ‘Face’ level, local shops where you can get drinks to improve your melee skills or herbal tea to take less damage, and various food stands, where you’ll find pork dumplings, noodles and other oriental dishes on sale. There are also some martial art clubs in each of the districts where you can hone your combat skills and a few car dealerships where you can purchase some flashy rides.
Cruising round Hong Kong in your favourite car or on your fastest bike is the best way to really appreciate the city that has been beautifully crafted for Wei’s adventure. When driving cars you have the option to hijack other cars, which sees Wei lunging himself out of the driver’s door onto the roof of the adjacent vehicle and allow him to speed away while the previous driver lays on the floor with some cuts and bruises. This is a great way to escape the cops and just plain fun to do every now and then. Bikes are very easy to control and when you’ve managed to save enough pennies for an A-Class one, you’ll really see what the definition of speed is! You’ll find all manner of collectables and side missions throughout the city, and these will keep you busy long after the story has finished, if you wish to remain a resident of Hong Kong.
Mentioned earlier was the ‘Face’ feature, which is essentially your popularity and respect level amongst the Triads of Hong Kong. This goes up every time you help a local and allows you to unlock better cars and clothing. There is also a Cop and Triad rank that you can level up by doing the main missions, and these unlock extra abilities and access to other weapons or tools that can help you accomplish your tasks. The martial art club in North Point is home to one of your old Kung Fu masters, and each time you find one of his missing statues he will teach you a new fighting technique, which you can use to add a bit of variance to the combat scenes.
Considering the vastness of Hong Kong and the amount of people and objects that present, the graphics and stability of Sleeping Dogs is very impressive and you’ll often find yourself stopping and staring at the sunsets in the day time and the neon lights that turn on at night. With a dynamic weather system to add the cherry on top, you’ll almost feel as if you’re living in Hong Kong and not just playing a video game.
The Social Hub, which can be found in the menu or on your mobile phone, is a great way to keep track of everything you have done in the game, from kills to stunts, to your gambling winnings or even how many parking meters you’ve destroyed in a row. You can compare all these stats with your friends and this is what will keep you wanting to keep playing even after you’ve finished everything this game has to offer.
Going back to the opening question and whether there is anything bad about Sleeping Dogs, there are a few rough edges here and there but absolutely nothing to write home about. The overall experience from start to finish is brilliant and the only disappointment is the wait you’ll have until some DLC hopefully comes out. Even if you’re currently playing something right now I urge you to stop and go buy this right now!