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Sleeping Dogs Review
I am of the thought that the Grand Theft Auto games are too big for their own good. The amount of content that those games throw at you can sometimes throw someone off of actually playing them. While it can be a good thing to say that a game has too much to do, for some players that isn’t something they’ll enjoy. There needs to be a happy medium of content and length. Also, the player needs to be able to control how much time they want to invest in such a game. For the most part, open world games have handled that pretty well. You could sit there for 30+ extra hours and do everything on the side or you can do some of those side missions but focus on the main one primarily. That should last you anywhere from 10-30 hours.
I’ve played many open world games over the years and most of them cannot contain my attention for more than 10 hours. Others such as Fallout, the Elder Scrolls games, and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars kept me hooked but not quite in the same vein as Sleeping Dogs. With Sleeping Dogs I got hooked from the moment I started playing and it didn’t let up. The games I mentioned above hooked me on gameplay. I enjoyed the open-ended nature of Fallout 3 and the new gameplay mechanics introduced in Skyrim. For Sleeping Dogs, I got hooked on the story it told, the characters I got introduce to, and the “just the right size” city of Hong Kong.
“Just the right size” is how I explain Sleeping Dogs to people. It isn’t as big as Grand Theft Auto but it isn’t small, either. You’ll find plenty of things to do but you’ll never feel overwhelmed. You’ll never get that feeling like you’re at a part that is either boring or too much and gets you distracted or disenchanted with the experience. What Sleeping Dogs does is give you a set of missions you can do every time you go to bed. Most will carry over if you didn’t complete them but if you did, you’ll actually be prompted by the game to head to sleep. It’s a nice mechanic to make you think that after a hard night’s work, you need to sleep every once in a while. It keeps the missions in check and allows you get a flow of how you want to play.
To that effect, for most of my gameplay I couldn’t skip a mission. Every type of mission is fun to play, including the racing ones. I, myself, usually hate and skip the racing missions in these types of games. I’m not a big fan of racing, although I’ll enjoy some Forza every now and then. I definitely consider myself very casual when it comes to racing. Sleeping Dogs’ racing missions are actually a part of a scene in the city that you initially have to infiltrate for the police. After that, it is up to you to continue racing or stop.
That is another thing that this game does very well. It introduces you to everything you could do in the city and then sets you on your way. However, you don’t really see when they set you free because the introductions come in form of missions. You’ll head to your triad contact or your hidden cop house and you’ll set out on an objective that is actually a tutorial. They hide this so very well that you still feel like you are playing the game and it isn’t holding your hand. After a while you’ll begin to realize that the game did all of that then naturally set you off on your own path. It is a really awesome thing that United Front was able to pull off and every open world game needs to take note.
The only part that I wish the game did hold my hand was the absolute beginning of the game. You start the game, an event happens, and you have to run from the cops. The game drops you into this part with little help. It may tell you how to vault over an object but it doesn’t give you a great sense of when to do it to pull it off right. I’ll tell you that I died twice before actually “getting it”. Afterwards, though, you feel pretty in tune with how to run and jump and pull off stunts. The combat is very easy to get used to, especially if you’re used to Batman: Arkham City or Assassin’s Creed. You can play the combat either way. You can go Batman style and go on the offensive while countering incoming attacks or you can go Assassin’s Creed and stay defensive waiting for an incoming attack and then rush them. You’ll get very familiar with combat to the point that you’ll only reason get in danger of dying when you aren’t paying attention to the counters or during shooting sections.
Melee is easy but it is constantly introducing more and more ways to hurt, knock out, kill, and maim your enemies. You’ll unlock new attacks through your Cop, Triad, and Martial Arts training. You’ll be able to counter in new ways that disarm or break bones. You can follow up regular combos with stun moves. Some moves will actually make others wince around you giving you time to take out another thug. The combat flows very well and it isn’t like Batman where sometimes you’ll see Bats slide about to counter a move from someone not particularly close to him. Every move in Sleeping Dogs has a set of motions. You’ll never see Wei Shen slide about to counter or attack. He’ll walk or run up to do the ability and it all seems so natural.
I played the game on Steam so I can’t attest to the controls on the 360 or PS3, however the keyboard and mouse worked very well here. Initially I felt that controls were awkward but that was before I got used to them. It was a hasty judgement. After my first hour of play, I felt used to the keyboard’s controls and where my fingers needed to be in order to be ready for anything. The mouse, on the other hand, is barely needed. You’ll move the camera with it but it is only need when running or shooting. Aside from that, the mouse isn’t needed at all. When driving, the mouse actually makes the camera go a bit nuts. You’ll learn to not touch it unless you pop out the window to shoot.
The keyboard controls worked very well so I can only think that a controller will feel just as good, if not better.
Graphics & Design
You’ll never get over just how great Hong Kong looks in Sleeping Dogs. That point is even more so on the PC thanks to the High Res textures that were releases on Steam. It makes everything looks so vibrant. The city is full of lights from windows, signs, and cars. It all makes for a wonderful looking world to play in.
The architecture of the streets, buildings, and decorations really brings the city to life alongside its always crowded alleys and sidewalks. Unlike Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row, if you look at a street and expect that in real life it would be bustling with people, in Sleeping dogs it usually is. Thanks to the point I made earlier about the size of the game not being as huge as GTA, Hong Kong is able to seem real with the amount of people hurrying about, doing jobs, eating, buying, and just living normally. It makes for a better game world by far.
The clothing and materials you seen on the characters and other objects helps to get you even more immersed in this virtual city.
Not only do the graphics look very impressive, the design of Sleeping Dogs should be commended for making me feel like I was in Hong Kong while playing. It is easy to be immersed in the experience just thanks to the world and the way it looks and runs.
The music is also something that helps immerse you. The game has a great selection of tunes that is dominated by Chinese hits with a side of Americana. I was surprised to see a partnership with Roadrunner Records who have their own radio station. I’m a huge fan of Dream Theater and I was happy to hear On The Backs of Angels come on the radio. Most of the time you can just change the stations and find something you want to listen to but I highly advise against that when racing. For some reason, the game picks the bests tracks to listen to when racing and normally it is stuff that I don’t hear when just driving around. In fact, during car events in the story the game chooses a track for you to listen to and it always enhances the experience. The music really helped me get into the world and story more and if your station gets changed on your, it’s a reason and you should keep it like that. Trust me, you’ll get really into some of this music.
This is one of the strongest points of the game. Every character you meet in Sleeping Dogs is memorable and fun. You’ll meet serious Triad bosses, their families, starlets, whores, karaoke hostesses, cops, old friends, and plenty of thugs. Each focus character has their own way of going about things and when you work for them, your approach will change. It is because of these characters that the game keeps changing the way you should play. You may start out with Winston being a rough up thug asking for tribute money but when you hit the next work character, you may be asked to get tough and start killing. It escalates quite nicely as you go from character to character and the story gets intenser with each one.
Sleeping dogs introduces some really great characters and the main one is the best. Wei Shen is an amazing character. From the voice work to the animations, you really get into Wei’s story and his character itself. You start to attached to Wei and everything going on around him. The way he interacts with different characters gives Wei a very in-depth person.
The best part about Wei in this game is how his psychological well being gets affected throughout the story. With every passing day the events start to get to Wei. His dreams and memories come back to haunt him and it makes his decision making shaky and he skirts the edge of being an undercover cop and a Triad. You really feel close to that experience as you meet more characters and get used to them and into their stories but bad things always follow.
Another character that you start to really like is Jackie Ma, one of Wei’s old friends. He is caught up in the Triad business but for his size and stature you would have thought he’d be dead a long time by now. Jackie is resourceful and always finds a way to help out or get more work. He gets very interesting at one point in the game when he begins to rethink his life. At that point and beyond, every time you see Jackie you start to wonder if he is going to do something or just pop. I really enjoyed the Jackie missions and his story is very interested as it is very psychological and makes you think about how Wei must feel.
Even the Triad bosses you meet and work for have distinct personalities and little traits about them that make them unique. You’ll never meet a character in this game that isn’t important. If they take the time to put a character in a cutscene, they are relevant and you should pay attention because the acting and personalities you meet are a part of why Sleeping dogs is so great.
I really don’t want to go into detail about this because it would be a shame and a crime to ruin this story for anyone. Sleeping Dogs is one of the most gripping and intriguing stories I’ve ever played. The life of an undercover cop is one that we enjoy to watch but Wei Shen’s story gets you involved in the in-and-out working of being both a cop and any type of gangster or crime lord. It shows you how deep everything runs and how hard it hits the cop. It shows you how relationships form and how hard it can be to pull the metaphorical trigger when you’re asked to set them up or bring them in. Everything Wei Shen goes through hurts him psychological and you see the effects every day.
Sometimes I would wake up after being told to by the game and Wei’s dreams and memories came back to remind him of his actions and what is going on. You can see that it is getting to him and he sweats and begins to freak out. I don’t think you needed to do this but I would take Wei into the bathroom and make him use the sink to wash his face. It’s a voluntary reaction because I would do the same thing if I was Wei. I would just need to soak my face with some cold water and stare in the mirror. It is things like this that make me feel that Sleeping Dogs is a story that cannot be missed by gamers.
The flow of the game is another great thing. When Wei just travels the town he’ll come across people who need help, side missions, tribute payments, and plenty of other things. I don’t feel like the game’s story misses much but one aspect I wish was expanded on was the women. Specifically the women that Wei meets and gets numbers for. These are sort of girlfriends that Wei can take out and actually obtain some nice abilities thanks to the Face mechanic. However, the woman will know when you cheat on them and they’ll end things with you. This kinda sucks because I screwed up and called a girl because I wanted to do more karaoke. It reminds me of those terrible movies where they walk into a bar and a Chinese man is trying to sing an American song. Well, it turned out to be a date mission and it ruined a relationship that I was working on. Then again, cheating is a bad thing and I got what I deserved. After the dust settled, I got with another women but after one date, you really never hear from them again. I don’t know if the game is trying to show you the life of a Triad where things happen and move every day that you never really settle or it is just a mechanic of the game’s story that wasn’t really put into more depth.
You’ll find plenty of things like that to keep you interested in not just the main story but everything going on in Hong Kong. It is because of this that I am grateful that we are not overwhelmed with things to do, as I alluded to earlier. It lets you enjoy the stories you come across and the characters you meet.
Length and DLC
I’m sure you could a nice 30-50 hours out of Sleeping Dogs if you do everything in the city. For my first playthrough I got 15 hours out of the game. For the first ten I did everything around me. Every mission, every contact. When I hit ten hours, I did a story mission that was so gripping that I couldn’t stop following the story. Because of this I sort of rushed through the game and that is why I ended up with 15 hours. The good thing is that it allows you to continue playing after the story to complete missions and beat challenges.
Challenges are things to keep you going in the game. If you drive safely in a car without stopping, jump a long distance in a motorcycle, or get enough headshots with a gun you’ll see a challenge meter pop-up to show you your progress and current medal standing: bronze, silver, or gold. These aren’t hard to do and that makes them fun to do. I found myself going to a mission during one play session and on the way I realized I was safe driving for almost a minute. I focused on doing nothing but safe driving and wound up with three minutes and forty seconds and a new medal. Challenges pop up all the time and remind you that you can do better without trying to get you frustrated.
There is plenty of DLC coming for Sleeping Dogs. Right now, as of this writing, you can find two packs that give you clothing and a car and another that gives you XP to start you out. The XP pack isn’t something that breaks the game at all. It will boost you up to level 3 in cop and Triad and that is just high enough to give you a slight edge at the start but it won’t last. I actually liked that boost pack because it gave me more moves to keep combat fresh as I worked to unlock more.
I do hope that any of the DLC that comes out featuring mission will happen after the ending. I am very intrigued about Wei’s future after everything that goes down and I want to see more. I would be a bit disenchanted if the DLC took me back to a flashback mission or something during the story. I want to see the now and beyond. If United Front does this, I can expect that I’ll be back for more Sleeping Dogs for a long time.
I had a tremendous time playing Sleeping Dogs. I wanted to give this a ten out of a ten. I truly did. However I had some slight setbacks with glitches and a feeling that the ending was a bit rushed. It wasn’t a bad ending but they could have drug it out a bit more to including a mission set about a character that screws you over near the end. That’s all I’ll say about that. Trust me, that isn’t a spoiler. People are screwing you and others over throughout the entire story and it is so fun to watch play out.
Speaking of the glitches, I had two missions where Wei would be running forward but at a slow rate. I was wondering what was going on when all of a sudden Wei should begin to levitate into the air. I was glitched out. It wouldn’t happen a lot but it would be enough to prompt a few restarts and some aggravation.
I’ll be honest, you’ll be missing out on one of the best games I’ve ever played if you skip Sleeping Dogs. It was an under the radar game for me as I was more excited for Darksiders 2. When I got both games, I couldn’t even get passed an hour or so in Darksiders without wanting to head back to Hong Kong. That isn’t a knock on Darksiders, it’s a point that Sleeping Dogs is just too gripping to stop playing. It is very fun to play, easy to get used to, and a unique experience. It would be a shame to not pick this game up and experience it. As of right now, Sleeping Dogs is my game of the year and it is going to take quite a game to beat it out.