Square Enix – publisher of megagames like Hitman and Tomb Raider – is set to release its Chinese gangland action game soon and we have had a couple of opportunities to get our hands on it. I talked about it at E3 and then the wonderful folks over at Square sent us a review copy of the game so we could share our opinion with all of you… And that’s what we’re best at!
Sleeping Dogs is set in modern day Hong Kong, a sprawling metropolis filled with businessmen, shops, hotels, entertainment, restaurants, and the triads, the Asian gangs who rule Hong Kong with a kung-fu grip. They take what they want, from whom they want, when they want it and if you’re dumb enough to get in their way, you probably won’t live to regret it.
The story revolves around… Well I don’t want to ruin the game with spoilers so I’ll stick to the stuff you learn in the first few minutes of the game: You play the role of an undercover cop who is working on infiltrating one of the gangs which is competing for power and position in the seedy universe of the Hong Kong underworld. Your mission will force you to act as one of the criminals – committing robberies, extortion, assault and running errands for the bosses – while you are building credibility with the gang, respect from other gangs, fear from the public, and a case with the cops while, at the same time, trying not to be so bad that you get on any of your bosses’ bad sides.
So, pretty much you’re in a bad situation. Your job, as the player, is to make the best of it.
Again, I’m not going to go into spoilers, so I’ll leave the rest of the background and story up to you to experience for yourself. What I will tell you is that the game is chock full of action and fight sequences, from shootouts to motorcycle chases to crash-em-up-derby style car chases through Hong Kong, all the way down to the slow and easy stuff, like getting jumped by half a dozen thugs at once and kicking their asses all over the alley.
The action is fast paced and nicely executed. At no point did I feel like I was doing a mission or fighting a fight just because the writers felt like I needed something to do. It’s all tied in to the story and there’s a reason for everything, whether it is about teaching you a new skill or it’s about progressing in the story.
The graphics are clean and the colors are crisp. Animations are smooth without much clipping, which is a big thing for me. The voice acting is very well done, in both English and Chinese (be careful, there is definitely some very harsh language throughout) and the sound effects are top notch.
The control layout is nicely done. I’ve played the 360 and PC versions and in both cases navigating the control system was smooth and easy. A to run, X to attack, B to grapple and Y to block / counter, with the triggers and bumpers being used for a number of different tasks like driving, etc. It’s very intuitive and you shouldn’t have any trouble figuring it all out in the first few minutes.
All in all, Sleeping Dogs is a VERY solid action/quasi-rpg/fighter/button masher/cops and robbers game which I’ve had a lot of fun with and think you will, as well. If you are a fan of any of those game types, that is. I highly recommend it. I think the last time I had this much fun with a game of this type was GTA IV and that was one of my all time tops so this title gets a smashing score…Tons of fun and not a single unforgivable flaw which I could find.
I’m going to leave you with some of Square’s promo videos and, at the bottom, a bit of gameplay from early on in the game. The gameplay video shows me chasing down a small-time thug and having to fight through a couple of waves of his cronies, before I get to take him on, mano y mano (that’s Chinese for “Busting the dude’s grape”).
Enjoy the videos and give this one a try. I’m sure you’ll dig it!