The lights are on
For all the comparisons to Grand Theft Auto that Sleeping
Dogs is inevitably going to receive, it holds its own. Sure it’s an open world
game set in a densely populated urban area controlled by underworld kingpins.
And obviously there are a fair amount of gunfights, murders, police chases and
car crashes. Sure those tropes are all part of the experience. However, what’s
really surprising is that there wasn’t a hint of irony or cynicism in the game.
Sleeping Dogs wasn’t pretending to be something it wasn’t. It’s a game that
utilizes a well-established formula and executes it to create it’s own unique
While familiar in plot, story and mechanics, Sleeping Dogs
also felt foreign and exotic. I knew from the onset the type of GTA in Hong
Kong experience that was in store. What I didn’t know was how it was going to
be presented. The Sleeping Dogs version of Hong Kong setting is a big appeal.
The city is sprawling, exotic, glamorous and dangerous. Driving through the
city streets feels like there’s something new and exciting around every
corner. It’s a city that unless
you’ve actually visited or are a Hong Kong cinema aficionado, you’re probably
unfamiliar with. Unlike New York
City or Los Angeles, which is well represented in American pop culture, i.e.
Liberty City and Los Santos respectively.
As an undercover cop, Wei Shen is given the impossible task
of infiltrating the Triads, a vicious gang operation that is in the middle of a
civil war. Inevitably, Wei is sucked in to the organization. The power, money,
fast cars, and girls are all there for his taking. In comparison, a meager and
thankless life as a detective in a corrupt police force holds little to no
appeal and this is the biggest drawback of the game. There wasn’t anything at
stake for Wei as a detective besides his career. On the other hand, he had
everything to lose as a gangster, his family, friends, wealth and most
importantly, his life. I wonder why the undercover cop plot was even
established in the first place. I would have preferred if it had just been Wey
struggling to make ends meet and then using crime as a theoretical solution
with all the consequential problems that ensue.
Sleeping Dogs’ story is essentially divided in half between
the Triads and the Detectives. The two storylines unfold simultaneously as you
progress through the story and jump back and forth between them. This is
another part of the bigger overall problem with the game. The alternation
between the two stories was jarring if nothing else because the detective
storyline was undeniably dull and uninspired. At times they seemed disjointed almost like they were two
different games. However, the
biggest issue is that I never really believed Wei was a cop at heart. The fact
that Wei killed hundreds of people, hijacked cars, ran over countless innocent
people, stole millions of dollars and caused an unprecedented amount of
property damage doesn’t convince me otherwise. But he’s a good guy at heart and
that’s why the player cares for him. The destruction is just incidental.
Minus the depth, story, and memorable characters, Sleeping
Dogs is, and I’m not ashamed to admit, every bit as fun as GTA IV. Please note that I didn’t say good.
Even the most jaded GTA fans that will accuse Sleeping Dogs of a hack job, will
still have a blast. The combat system takes some getting used to but once it’s
mastered, Wei is transformed from a lowly police detective with a few strong
punches to the unstoppable equivalent of Bruce Lee. There’s something very satisfying about taking down an
entire mob of enemies with only a fist as your primary weapon. I found myself
getting into brawls on purpose just so I could exercise Wei’s muscles and
I spent a lot of time casually cruising around Hong Kong. I used
running errands, colleting items, and completing missions as an excuse but all
I wanted to do was drive and listen to music taking in the gritty neon scenery
and idyllic peaceful vistas. Sleeping Dogs might not reach the level of near
perfection that it was inspired by, but where it excels in is creating a world
that you want to happily get lost in.
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