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Sleeping Dogs Review: the Streets of Hong Kong are Mean, and Fun

In 2009 True Crime: Hong Kong was announced, then subsequently was cancelled. Not too long after Square Enix picked up the publishing rights and renamed it Sleeping Dogs. Even with the game's hectic development cycle it still manages to be one of the best open world games to come out this year.

Your Hong Kong adventure starts in a shanty motel. You play Wei Shen, an undercover cop who has a very different approach to justice. Your mission is to infiltrate the biggest crime syndicate in Hong Kong, the Triads, and slowly work your way up the ladder to bring down them down. But this isn't just a story of justice, and soon Wei, and his peers, start questioning if he is playing a Triad, or becoming one. The story was surprisingly compelling and left me excited to see what was coming next all the way up to the end.

Sleeping Dogs is very similar to other games of its kind. There is a main goal, but tons of side things to do when you want to take a break. You are able to explore the city at your leisure and can do anything from the start. The game world is seemingly empty to begin with but starts to fill in as the game progresses. You can do favors for people, arrange drug busts, street races, fight clubs, and of course collect things. Statues will unlock moves for Wei to use. Health shrines will give Wei more health. If you were looking for something different from the open world formula, Sleeping Dogs is not that game.

One thing Sleeping Dogs does do differently is giving players a reason not to go crazy in their vehicles and go on killing sprees. You have two meters, a cop meter and a triad meter. The two meters don't necessarily represent morality, but more just the way you handle missions. Things like driving safely, performing drug busts, and other cop related things will raise your cop meter, unlocking things more focused on armed gameplay. Getting headshots, performing environmental kills, and doing triad missions will raise your triad meter, unlocking melee focused upgrades. You also have a face meter. Doing favors for people will raise this meter, allowing you to buy nicer cars and clothes.

The combat is fun and addictive and very reminiscent of Rocksteady's Batman games. Combat is free flowing and simple once you get the hang of it. You will be performing counters, jump kicks, roundhouses, and a flurry of other moves based on timing rather than button combinations. You can also perform environmental kills which can be brutal and satisfying.

Gunplay on the other hand feels more like a chore and not nearly as deep and fun as the melee. Luckily most of the big gunfights don't happen till near the end and isn't required for most situations.

The voice acting is all very well done and provides a good mix of English and Chinese which really makes Hong Kong feel alive.

Sleeping Dogs is in my opinion one of the better open world games to come out this year. But that doesn't mean it's completely free of problems that plague the genre. Many of the side things to do in the city can become repetitive after doing them once or twice. The main missions, while having some set-piece moments, are in large mostly just drive here, kill these gang members, pick up this dude and come back. The missions are also sometimes filled with menial tasks suck as singing karaoke, or showing someone around the city, and it really made the game drag at times. Although I never ran into any big bugs there are reports of some big ones, and even game breaking ones so be on the lookout for those.

All in all I was very surprised with how much I enjoyed Sleeping Dogs. And while it doesn't do anything groundbreaking with the genre, it is an excellent game with interesting character, story, and gameplay.

8.5/10 

 

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