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Sleeping Dogs

Mixed Loyalties And Massage Parlors
by Ali Rapp on Jul 23, 2012 at 07:30 AM

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Platform PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Publisher Square Enix
Developer United Front Games
Rating Mature

I spent three hours tooling around Hong Kong in Square Enix's upcoming title, Sleeping Dogs.

Players control Wei Shen, an undercover cop sent to Hong Kong in order to infiltrate a Triad organization called Sun On Yee. Shen has an in via his childhood best friend, and has no qualms about participating in gang activities. However, he is still clearly loyal to the police force, making for an engaging story dynamic. For example, while on an assignment for Sun On Yee, I become a little too rambunctious and destroy some of Hong Kong's city property (when you tell me to chase after that car, I'm going to hit all the mailboxes I need to in order to catch it). That lowers my cop score, which affects how quickly I can level up my cop abilities. The same goes for undercover assignments in the Triads. While on duty for the police, racking up Triad points is more difficult, meaning it takes longer to level up my Triad abilities. Wei Shen’s dual loyalties result in some discomforting moments. I try to play for both sides, which results in a guilty conscience. When I hit city property on Triad missions, I legitimately feel bad. When gleaning information from my trusting childhood best friend, I feel traitorous.

Sleeping Dogs employs a simple leveling and perks system that lets players choose the abilities on which they’d like to focus: cop, Triad, health, melee, or face. Face is similar to charisma, as it boosts the amount of respect NPCs give to Shen. I decide to split my focus, unlocking a strike damage bonus (a Triad perk) and a cop ability called Slim Jim, which allows me to break into cars without busting the windows or setting off the alarm.

Combat is fluid and easy to learn. In the three hours I played the game, I was given a weapon only a handful of times, so the majority of my fighting was done with fists and feet. Some of the unlockable perks seem to indicate that weapons become more accessible and useful later. The game doesn't have a tutorial, though the first few fights were slow enough that I was able to take my time in understanding combos and other fighting mechanics. I dislike button mashing, but rarely feel like I'm able to take my time and execute good combos in many fisticuff games. Sleeping Dogs gets the formula right and makes combat understandable, challenging, and well-paced.

Learning to drive is a little less forgiving. Motorcycles are hard to handle, and it just so happens that Shen's first vehicle is a bike. Going in reverse, be it in a sports car or a city bus (which I drove for a side mission), is frustratingly slow, especially in the heat of a car chase. I drove a lady's car off a dock and into the harbor so she could collect insurance on it, though, so maybe that makes up for it.

The game has a somewhat troubled past. Originally an Activision property, Sleeping Dogs (formerly True Crime 3) was picked up by Square Enix, which dropped the True Crime license. Nonetheless, despite some gameplay quirks, I found myself unwilling to turn off my Xbox and give up playing Sleeping Dogs. The game is a boatload of fun and manages to skillfully combine open world exploration and challenging combat. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the final version.

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Sleeping Dogs

PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
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