Sleeping Dogs Xbox 360 Review
Publisher - Square Enix – Developer – United Front Games – Genre – Action – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 18+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3
If not for Square Enix, Sleeping Dogs could have very well been one of those games that would have slept eternally. Originally the third game in the True Crime series, publisher Activision decided to throw it on the scrapheap, citing that the game didn’t do enough to compete with similar games. It was fortunate that it was saved from an undeserved death by Square Enix, then.
Taking place in Hong Kong, you take control of Wei Shen, an undercover police officer whose mission is to infiltrate the Triads. The story is a strong one, with Wei proving to be a likeable lead, while unsavoury types seem to be around every single corner. There’s also an impressive list of actors on voice over duty, with the likes of Will Yun Lee, James Hong, Tom Wilkinson and Lucy Liu lending their pipes.
Being one of those regular open-world games, original publisher Activision was certainly correct to claim that Sleeping Dogs was a part of a very competitive genre. United Front’s game has the city as well as all the driving, shooting, fighting and exploring that you would expect to find from such a game that has been set in the Grand Theft Auto mould.
It’s lucky that most elements of the game are finely tuned, then.
The driving sticks to the fun and intuitive side, with vehicles feeling relatively light to control, and they seem to enjoy handbrake turns around corners, instantly swinging around and likely creating many a smile. Sleeping Dogs also allows you to leap from one vehicle to another, Pursuit Force style. This is done by simply holding a button down and waiting for an arrow to turn green, rendering Wei Shen quite the action man as he jumps through the air, clinging on to the targeted vehicle.
The brutal fighting meanwhile takes its cue from Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham games. With one attack button and one reversal button, it’s the same two button system that made the combat so successful in those Batman games. Sleeping Dog’s combat is stiffer than Rocksteady’s game, although it’s still a hugely enjoyable portion, of which allows you to attack enemies coming at you from all directions. There’s a grapple button, which allows you to move opponents into hotspots in the environment, leading to some nasty looking animations. There are also melee weapons to arm yourself with, and hitting someone over the head with an iron bar is just as satisfying as it is with your virtual limbs, which is a credit to the animations. The success of the fighting is all well and good as you’ll be doing an awful lot of it in the 20+ hours that the game will likely last you for.
Moving onto the shooting, and this also more than does the job. As Wei isn’t able to take too many bullets before he becomes a fallen hero, you are encouraged to take as much cover as you can. The cover system is reliable, with Wei latching onto cover obediently, and regular features such as blind-fire are also available to you. What surprises is that, however long you play the game, Max Payne style diving will never become available to you. You can vault over cover, resulting in slow motion in which you can continue firing at your enemies, but fans of John Woo will certainly be disappointed with the lack of a shoot dodge ability, given that the game partially takes its inspiration from Woo’s own Chinese action films.
Lastly, in terms of gameplay mechanics, we come to the Parkour. Obviously inspired by Assassin’s Creed, Sleeping Dog’s version has none of the flash or slickness of the graceful heroes from Ubisoft’s series. But, again, it works. Running and jumping, clambering over obstacles, it’s all done with a single button press. Timing is also key, with better precision causing Wei to smoother overcome what’s in his path.
The game also has an upgrade system. There’s Cop, Triad and Face upgrade trees, that all result in giving you various abilities and perks. Doing missions and tasks that are noble will result in filling the Cop meter, less savoury actions will fill the Triad meter, and the Face meter is representative of Wei’s general reputation in Hong Kong. Each time you fill each meter, you are given an upgrade point to spend, improving Wei’s abilities and adding perks.
There’s a wealth of things to do in Sleeping Dog’s Hong Kong. Being an open-world game, there’s more besides the story missions to take part in. There’s racing, drug busts (complete with a rather annoying hacking mini game) martial arts clubs, favours, karaoke and more to get yourself involved in. The Tokyo cityscape, with its long stretching highways, tight alleyways, and neon lit streets is also impressive.
There’s little else to say other than thank you Square Enix from saving Sleeping Dogs from the scrapheap. United Front’s game has very few of its own ideas, but it’s a nice blend of gameplay mechanics from different games. The driving offers instant gratification, the shooting is far from brainless, the Parkour is all about timing, and the brutally animated fighting is the best to be found in a game of its type. As good as it all comes together, a few more of its own ideas certainly wouldn’t have gone amiss.