by KrazyFace, HSM guest contributor
From the people that are most widely known for their massive Final Fantasy series, Square Enix brings us a more western tale set in a place full of Eastern honor.
Ever heard the saying “let sleeping dogs lie”?
Well, it means that disturbing a situation is a bad idea. Which is exactly what you do here in Sleeping Dogs; as undercover cop Wei Shen you’ll be slapped bang in the middle of warring gang factions and tasked with tracking down murderers while infiltrating parts of the Triads. The story here’s a fairly well placed one, though it does have it’s fair share of cliches it churns along with a pretty realistic pace as far as Hollywood tales go. And, as an undercover cop it divides your time by having you do naughty gangster stuff like stealing money trucks and debt collection one minute then busting gang crime in hidden back alleys the next.
The schizophrenic nature of Wei’s job in the city takes its toll though, and sometimes after a nap in your house you’ll be sporadically treated to the voices inside his head as he struggles to keep a grip on his sanity from the stress of being in a perpetual life threatening situation. As the story unfolds things naturally become more and more intense but it is placed in such a way that you still feel in control of its pace, which is no easy thing to pull off. There’s easily around eight hours of game play here without touching the side quests for a general gamer, and because of the beautifully fluid controls (which we’ll get to) you’ll rarely find yourself stuck in many points.
As a sandbox game that will no doubt be classed as ‘another GTA clone’ Sleeping Dogs does a rather good impression of Tokyo, even if it feels a little cramped. The scope of the place is by no means as large as most games of its ilk, but there’s plenty of interesting set pieces to take in, and a fair scattering of things to collect to further character development such as Health Shrines and Jade Statues. There are a few fun distractions too such as Majong Poker, Chicken Fights and Karaoke bars to sing in when the story is finished or you just want to explore.
Driving around is a fairly normal GTA affair, where you can steal most cars from under noses, but you’ll never get to keep the cars you steal. Since you’re a cop you have to buy your rides, ironically, from black-market traders placed in out-of-the-way garages. Each ride you buy will be placed into your garage and if you’re too far from that you can use your mobile to phone the valet and have him bring it to you – a very handy feature, when he’s not busy!
The fighting mechanics is where Sleeping Dogs can really shine though, it’s an amalgamation of Max Pain’s Slow-mo bullet-time when hurdling scenery, Streets of Rage’s Old-Skool use of hurting enemies with bits of the environment and Assassin’s Creed’s block, dodge and counter moves when in close-combat.
Essentially you can always go in with guns blazing, but enemies will return the favor and make things a bit harder for you. However, taking out a room of twenty guys with some super-slick Kung-Fu’ery without getting a scratch on you just looks all kinds of awesome and feels better than head shot-ting your way through the missions.
If you find yourself lacking in the skills department for fisty-cuffs there’s a handy Dojo to help you brush up your skills, and learn enemy patterns. Also, by collecting hidden statues you can add more devastating moves to your fighting arsenal and start paying some proper Enter The Dragon homages to all those foes.
Even better though, there are hidden fight-clubs tucked away under freeway fly-overs and deep in back alleys that will test your fighting skills thoroughly and award you with special clothing items for completion. There are even nods to various kung-fu films with outfits like the yellow jumpsuit from Game of Death (though you kids will all call it a Kill Bill suit no doubt). If statue and health shrines were not enough for the collectors out there, as mentioned, there’s also a fair amount of clothing to be found and purchased. Some are single pieces that just look good while others have buff attachments to them like getting a percentage off vehicle prices or thug bonuses that allow you take more of a beating.
So, the pacing of the story will keep you engaged while the well implemented controls should have you sailing through bad guys like a hot knife through butter. All in all this is a very enjoyable game for those who like their sandboxes, and a surprising effort from the people who dutifully stick with turn-based game play. Put simply, this is a must buy for story driven action seekers.