So it’s been awhile and that’s mainly due to University exams, I’m finally FREE! I thought I’d have an amazing day, finish exams, chill with friends watch Game Of Thrones S3E9…. yea, didn’t got as planned that one.
Anywho Sleeping Dogs, I’ve been sitting on this review for a while due to my workload of revision which like most students was abused and abandoned for minor acts of fun that weren’t all too fun anyway.
You play as Wei Shen a police officer moved to Hong Kong to try and bring down a Triad Gang – The Sun On Yee. The way the artistic designers represented Hong Kong was brilliant. As someone whose been and visited it, playing Sleeping Dogs did have familiar feels to it and even certain larger important buildings were replicas of the ones in real life which just adds to the touristic enjoyment you gain from wandering the Neon bathed sidewalks of the hustling & bustling city. The city is split up into section such as Central, Aberdeen and so on, each has a different feel to it making it quite obvious you’re in a different territory of HK but with subtle transitions from one to the next.
In terms of story you have a mysterious past constantly hinted at but never truely ever discussed in depth which is a pain, almost as if the writers are saying “I know something you don’t know” in some childish sing-songy way.
You get into the Triads via an old friend Jackie (not Chan) who playing the stereotypical 2nd fidel to your Main Character role i.e. shit never goes his way and he just seems like a dude who made one too many unfortunate mistakes.
The Triads themselves have honour and conduct themselves well between each other, although you never see this, the main problem is with 2 role poles, or colonel if you prefer, one whom you work for and the other an old friend of your boss. This too is filled with many cliches and also many tropes filled out in a very similar fashion you’ll probably be used to.
However when it comes to gameplay this game really has some stuff going for it. I really enjoy it as the majority is entirely hand to hand combat, you don’t pick up a gun until about 2 hours into the game and you don’t even realise it as the Martial Arts you know are so fun and simple to weave together. With the options of some gruesome environmental kills or just plain beating the shit out of your aggressor hand-to-hand never really gets old which is appreciated as so many games can get repetitive and thus boring (Assassins Creed!).
You can improve your melee combat and training by being a good triad (killing people in increasingly inventive inhuman ways) & by collecting Jade statues of your old Martial Arts instructor. Being a good triad is a little more complex than just finding statues however. You’re awarded points at the end of missions based on: how badass you were (triad points) and how moral you were (police), so you’re being judged on two fronts at either ends of the spectrum which is a pain in all honesty – especially as crashing whilst driving detracts from police score.
Police upgrades however focus instead of on the art of hand to hand combat, steady aim, weapon handling and the like which is slightly worrying as I felt more pushed toward being a Triad as essentially near no-one owns a gun. So overall the upgrading system seems sort of flawed and unbalanced which is a shame.
As with most big games such as this it does have its fair share of side missions – doing drug busts for the police (which can actually be really fun), but then there’s the bog standard and boring Racing. Sleeping Dogs does add in some new stuff, one was cock-fights which I didn’t bother seeing as it seemed a crappy idea, the other however was fight club (yes i just broke the first 2 rules). You face waves of increasing number of foes and all you have is your martial arts to defend you until the end, these are very fun and help you build up your face value (another annoying level based attribute which doesn’t really get you much).
Sleeping Dogs does have a lot of minor things that work in its favour which make it just that slight bit more immersive or fun, such as walking down a market street there are plenty of opportunities flashing up to buy food/drink that will provide a buff to Wei, it’s slightly funny as it does almost create the feel of being harassed as if you were actually walking down these very busy streets in HK.
Other things like Taxi cabs (which are the selected form of fast travel much like GTA 4) being the correct colour based on their location i.e. Red is Central and Easter, Green is more like Aberdeen and Southern almost etc. These tiny things many developers & designers over look but when you’re in game and it reminds the player of a similar experience then it is truly appreciated that much more.
Another more funny thing is the reverse side of racism I noticed at only like 2 points. As a white dude I’ve had it easy and I get that, however hearing Wei say at one point in the game “If my mom caught me with a Whitey, she’d kill me”, it just made me laugh. I loved the idea of seeing prejudice from the otherside.
Despite the eye for detail and some funny bits of writing here and there, it doesn’t mean Sleeping Dogs is a perfect game by any stretch. Even though you don’t use a gun all that much they feel very clunky however they do have a Stranglehold-esque mechanic (if you ever played that game) where by when you vault over furniture you go into slow mo everytime.
Wei seems to have nightmares akin to that I’d expect of a Hollywood version of a Vietnam Vet which is quite cheesy and at some points just ill fitting seeing as nothing major happened. There are major things in the script he could have nightmares about (and one I did actually find quite scarey toward the end) but no it starts out small and grows.
Another piece of just slightly annoying writing would be the nicknames given to some of the heads in the Sun On Yee, names like Big Smile Lee, Two Chin & Pockmark. Those are distinguishing features and make for stupid nicknames overtime and they do begin to grate as you continue to play the story.
Overall I think I would give Sleeping Dogs a 7/10. Sure its not great and the writing is just plain odd in certain places, but game mechanics and artistic design make up for it quite well. At times it did feel like being a tourist in Hong Kong again and for that it has a little bit more value personally.
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