Whenever a game experiences a delay from its expected release date, potential buyers should feel a bit apprehensive over its quality. And when a publisher decides to outright cancel a project when it was nearly complete? It typically means the game is so troubled that it's beyond redemption. At least, that was the general rule. When Activision cancelled the Hong Kong entry in its True Crime series, Square-Enix acquired the publishing rights, let the original developer continue to refine it, and retitled the game Sleeping Dogs. The question was what Square had seen in the title that Activision did not? Should they have just let Sleeping Dogs lie?
Fortunately for gamers, Sleeping Dogs is not only a respectable title, it's a decent one, following the path set by Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series while still retaining its own sense of identity. What makes Sleeping Dogs stand out is not the story, which follows a police officer on an undercover assignment with the Triads; the voice acting, which features such Hollywood talent as Tom Wilkinson, Emma Stone, and Lucy Liu; nor the setting, which brings the densely populated city-state of Hong Kong to vibrant life. All of these elements are well done, but what really sells the game is its action.
Drawing inspiration from kung-fu films, Sleeping Dogs has you engaging in rhythmic fight sequences reminiscent of the combat in both Assassin's Creed and Batman: Arkham City. The fighting is more slowly paced, but it feels fluid and natural, with players able to insert various twists on the hand-to-hand moves as they engage multiple foes at once. You can grab enemies and use points in the environment for violent finishing moves, from smashing a goon into a nearby wall or throwing them off a roof, to pushing a head into a spinning fan or slamming a body into a vending machine.
When it's time for a gunfight, you won't simply duck behind cover and wait for the right time to strike. Sleeping Dogs rewards those who think and act like a shark -- always moving forward -- with the game slowing down the action after you hurdle over an object so you can decorate the area or room, John Woo style. Even the car sequences are thrilling, allowing you to slow-motion shoot while on the move, ram other vehicles in Burnout-like fashion, and even leap out of vehicles to commandeer another car while speeding down the street.
Where Sleeping Dogs falters is in the actual mission design, which borrows too heavily from the Grand Theft Auto playbook. You'll do too many of the same types of tasks you've done in past open world games, including stealing specific models of cars for extra money, engaging in street races, making deliveries from one destination to another, and of course, beating up or shooting down large groups of rival gang members. The world isn't as large as other open-world games, either, so travel is limited to cars and boats instead of helicopters and planes.
Although the game has you earning experience by completing missions on behalf of the Triads as well as law enforcement, unlocking new skills as you progress, there are far more criminal-oriented missions than police cases. This may disappoint those who enjoy the different mini-games associated with being a cop, such as planting bugs, hacking surveillance cameras, and triangulating phone calls.
It's also a shame the story doesn't take into account your actions as either a criminal or cop, as the game would have been more interesting if there were consequences for completing certain missions on either side of the law. These are relatively minor complaints, however, as Sleeping Dogs is an enjoyable title whose setting, combat, and sense of atmosphere will draw in fans of the genre, even if the game doesn't break new ground in terms of missions or activities.
People who downloaded Sleeping Dogs have also downloaded:
Saints Row: The Third, Fallout 3, Alan Wake, Dead Island, Assassin's Creed III, Alan Wake's American Nightmare, Scarface: The World is Yours, Dead Rising 2: Off the Record
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