I’ve recently been playing a game on the Xbox 360 which came out about a year ago, Sleeping Dogs. For a while it looked like the game wouldn’t happen at all, until Square Enix of Final Fantasy fame came along a rescued the project. I wanted to share a bit about my experience playing the game.
Sleeping Dogs was originally, before it was saved by Square Enix, going to be True Crime: Hong Kong. If you’ve ever played either of the previous True Crime games you’ll understand most of the gameplay in Sleeping Dogs. To give the game concept a quick roundup, you’re an undercover police officer charged with infiltrating a notorious triad gang. On your way to taking down the triads you’ll have highs and lows in your relationship with your police handlers and can take part in all sorts of side activities, such as Drugs Busts and Street Races.
Reading that you can see why so many dismiss Sleeping Dogs as a cheap imitation of GTA with the undercover police officer angle thrown in just to make it different. I’d say that’s very unfair to what is a solid and enjoyable game in its own right. I guess any sandbox crime game is going to have the inevitable comparisons drawn to GTA though.
The story is fairly good, the characters I especially liked. They’re cliqued at times, and the plot can be predictable, but I found myself really caring about your childhood friend Jackie who helps you into the triad and rises up the ranks with you, but begins to have doubts. Unfortunately, whilst the core story and characters are pretty strong, another good example being your original boss Winston’s mother, there’s a whole group of side characters and plots which feel like too much of an after thought, I’m thinking of Sonny’s missions in particular here. Sonny’s middle senior management and a bit of a creep, but never really means anything drastic to the plot even though you’re forced to help him out for several missions. Overall though, the story was good and I never skipped a single cut-scene, although I did feel awkward generally at the depiction of females in the game. I understand that its a macho gangster game, but the females were either depicted as a bit crazy like Winston’s mother or throwing themselves at you. That’s probably the only major negative to the story.
The real stand out star of Sleeping Dogs thought is the combat. I think this is the biggest difference between it and GTA actually. In GTA you start with a gun, and guns are everywhere. Gun shops are on every corner and can be bought for a handful of dollars. As you would expect, gun combat is incredibly refined, with a top notch cover system to match.
Sleeping Dogs is entirely different. It’s True Crime semi-sequals were exactly the same as GTA in the combat respect, but Sleeping Dogs being based in Hong Kong meant a major difference – guns are increadibly hard to come buy. There are no gun shops and, with being British until 1997, the police don’t routinely carry guns either in Hong Kong. The developers matched this, and so decided to focus on the melee combat. Another advantage to being based in Hong Kong allowed for a strong focus on martial arts, with fantastic martial arts fights breaking out whenever you meet rival gangsters.
I found out through research that the martial art style used in Sleeping Dogs is “Jeet Kune Do” – a hybrid of all martial arts first pioneered by Bruce Lee. That doesn’t surprise me because the melee fights you will get in to belong in film, they flow well and look great. Combine it with the free running that the main character can pull off, leaping over barriers and cars, and you get a combat system straight out of a Bruce Lee film. Add to that interesting environmental take downs, like slamming your enemy into a phone box, and you have a great fun combat system.
Compare this to GTA, which is very solid in its own right but I do tire of how fat and lumbering the main characters often are to control. They can’t free run like Wei can in Sleeping Dogs, and they certainly can’t pull off his flying double kicks. That was always something I missed in GTA, a melee fighting system that was fun and fluid. I really enjoy GTA’s gun combat, but Sleeping Dogs beats it hands down for melee.
The gun combat is solid though in Sleeping Dogs, although its unashamedly no GTA, and I especially like the slow motion. I know GTA V has this on one character, and so did Red Dead Redemption from Rockstar as well, but I do like Sleeping Dogs’ slow motion. That said, I appreciate any slow motion mechanic in gun combat – its satisfying to watch just like the martial arts in Sleeping Dogs.
That sums up Sleeping Dogs, its interesting and good enough to play through entirely without getting bored, but its real strength is how exciting and fun it is to get in a fight. I probably doubled my game time by jumping out of my car on the way to a mission when I spotted rival gangsters and having a fight sequence right there and then.
The vehicles are not spectacular and the physics on them isn’t quite right, but I didn’t really notice that too much. They get you to the next fight quick enough, and that’s the point with Sleeping Dogs.
I would really recommend picking up a copy of Sleeping Dogs (you can get it for around £10 now). It’s cheap but great fun. Its not GTA, but its not trying to copy GTA either – I am happy to own both and play both. Sleeping Dogs has been pretty overlooked and missed by many, so its a bit of an undiscovered hidden gem in that respect. Its good fun but also pretty well polished, just not particularly ground breaking. I would definitely recommend.
Digital Salad – https://lifeasadigitalsalad.wordpress.com