Sleeping Dogs Review
Imagine a video game that featured the frenetic and violent shoot-out of classic John Woo movies, the freedom and huge overworld from GTA, the immersion and attention to detail that Shemnue and Yakuza offered, and the drama and character dynamics of Infernal Affairs. Sleeping Dogs is all of this with enough quality gameplay and content to keep you busy for a long time.
What began as a new entry in the True Crimes series ended up as a third-person sandbox game with emphasis on driving, shooting, and fighting. It's similar to other games on the market, but Sleeping Dogs stands out in its attention to detail, interactive environment, and its polished mechanics. While some sandbox titles may shoot for the moon, they often have to sacrifice controls or another gameplay aspect. Nothing in Sleeping Dogs feels sacrificed; everything is incredibly sharp and focused.
United Front has created a game in which its cinematic influences permeate every aspect. Costumes and dialog reference the highlights of classic Hong Kong kung fu flicks while surrounding the main character, Wei Shen, with the melodrama and themes of sacrifice and loyalty. Shen is an undercover cop playing both sides of the law. You’ll do missions for both Hong Kong law enforcement as well as the Triads. As the story weaves, the classic dilemma of who to trust plays out a like a well-made crime drama: full of things you would expect with just enough twists to make it interesting.
Sleeping Dogs offers an open-world version of Hong Kong to explore. The usual staples are here: a garage full of cars to steal, hidden items located throughout the city, and a semi-realistic Hong Kong to traverse. What Sleeping Dogs does so much better than other open-world games is make every part of the game fun to play and offer a constant incentive to keep moving forward while still offering enough leeway to do your own thing at your own pace.
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Along with the story missions, there are a slew of bonus missions from robbing armored trucks to intimidating shop owners to hand over protection money. There are always plenty of missions, and each offers adequate rewards for completion. Rewards can range from something as simple as cash payment to something as substantial as martial arts upgrades. Depending on the missions you complete, bonus points are awarded to either police abilities or criminal abilities. While police abilities give you the options to take down criminals more efficiently, the criminal upgrades offer more brutal combat bonuses that make cracking skulls easier. Both are fun to play. There was never a time where I hesitated to do side mission before tackling a few of the story missions due to the amount of fun to be had. Even finding the hidden collectibles, which usually is a drag, is a ton of fun in this game, with each hidden location feeling more like hide-and-seek rather than a monotonous chore as in other open-world titles.
Each of these missions are complemented by some of the best controls I have ever used in an open-world game, from the fighting system to the shooting system to the driving system. It becomes a cohesive whole rather than jumbled mess of different play styles. The fighting borrows heavily from the recent Batman: Arkham City with its free-flow combat. The shooting plays much like a standard third-person cover-based shooter, and the driving feels like most arcade racer titles (not surprising because United Front also made ModNation Racers). While the controls themselves might not be revolutionary, the way they are used in the game offers a degree of freedom and ease of use rarely seen in games like these. Robbing moving vehicles can consist of shooting them, running them off the road, or jumping from a moving vehicle to throw the driver out. Taking on a gang can leave you fighting one-on-one, with random, horrifically violent items to use or environmental hazards, or simply taking a car and running them over. Where other games give you freedom only to a certain degree, this gives you more than that, letting you slowly discover the joys of thinking outside the box to get things done.
Sleeping Dogs' visuals are also fantastic. The PC's graphics options are staggering. Tweaking the amount of people in the crowd and then allowing ultra settings on everything makes this game look absolutely breathtaking with incredible detail on the environment and characters without a drop in performance. If more games looked like Sleeping Dogs, I’d be completely willing to wait for the so-called “next gen” of games.
Sleeping Dogs may very well be the most satisfying and fun open-world game I have ever played. Everything about the game is designed to give the player the most fun possible with the easiest way to achieve it. You are always being rewarded and encouraged to move forward. Even the simplest tasks, such as driving safely, will have you competing against your friends in mini-challenges. Sleeping Dogs is well-made and fun to play, making it quite possibly one of the best open-world games to date.