I wake from unsettled dreams. Voices echo in my head. I have seen such things, such horrors and such wonders, that I need to take time to catch my breath and shake off my slumber.
Sleeping Dogs is a game that you will lose sleep over, for good reason. Mainly because it’s so damn cool. It’s a Square Enix endorsed product, so we expect quality and depth, following the tradition of their excellent, epic Final Fantasy games, but I still wasn’t ready for the amount of immersion that this game provided. It’s so real that you could almost be in modern day Hong Kong. The way that the rain reflects the neon shop signs off the tarmac is solid and more realistic than anything I’ve seen in any other game. The backdrops are stunning, if you get time to look at them as you’re hurtling by in your vehicle, which are sleek as heck, and the characters are all ultracool. Wei Shen is a satisfying main character to play as, not too dumb, conceited or annoying, he broods moodily just as a proper film noir detective should.
The game oozes a sense of foreboding. From the very beginning Wei is chewing over his past and the injustices done to his family, like a pork dumpling over-heating and ready to burst out of the pan on fire. The game starts with a chase. You assume that it’s going to be linear, which would be fine, but oh no, that’s just to break you in gradually. The help some people at the market to earn some respect, and then it all opens out… and out… and out! You meet an old pal, Jackie, then get into a fight. Ah, the fighting. It’s an integral part of the game, and boy, is it enjoyable! The skill level improvements are pitched just right, you learn new moves at just the right time that they’re required, and to sustain interest. The fight system is sturdy once you get stuck in, you can kick, punch and do a decent variety of combos or evasive manoeuvres. Perhaps one small complaint is that the variety of moves required could be altered for specific enemies to make the player think about which combo to apply, as you can just hammer the punch button to bring down most enemies, if you wanted, although that would avoid much of the fun, and miss out on some of the most graceful and brutal moves ever seen in a game.
Then there are the ‘environment interaction’ end moves. They are so much gory fun. You mean you can do THAT with THAT?! Woah.
Cut scenes are pithy, relevant, often exciting and don’t get annoying on repetition like some games. In fact, the cut scenes in Sleeping Dogs are better than a lot of gangster films that I’ve seen.
The game doesn’t clock in at a great amount of hours to finish, I did it in 36 hours, a fair amount, but this isn’t a criticism in any way. In fact, it’s a big compliment, as the visceral thrill of it all, the pumping adrenaline rush, was amazing from beginning to end. You can keep playing the open world sub-plots as long as you want to afterwards too, so there is technically many more hours of fun to be had. You are thrown right into the action (sometimes literally!), and if there is a longer driving section, it is covered by some decent, plot-developing dialogue. The drives aren’t usually too far away, anyway, and the spectacular surroundings and sweet-looking vehicles will have you gob-smacked throughout. The driving mechanics are smooth and easy to control without careening into buildings too often, making for a slinky, satisfying experience.
Oh, and did I mention that you can leap from your moving vehicle and grab on to another one? YOU CAN LEAP FROM YOUR MOVING VEHICLE AND GRAB ON TO ANOTHER ONE!!! This gives you a killer buzz when you do it, it’s James Bond type stuff, amongst many other elements of the game that make you want to punch the air and shout, “YEAH! WOO-HOO!”, only you can’t do the punching part as you’re trying to steer your car while chasing after some criminals.
However, the thing that makes Sleeping Dogs truly great is its storyline. It’s all meat, and no fat. United Front Games, the company that produced the game, should be given top credit for this. They take the traditional undercover cop theme, with the right amount of tough talking, as well as some genuine affection towards certain characters, and also some mean, blood-chilling villains. I’m not just talking schlock stock and too many smoking clichés. I’m talking people that you would not want to meet in a dark alley, or even in a day-lit one. The finale is immensely well planned, pitched and executed (no pun intended).
As the wise vendor says, “You look like you could do with a pork bun!”
See the Sleeping Dogs webpage here: http://www.sleepingdogs.net/