Game: Sleeping Dogs
Playtime: 19 hours
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: United Front Games
Systems: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh operating systems. (Review based on Windows)
Release Date: August 14, 2012
DLC: Cosmetic DLC included
Grand Theft Auto meets The Departed set in Hong Kong. Sleeping Dogs is an open-world action-adventure game where you take on the role of Wei Shen, an undercover police officer infiltrating the Sun On Yee branch of the Hong Kong triad. It takes open-world elements from games like Grand Theft Auto, martial arts combat from the Batman series, and technical problems from Microsoft products.
Wei Shen is a San Francisco based police officer who is transferred to the Hong Kong Police Force in order to infiltrate the Sun On Yee branch of the Triad. Thomas Pendrew and Shen’s handler Raymond Mak help orchestrate a drug deal that goes south and gets Wei Shen arrested and put into the same holding cell as his childhood friend from Hong Kong, Jackie Ma. Jackie is a low-level member of the triad and Shen uses him as a connection to get into the gang.
Throughout the story, Shen has to balance his life as a cop with committing crimes to prove his worth to the triads. Shen is tasked with increasingly horrifying tasks that take a toll on him as he climbs the ranks of the triad in order to bring down the leadership, all without getting caught as a cop.
Like a lot of open-world games, there is a variety of game play included. Most of the types of play you see in games like Grand Theft Auto are here. Sleeping Dogs adds a three-prong progression system: Triad, Police, and Face. Each mission you undertake will net you a Triad and Police score. The Triad score starts at 0 and you rank up by taking out enemies, making skill shots, and performing action hijacks.
The Police score starts out at max and you lose score by causing property damage (hitting another vehicle with yours, breaking city property, etc), injuring or killing civilians, etc. After each mission, you’ll score experience based on these rankings. When you level up, you gain access to new skills from a skill tree. The Triad one usually provides combat bonuses and the Police one gains utility bonuses.
You also can earn police XP by clearing out certain gang areas by beating up the thugs hanging out, hacking a camera in the area, and then heading back to your apartment to facilitate an arrest of drug suppliers.
The Face progression is done via vehicle races and side quests where you help out people in the area and gain face for it. The reward for ranks is usually being able to equip fancier clothes and buy better cars. You do get some perks, such as being able to call a car valet to deliver your car to you.
Scattered throughout the city are health shrines, lock boxes, and statues. Honoring the shrines will increase your max health, lock boxes will include money and gear, and statues help unlock new martial arts moves.
A majority of the combat in the game is hand-to-hand as it is based around a martial arts system. Wei trains at a dojo to learn different combos to pull off. The Batman combat system with using a counter button when an enemy attacks is in full effect here. You can use a mixture of grabs, light and heavy attacks, and pick up various melee weapons. As you progress your skills, you can end up taking on rooms of enemies at the same time and come out on top.
Going so long without being hit opens up a Face meter which slows down time and allows you to attack faster and hit harder for a brief time.
Gun combat takes place from time to time. It uses a cover system a la Gears of War, including blind fire. The gun combat feels weak, often taking multiple shots into someone to drop them. The accuracy is usually so bad that going for headshots often feels completely random.
Other things to do in the game includes a pretty awful karaoke system where, similar to Guitar Hero, you have the notes scrolling to you and you have to move the joystick to move the cursor to the right pitch level. You can go on various dates with women that unlock special missions. As a member of the police force, you have access to a phone that can do all sorts of hacking (eat that, Watch Dogs, this canine had it first!) The hacking mini games include a guess the PIN, a frequency tuner, a combination lock breaker, and signal triangulation. None of them are particularly annoying, so well done there.
This is where a bunch of numbers are going to get knocked off the score. On two different systems, in Windows 8 and Windows 10, I ran into an issue where if I moved the mouse or touched the keyboard, my game controller would cease to work in the game except for the start and select buttons. It also refused to get picked up by my streaming software. I imagine it has something to do with Direct X.
There were a lot of technical glitches in the game dealing with pre-scripted animations and the movement of AI-controlled NPCs.
The game took about 19 hours to complete the story line and there are still more collectibles and levels for triad and face I could get. However, due to the technical issues, I have no desire to do so.
The story was good and engaging with me feeling the nervousness of if I was going to get myself outed as a cop while still trying to do good in the world while pretending to be a gangster. Like any good story, there are plot twists that you don’t expect. The action sequences, when not bugged, are thrilling.
2.5 out of 5 Golden Desert Eagles
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