Sleeping Dogs Review: This year’s sleeper surprise of the summer
Sleeping Dogs is the sleeper surprise of the summer and maybe even the year, the game does what GTA 4 tried to do; and in the mind of many fans failed horribly at, telling a story with interesting characters and a plot that was easy to follow.
What’s In A Character and The World
What United Fronts, the game’s developers, does right is make the main character likeable and not a one dimensional cookie cutter anti-hero.RockStar tried to make the player sympathies for Niko Bellic by making him a “good person in heart that always get caught up in situation where he’s forced to do wrong and he wants to turn his life around” character, whereas United Fronts let players know right away that Wei Shen is an undercover cop.Players won’t have to worry about being reminded that Wei is a character you should feel sorry for because Wei never stops to whine about how bad life has been.
Right off the bat you can see that Wei is a tough person not because he’s a cop that breaks the rules and he is a loose cannon but because he knows a thing or two about the streets.United Fronts was able to make Wei a more believable and interesting character within the first couple of main missions than RockStar was able to do with Niko throughout all of GTA 4.I only bring up GTA 4 because I know people are comparing the two but that’s actually unfair, Sleeping Dogs has an open world but it’s much smaller than GTA and Saints Row.
This is a good thing; the game has focus and is trying to separate itself from the likes of Saints Row and GTA.While it’s easy to become distracted with a bunch of meaningless side quests and missions that open world games are known for Sleeping Dogs keeps even the side jobs in the game’s story in certain ways.Wei is an undercover cop, so it makes sense that he’s busting drug deals and solving cases on the side of the game’s main story.There are also races and brawls that the player can chose to do if they feel like exploring Hong Kong for a while.
Thin Line Between Honor And Duty in Sleeping Dogs
What makes Wei such an interesting character is the way he changes throughout the game, I won’t spoil what happens but I will say that the changes are not subtle; the game’s story does a great job at advancing Wei as a character not by just telling the player but also showing.
Wei’s past comes up a few times but they come up through supporting characters that have personalities and care or knew Wei before he left to America.
Early into the game Wei meets his old friend Ricky in jail and uses him to get into a gang called the Sun On Yee, it doesn’t take long before Wei is suspected as being an undercover cop.
This is when the game starts to show that Wei will do anything to get the job done, errands become favors and soon favors turn into respect.It’s difficult to say why Wei is such an interesting character without spoiling some of the games bigger plot points.Morales begin to become blurred and loyalties start to come into question and this all happens little by little as Wei noticeably starts to breakdown.
Gun Popping and Fist Dodging
Sleeping Dogs gameplay is more hit than miss, what it does hit is great and what is misses are by no means game breaking.The hand-to-hand combat is simple, fun, easy and pretty addictive. Button mashing won’t help Wei win fights, instead it’ll lead him to getting his butt handed to him.Wei is very good a martial arts and it shows that United Front was really putting time into the fist fights as the hand-to-hand combat side of the game is more fun than the shooting section.
That’s really saying something since the gun play is very fun, oddly enough it takes a while to even see a gun let alone use one, it’s almost as if United Front didn’t want gun play in the game.Once guns are introduced into the game it’s for a good reason, the game doesn’t force players to use guns if they don’t want to; the fire fights in the game aren’t random and actually fits into the story.I almost forgot that in China only police are allowed to have guns, so Wei having one out of nowhere would have given him away as a cop.
Upgrading Both Worlds
Wei can become stronger and slicker by upgrading his police level or his triad level; both have ten levels that can take a while to reach depending how well you play during a mission.These levels are separate but players earn them both at the same time, during main missions Wei is basically working for both the police force and the triads, this leads to players trying to keep a clean nose by not destroying public properties and harming innocents to earn police points and brutally beating rival gang members as creatively as possible.
Each level has a certain path the player can choose that can either help during combat or make Wei even more dangerous.There is also a third section dedicated purely to giving Wei new and more brutal moves that can make enemies flinch in horror or stun them to set up for a finisher.In order to earn these new moves Wei must collect up to ten statues that were stolen from his martial arts teacher, the game also uses this to explore into Wei’s personal story.After Wei finds a statue his sensei will have a short talk with him, not because the game has nothing to say but because Wei’s sensei is concerned for his student.It’s moments like that shows that the game’s developers were focused on not only the main story but Wei himself as well.
What I didn’t mention were the few misses the game has, mostly the camera during driving.If you have played a racing game before then you will be familiar with the way the camera works, you don’t really have complete control over the camera as in order to look behind you the right stick must be at the bottom.What makes this weird is that the player can move the camera freely from the right to the front to the left.This makes certain intense car chases difficult because the player will need to fire at enemies behind them and that can cause the player to accidently swing the camera in every way except where they actually want it.
Sleeping Dogs was a surprisingly good game that didn’t get the attention it deserved after Square Enix picked the game up after Activision dropped it.The game may not be the best looking game in the market but it has a good, if not predictable, story with an interesting main character and supporting characters that have some personality to them.Even more importantly the gameplay is great and addictive, especially the hand-to-hand combats, that shows the developers were trying to do more than make a GTA clone.
Sleeping Dogs is available for Xbox 360, PS3, Onlive and PC (on Windows and Steam)