You can call it a trend, or a lack of ideas. You can call it the need to fix the fact that new-gen systems - consoles that landed almost one year ago - have sizeable gaps that need filling, with malnourished players wanting for new experiences, appetites that require satisfaction. In this barren landscape, bereft of exciting new games, the industry has had to invent a new strategy in order to coax its audience into this new generation of hardware.
The path of least resistance, it seems, has been releasing HD updates of old-gen favourites; a quick trick that has allowed publishers to use more or less recent titles once again, promising HD updates to test the potential of this new generation of consoles.
As you might expect, those titles that have received a lick of paint are primarily those games that have received great acclaim from audiences and critics, and impressive sales to boot. The Last of Us, Tomb Raider, Injustice: Gods Among Us, and Diablo III have all been revised and rereleased, in short, all games that are nailed-on to attract a decent number of fans through the door at the second time of asking.
In a very brave decision, Square Enix has decided to perform the same trick with Sleeping Dogs, a good title developed by United Front Games, that landed on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 in the summer of 2012. It was an unexpected choice for a HD update, and we have good reason to say that. Although it was well-received by critics and gamers, Sleeping Dogs had passed relatively unnoticed at retail, never really receiving the attention it probably deserved.
With a brand-new visual finish and lots of new content, Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition is landing on PS4 and Xbox One in search of the new-gen's malnourished audience, but, at the same time, will be hoping re-conquer those who ventured into the underground of Honk Kong the first time around. Is Sleeping Dogs ready for this new-gen adventure? Let's find out.
As you'd expect, in terms of graphics, Sleeping Dogs has made great strides compared to the old-gen version. Although we didn't appreciate having the framerate locked at 30 fps - it contrasts with the HD improvements made elsewhere - its leap to 1080p and the resulting improvements are clearly evident.
The visuals are smooth and the experience is packed with detail, and it's made more remarkable by the addition of some good visual effects on the characters - for example, with foreheads beaded with sweat - and the introduction of particle effects, things completely absent from the original version which enrich the game world here.
In particular, we are surprised by the attention that the studio has paid to the smaller details, such as the tendons in the characters' hands, or the intricate designs of their tattoos. These little touches really do add value to the experience when considered from a graphical perspective. The new-look Hong Kong is stunning, filled with colour, detail, and plenty of places to explore, and it makes the experience all the more immersive.
Another element that has pleasantly surprised us is the sheer quantity of content that can be found in this Definitive Edition. The new Sleeping Dogs will include all 24 pieces of DLC published for the game, and they can be unlocked by the itinerant merchants who populate the city. This allows you to enjoy the complexity and depth of Sleeping Dogs, but the slow-drip of content also adds to the longevity of the game. To make it even more interesting, there are many new items, things we can we can use to beat our opponents in creative ways, which in turn provides additional variety when it comes to combat.
Even if we are enthusiastic about this Definitive Edition, the new Sleeping Dogs still has the same inevitable flaws that have carried over from the original version. The first, most obvious flaw, is regarding the animations of the characters: their facial animations - already questionable in 2012 - are granite-like and this visual aspect contrasts sharply with the HD atmosphere that surrounds nearly every other facet of the game.
The same is true for the ragdoll physics; it's a little embarrassing that this has endured in a product that purports to be the "Definitive Edition". It's a shame that United Front Games didn't put in the same effort that Crystal Dynamics did in their HD version of Tomb Raider, where Lara's model and all animations were all reworked for the new-gen machines.
Another thing we didn't like in the original that still remains here is the combat system. Although inspired by the excellent FreeFlow System from the Batman: Arkham series, the combat system in Sleeping Dogs is still too slow, partly because of a significant lag-problem that affects the controls. This interfered in most of the fights we were involved in, causing all manner of expletives to be blurted at the screen as frustration mounted.
Overall, the Definitive Edition of Sleeping Dogs proves to be a worthwhile update, and an excellent opportunity to rediscover a good game that was unjustly under-appreciated when it appeared for the first time on old-gen consoles. Featuring an intriguing atmosphere and a charismatic protagonist, this new-gen version is a dignified restoration and strengthens the game to the point where it's worth rediscovering, even more so if you didn't sample its delights the first time around. Given its price (in line with similar HD remasters) and the decent amount of content on offer, Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition has validated Square Enix's decision to give it the HD once-over.