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Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs

Activision closed down True Crime: Hong Kong after sprinkling millions of dollars into development. Square Enix bought the game and gave the studio an extra year to hone what feels like the year's most delightful surprise ...

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It must be tough to be called Activision right now. After two delays, they chose to discontinue the development of True Crime: Hong Kong. The reason was that the game had already cost too much and the publisher did not think it was sufficiently high quality. Millions of dollars right down the drain, in other words.

But United Front Games had, fortunately, never sold the creative rights to its ambitious action epic. The only thing that Activision took of True Crime: Hong Kong was the name. Six months later, it was clear that Square Enix had bought the rights to United Front Games and the name changed from True Crime to Sleeping Dogs.

Sleeping Dogs

A year later I am sitting here with the Playstation 3 version and I'm impressed by the atmosphere as well as storytelling, the deep and challenging gameplay systems and all the thousands of details that Sleeping Dogs contains. Activision closed down a game that may turn out to be the year's biggest surprise. It must feel painful.

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Sleeping Dogs begins with a drug deal between gangsters that goes awry. Sellers murdering in cold blood, a passport switch and a couple of seconds later the police surround the area. The protagonist Wei Shen is arrested and thrown into an interrogation room. Minutes later, it is revealed that he is working as an undercover officer trying to infiltrate the Chinese mafia and crush their drug trade from the inside. This is the beginning of a violent and particularly rich history of war in the underworld, corruption, morality, loyalty and organized crime.

Sleeping Dogs

Just like the Grand Theft Auto games, Sleeping Dogs is based in an open world where the player can choose what they want to do next. Wei Shen begins as a simple officer and must work his way up by performing hundreds of different missions. In the beginning these focus almost exclusively on fights. You are asked to go around to various locations in Hong Kong and wallop the various rival gangs.

As in previous True Crime games, a significant part of the game mechanics in Sleeping Dogs focus on fighting. Wei can perform a wide range of maneuvers and is much better at fisticuffs than Niko Bellic, Rico Rodriguez and Cole MacGrath. The further into the adventure you go, there's less fighting and more bullets fired. Jump kicks are replaced with machine-gun fire and vehicles ranging from motorcycles to luxury sports cars.

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Sleeping Dogs

One thing Sleeping Dogs succeeds amazingly well with is the atmosphere of the game, the city, as well as the feeling of constantly climbing the ranks in the Mafia. Hong Kong is a vibrant, dynamic and rich game world, that offers great variety and plenty of unintentional comedy. I drove - by accident - into a pedestrian during my first play session. After about one minute the ambulance showed up to save the bleeding civilian. While the paramedics worked on the injured man I took their ride. The police arrived a few seconds later, but started chasing the wrong person, a man who had - in the meantime - used the opportunity to steal the car that I had used to ski across the now deceased gentleman. I tickled my sense of humor as I followed at a distance and witnessed the whole incident from my ambulance.

This is just one of many examples of what a living and especially eventful game world underpins Sleeping Dogs. Unlike Just Cause 2, Grand Theft Auto IV or other games of that ilk, Sleeping Dogs has a very good mix of cover-based firefights and rough scuffles. Both types work great and you rarely feel as cool as when shooting a bunch of crooks in a violent onslaught, or are throwing a hail of furious jumping kicks at your enemies.

Sleeping Dogs

Another part of Sleeping Dogs that differentiates the game from its competitors is the fact that the story creates a tension that managed to keep me interested for 25 hours. Wei switches between working as a cop and his role in the Chinese mafia. He was teetering on the verge of being criminal and was tormented by his role. It is a stylish yet familiar way of telling a story: it really works.

One reason why I care about what happens Wei and invest time, energy and patience to climb the ranks in the Mafia, is the smart and nicely designed system update that United Front included in the game. Just as in Saints Row: The Third, you're rewarded after each mission with experience points which you then, in the best role-playing spirit, may distribute out as desired. You can, for example, make sure that Wei is quicker to reload his machine gun or fix it so that he becomes great at blocking enemy jump kicks. This gives the game an extra layer of (welcome) depth, and is absolutely something that should be standard in other games of this type.

Sleeping Dogs

As for the technical part: Sleeping Dogs is well made. There are certainly parts that leave a lot to be desired (sometimes textures load a little too slow), but overall, the city and its inhabitants nicely are made, there's a light and well balanced circadian rhythm, as well as impressive and astoundingly short loading times. There is lots and lots of lovely atmosphere in United Front Games' version of Hong Kong and it's easy to get caught up in meaningless moments, like trying to steal a police car and run away from the cops - just as in Grand Theft Auto IV.

When it comes to negatives, there are only a few minor points that really disturbed me. The game camera for some vehicle sections, especially when straddling a motorcycle, is sometimes unnecessarily troublesome. There exists a certain amount of imbalance in the game's difficulty, not least during the first three hours. The missions are relatively easy up to the point when you'll have to deal with seven screaming thugs and beat them all by hand. There were assignments that I had to play about ten times and I became discouraged and disheartened.

Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs is, despite minor annoyances, one hell of a surprise. One that feels much more polished than games of this type (usually). So far this year the best surprise package contains a Chinese super cop, silk underwear, a shotgun and some jumping kicks.

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08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
+
Sleek design, exciting storyline, cool characters, rich gaming city, great atmosphere, nice game controls
-
Bit of a messy game camera, slightly unbalanced difficulty
overall score
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User reviews

  • Baltharan
    Despite having once looked like vapourware Sleeping dogs is an enjoyable and well-rounded action-adventure sandbox game. It occasionally missteps and... 6/10

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Sleeping DogsScore

Sleeping Dogs

REVIEW. Written by Petter Hegevall

"This is a violent and particularly rich history of war in the underworld, corruption, morality, loyalty and organized crime."



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