Sleeping Dogs (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC)Sleeping Dogs started life as True Crime: Hong Kong, a throwback to the fantastic titles during the PS2 era. Back when checking it out under this title it looked a little ropey, character animations weren't fluid and the combat was sub-par. Fortunately, it got cancelled by Activision and fell through the cracks into Square Enix's hands where it was roughly shaken by its ankles into something that actually resembled a 21st Century game. Out popped Sleeping Dogs, a fully-fledged open worlder set in and amongst the vibrant city of Hong Kong that looks to be an amiable contender amongst this autumn's hailstorm of AAA titles.
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie? Think Again…Playing as Wei Chen, a detective who's fresh off the undercover beat in New York and placed back in the sprawling bustle of Hong Kong, Sleeping Dogs doesn't even allow two minutes to pass before all hell lets loose. A drug exchange gets busted, there is running from the cops, then getting captured, berated by commanding officers, and meeting an old friend who can get him into the Sun on Yee, the criminal underbelly of the city. From here, Wei takes on missions from both factions, helps or hinders citizens and the cops, and pulls of some truly remarkable feats. Of course, being a cop in the Sun on Yee isn't easy and Wei is constantly pushed to mental breaking point, keeping his cover intact and trying to distinguish how he upholds the law as he rises through the ranks. In light of what Wei gets drawn into, the lines get increasingly blurred throughout the campaign, pulling heartstrings in all the right directions.
Being an open world game, Sleeping Dogs has to hold its own against the open landscapes of Panau (Just Cause 2), the overly purple metropolis of Steel Port (Saints Row) and the familiar Liberty City (Grand Theft Auto). Suffice to say, Hong Kong is inexplicably invigorating, most probably because it doesn't resemble the aforementioned in any wei (that's the only time that pun will appear, that's a promise!). The area is huge; everything just feels fresh, the expansive city feels just like it should, caught between the old and the new in an ecstasy of East meets West. Neon signs decorate every square inch of shop billboard space with classic Chinese architecture peeking through the cracks. There are faraway retreats, rambling drivers, stumbling pedestrians and pushy vendors (Pork Buns are a must for any growing man, most definitely). Top that off with a driving mechanic that feels fluid and arcade-like and the desire to just explore the city for hours will be overwhelming. It also looks amazing -- the visuals are definitely something to scream about -- especially if on a PC and can download the high resolution texture pack (it's well worth it, and free too, which is always nice).
Borrowing Elements from Other Games; A True Crime?Hong Kong doesn't lack for things to do either; the main story missions are explosive to say the least and will take a good fourteen hours or so to get through. It's jammed full of high speed chases, both the on foot and vehicular varieties, and tense shootouts. Just when the campaign feels like it's getting repetitive, it switches out for some quieter and subtler (and yet entertaining) missions that focus more on character developments as a precursor of things to come, and are as enjoyable due to the wealth of personalities on offer. Sleeping Dogs is completely voice acted with a good balance of English with Cantonese thrown in mid-sentence to really keep the atmosphere just right (subtitled, of course), which does a good job giving people met along the way a decent back story. On the same slant of audio, Sleeping Dogs features some of the best radio stations ever heard in a game, with a lot of licensed songs both in cars and during some cringe-worth karaoke sessions. However, who wouldn't want to be in an epic car chase blasting Trivium from the speakers?
When the main missions just won't cut it anymore, then there is always the chance to take on tasks from the police precinct, which will have players chasing gangsters for evidence, hacking cameras to catch them, and having fights in the street. Speaking of fights, the combat system is no end of fun; it very closely resembles that of Batman: Arkham City in terms of countering and attacking. As a cop, Wei doesn't carry any weapons on his person from mission-to-mission. However, picking up items from around him in a fight is possible, most of which can definitely cause some damage. It takes a leaf out of Platinum Studios' MadWorld in this regard; throwing people into shredders, slamming shutters over them and rubbing their faces into angle grinders -- often funny, but more often than not a little gruesome. There are also missions in and about town to complete to increase Wei's 'Face' (public visibility) and unlock new outfits and vehicles to keep in the garage -- a reputation is required before being able to sprint round in a yellow jump suit after all. Also, races, lots of races, especially of the street variety!
That's not to say that Sleeping Dogs is without fault, however. Those looking for a campaign that will match the width and breadth of Grand Theft Auto may be slightly disappointed. The main campaign will last in the region of 12-to-16 hours, depending on how many side missions are undertaken along the way. An overall time of around 20-25 hours is more likely if everything included is seen and done, although some of the missions do get a little repetitive and there is little in the wei (oops!) of end game content (yes, the pun just slipped out). Controls are good; those playing on PC may want to pick up a game pad, though, as it can be a little fiddly with a keyboard and mouse setup. Despite the high resolution support for the platforms, there isn't much support for Crossfire or SLI systems (despite it being 'sponsored' by AMD), so players are better off running it off one card lest stuttering occur. The camera can be a little infuriating whilst driving, too, always wanting to orientate behind the car, which can make reversing infuriating in tight spaces, hitting pesky pedestrians…repeatedly!