Game Review: Sleeping Dogs [Xbox 360/PS3/PC]
Square Enix and United Front games are sending players to Hong Kong in a new open world experience. Do the notorious Triad controlled streets of Hong Kong make it worthwhile, or have the dogs already fallen asleep? Find out in this review.
Don’t forget, you can also watch our video review:
The game’s story begins with Wei Shen. Wei is a Chinese-American cop who has been sent back to where he grew up to help police with an undercover investigation. Wei has been told to infiltrate a notorious Hong Kong Triad gang and once in, Wei is told to do what he can to take down the ring leaders of the rival gangs to try to stop gang warfare in Hong Kong. As you progress through the story, Wei will work his way up the ranks, causing many issues with rival gangs that lands him in much more trouble than he thought. The story is very emotional and really does make you feel a part of Wei’s world and life, as there are many twist and turns in the plot which spiral down to a much darker time in the story. Wei frequently wakes up at night, many times due to nightmares about his past. After intensely playing the story I really felt involved with all the characters, which is rare with games that are set in an impersonal, open world environment.
The story of course isn’t as unique as some may have thought but that isn’t a bad thing as the story is presented with fantastic dialogue, characters and action. The story picks up after the first hour or so, indulging you in the Hong Kong setting. Hong Kong has been presented very well on the Xbox 360 and PS3, whilst the PC version looks far superior to its console counterparts. This said, the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions both look stunning and have some really beautiful visuals, with the nightlife and rain being some of the best visuals I have seen on the Xbox 360 and PS3.
Being an open world game Sleeping Dogs follows similar open world games and United Front Games have managed to deliver a fresh and exciting location and gameplay. The Hong Kong Island itself is huge and will take players around 10-20 minutes to travel across the whole map, and this also means there is a lot to do. After the first few hours more side missions will open up, including cock fighting, karaoke and street races. Whilst driving across the region in various different bikes and cars you will instantly notice that each car drives, sounds and feels different. The faster cars have much trickier handling but of course are much quicker in those situations where you may need to avoid the cops or chase after an enemy or suspect. The bikes in the game are reflected in the same way with some bikes being slow, but looking fantastic nonetheless, whilst other bikes that are much faster also look pretty decent. The driving itself at first was better than I was expecting, but I wasn’t shocked since some of the designers and programmers came from Blackbox Studios who are famously known for the Need For Speed titles. As I progressed and drove around, a lot more of the cars started to seem less sturdy than before and felt too easy and arcade, however the vehicle damage is superb and follows the realistic approach to the open world environment United Front Games has provided.
The gameplay, even though 90% of the time is spot on can cause some odd moments where the game will bug out and start doing weird things. Some of the common ones that occurred in my play-through were enemies getting stuck in walls, the sounds of guns firing, and cars getting stuck between obstacles that are not visible. There can also be screen tearing issues as well and some minor frame rate issues which overall luckily don’t accumulate enough to ruin the overall enjoyment of the game.
There is a lot to do in Hong Kong. One of the main things to do is the Missions, that vary from Police, Triad and ‘Face’ (notoriety) missions. The more missions you do, Shen will level up and earn XP respectively giving you an overall ranking at the end of the mission in the form of triangles and an XP bar. Levelling up your ‘Face’ offers a lot of perks and un-lockables, including new clothes and cars that can only be purchased at certain ‘Face’ levels. These missions are fairly varied with many of them focusing on taking out enemies on the run, car chases, shooting and catching drug busts, which are spread out throughout the game and are able to play after your completion of the game as well. After the first few hours of the game during various missions you will also learn how to hijack moving vehicles. This was personally my favourite thing to do whilst driving round Hong Kong. As soon as I saw a faster and sexier looking car I just had to jump out of my car and take it for myself. Taking influence from the Just Cause franchise, United Front games have been able to develop a hijacking system that feels innovative and unique. United Front Games have done a fantastic job with this feature.
After beating numerous gangs and civilians you may also notice that the game has a lot of customisation. The main customisation include the ability to purchase and unlock new clothes. The more you explore you will come across hidden box’s that will reward you will new items for Wei to try out. There are 179 different clothing options available with cars and bike colours also customisable. There is a lot to do to make Wei look dapper.
Other than the single player there is no multiplayer functionality included and we are unsure if any of the upcoming DLC will include multiplayer features. Personally it would be great to see some missions or races including multiplayer functionality. Throughout the single player campaign you will be able to set leader board records amongst your friends that offer a lot of various different ways to set the score. There are ‘Clean Drive’ times to perform, distance wheelying and high speed distances to brave . This is simply something than is picked up if you manage to drive for as long as possible before smashing or breaking. There are also long jump leader boards as well. The lack of multiplayer doesn’t ruin the game, in fact it’s far from it, it would have been nice however to see some multiplayer functionality in the future.
Sleeping Dogs is a step in the right direction for open world games. United Front Games have delivered a fresh choice of location with beautiful visuals and an indulging story. Sleeping Dogs’ combat is also enjoyable at times, with shooting added in to mix things up. With Square Enix already announcing that Sleeping Dogs will have loads of upcoming DLC in the next few months, on top of what already is included in the game, a lot’s on offer for players in the long run. Even though the game has a much to give and some of the missions are much more interesting than others, the game feels a tad too easy overall, which may not be challenging enough for some gamers. Though the game would have been almost perfect if the random glitches and bugs didn’t occur, this game is still a must have for any fans that have played GTA IV and are waiting for the fifth instalment.