As the saying goes ‘let sleeping dogs lie’.
But letting them lie is something Square Enix refused to do when they bought up the rights to a cancelled project, The True Crime Series scheduled for a revamp and reboot.
Having only purchasing the publishing rights, Square Enix had to change the game’s title from its originally planned title True Crime: Hong Kong and so Sleeping Dogs was born.
After polishing up the game and adding bits and bobs here and there, Square Enix created quite a strong competitor for game of the year. Quite a bold statement considering Square Enix`s usual main strengths are role playing games, more predominantly, the Final Fantasy series.
Sleeping Dogs is an open world action adventure game set in Hong Kong, where players play as Detective Wei Shen as he takes up an assignment to go undercover to infiltrate Hong Kong’s most infamous and dangerous gangs, the Triads.
The story is very complex and it is one of the best stories I’ve experienced in recent years. With its many plot twists and back-stabbing angles, its grabs you from start to finish. You find out that Wei Shen’s sister was murdered at the hands of an enemy triad gang, so there is a hint of revenge. There is a huge cast of characters with an impressive quality of voice acting to give these characters personality. Wei is excellently portrayed as a highly-trained police officer who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and also has a Jackie Chan feel to him with his martial arts skills and similar looks.
Graphically, Sleeping Dogs is sublime; every character looks amazing with incredible attention to detail, the goodies look fab and the baddies look menacing. You can see sweat or blood drip from every character model and it’s evident straight off the bat that Square Enix pulled out all the stops to make this game a masterpiece, and it succeeds with flying colours. Hong Kong is a diverse setting and is very alive with hustle bustle everywhere.
The city is separated into four districts – both poor areas and more wealthy areas – and every building is superbly detailed externally and internally. It’s hard to carry on with the game without admiring every grade A quality detail which keeps up flawlessly as the player moves throughout the city and this also applies to the game’s 67 vehicles. Every car, motorcycle and boat looks fantastic and the damage looks very realistic.
Now the gameplay is where Sleeping Dogs shines brightest. Although it borrows from other games, every gameplay aspect of this game has been fine combed and polished and plays perfectly. Sleeping Dogs is dominated by driving sequences and hand-to-hand combat with a bit of platforming and gun play thrown in. Sublime execution of each of these elements make this game seriously addictive. So addictive that I was disappointed when the main story finished. However, the game world is littered with hundreds of collectables for the player to look for with rewards for getting them all.
The driving mechanic is a simple arcade style of gameplay where cars don’t drive realistically as the camera stays pointing wherever the vehicle is, making the driving more enjoyable and easy to keep your foot (or finger) down. It is assisted by the ability to make the car shunt left, right or forwards to help take out pursuers. It just works! The combat focuses on hand to hand in an Arkham City style free flowing system. Wei Shen has a unique move set to help take out enemies in style. Enemies are separated by three different classes, light quick fighters, bigger tougher fighters and bulky wrestler types, each requiring more thinking on how to take them out.
The fighting is brutal and is made more so with the help of environment kills. Grappling enemies opens up opportunities highlighted in game where you are able to use objects in the environment to instantly defeat enemies, ranging from telephone boxes, fans, tanks full of electric eels, circular saws and of course your car. The fire fights featured later in the game are rock solid and fast paced and keep you on your toes as the AI is very intelligent, and will try to flank you at any opportunity. Foot chases are exhilarating due to Wei Shen’s parkour abilities. Wei can vault over and run up walls without interrupting the pacing and jumping over large gaps enables a Nathan Drake type breath-taking leap of faith. Later on in the game, Wei can hijack vehicles whilst on the move and the game slows down time while gunplay spills onto the highways. It’s like one huge action movie and I loved it!
Sleeping Dogs is one of the best open world action titles I’ve played in years, made more so by the game’s super high standard in narration, graphics, attention to detail and its bar setting gameplay. Square Enix shows us all how open world sandbox games should be done, and you owe it to yourself to give this game a whirl and once the game is in the machine, you won’t want to take it out. I score Sleeping Dogs 10/10.
Publishers: Square Enix/ Namco Bandai
Developers: United front games/ Square enix
Genre: Open world /Rpg
Release date: 17th August 2012