I don’t think I will ever get tired of open world/sandbox games. From Red Dead Redemption to Crackdown to Grand Theft Auto to the much smaller but unique Toy Story 3, I always enjoy the freedom they give. It does of course help if the world or city that I am given freedom of is at least interesting & happily Sleeping Dogs version of Hong Kong is that.
In Sleeping Dogs you control Wei Shen, a Chinese-American police officer who has gone undercover to try & take down the Sun On Yee triad organization. The city is a playground with a number of objectives to choose between. Police missions, triad missions & general help for others all with there own individual XP paths. Going up a level in a path will unlock new content or bonuses up to the maximum of 10.
Wei is very nimble & can run, walk, climb, jump & swim across a pretty substantial city. He can also drive cars & jump from one vehicle to another in a hijack move (that looks great). There is content to buy from clothing to vehicles & a number of collectibles that offer health upgrades, new clothing & money. Plenty to keep you busy….
The aim of the game is to work your way up through the ranks of the triad gangs while working to put them in prison as well. Missions will punish you with a lower police score if you are violent & dangerous while improving your triad score. It means you have to balance what you do carefully & makes a gung-ho approach not always the best.
The city itself is a lot of fun to explore; it feels alive & vibrant with people going about their business & traffic always a problem. Amongst the normal everyday folk are troublesome gangs that are looking to start fights, these guys are a great way to hone your combat skills. You see Wei can do more then just shoot, he can fight. He know martial arts & through a collectible system can unlock other moves. The combat feels great & reminds me a lot of the Batman Arkham games. It is fluid & responsive & I found myself looking forward to fights!
As well as martial arts Wei can use the environment to dispatch enemies in unique ways. Just look out for glowing red items when grappling an enemy. Try out the big fish tank in the club!
The story is very good filled with memorable characters & interesting missions even if some of them become somewhat repetitive. One of the most interesting aspects is the difficulty Wei has with being a good cop while having to do bad things for the triads, his personal struggle & inner demons a joy to experience.
Unfortunately the side missions don’t seem to get the same amount of care as most of them are forgettable. Take the ‘date’ missions for example…you can date a few different women who require you to do a few different things to woo them. Some want to hear you sing while others want fast driving to get them going. It doesn’t really matter & isn’t followed up except for one with a cheating subplot.
So what else does the game have to offer? Whatever else you would normally expect in an open world game. We have races, we have fight clubs (hone your skills & earn some money), we have auto-theft jobs & we have karaoke. Yes, you heard that right…karaoke is a mini-game & a way to woo the ladies. It’s a simple concept with 8 songs to sing along too but getting 100% in all of them will take some work.
The music in-game is made up of the usual radio stations you would expect from open-world games. There are 8 in total all playing a unique sound from classical to heavy metal to pop. The amount of songs available is a little disappointing & by a quarter of the way in you will have heard most of them.
I’ve always found in open world games that there are moments when I just go… WOW! Like in Red Dead Redemption it was racing through the dusty plains of Mexico as the sun comes up. In Sleeping Dogs I was racing down a wet street at night on a motorbike, the neon lights from the shops were lighting up the street in a variety of colours & the song ‘Edgecrusher’ by Fear Factory came on. I was impressed…
I really like Sleeping Dogs & while it may not be offering too much in the way of fresh new ideas it does take what has come before & improves on a lot of it. It is easily possible to sink 20-30 hours into this game when going for the full completion. Great value for money.