Product Type: Square Enix PS3 games
Newest Review: ... as perhaps he always thought. This is really well handled so that it appears to be a genuine character arc, rather than a convenient plot... more
Bringing down the triads, Jackie Chan style.
Sleeping Dogs (PS3)
Member Name: Anti
Sleeping Dogs (PS3)
Advantages: Engaging and diverse combat system, excellent story with mature themes, open world freedom
Disadvantages: Occasional glitches, minor camera issue with cars,
'Sleeping Dogs' is set in Hong Kong. Wei Shen is an undercover police officer who has come back to his birthplace after having moved to the United States as a teenager. He is chosen by the Hong Kong Police Department to infiltrate the Sun On Yee faction of the triads. Wei meets his childhood Jackie Ma, an acquaintance of local Triad leader Winston Chu, and he helps him to join a group called the Red Poles led by Winston Chu. However, Wei has a personal vendetta against the Sun On Yee, and as he gains the trust of the triads, the line between cop and triad becomes increasingly blurred.
The story of 'Sleeping Dogs' is very dark and filled with complex characters and a lot of grey morality. Wei Shen, despite his chequered past with the triads and quite violent approach to undercover work, is a likeable lead character and easy to sympathize given what he goes through in the story. The rest of the cast are also very realistic and well-developed. I think my favourite supporting character was Jackie, the wannabe triad who helps Wei get into the gang, whose attitude towards the triads changes over the course of the game. The ending provides decent closure while opening the possibilities of continuation for what happens next to Wei as well as the Sun On Yee gang.
'Sleeping Dogs' is an open-world game and works similar to the series of 'Grand Theft Auto' or 'Saints Row'. Players control Wei around Hong Kong and take on missions as a triad, as a cop or just help people out with 'Favors'. Completing triad (marked as green on the map) or cop (marked as blue) missions grant you with Triad and/or Cop experience points and money, and levelling up your Triad and Cop meters will grant you upgrades to Wei's skills. Completing Favors nets you 'Face' experience, which improves Wei's standing in Hong Kong, allows you to wear better clothes bought from around the city and gives you combat boosts via the Face Meter.
This brings me nicely onto combat, which is by far one of my favourite aspects of this game due to the emphasis on melee combat over firearms (which I am really bad at!). Wei can attack enemies with the Square button, and pressing it multiple times will build up a combo. You can grapple enemies with Circle, and Wei can either punch them continuously (using Square again) or drag them to a nearby object or wall, which can then lead to an impressive (and graphic) environmental kill. Environmental kills include throwing enemies into rubbish bins, impaling someone onto a meat hook, and so on. If an enemy tries to attack you, you can counter their move by pressing Triangle as they turn red. As you can see, melee combat is incredibly varied and interesting. You are encouraged to mix up your moves because not only does your Face Meter increase (to the point where it can cause enemies to cower away from you) but will get you a better score on the triad missions. Furthermore, enemies will have different styles of fighting and need different strategies to take down; strikers tend to block frequently and need to be grappled to break through their defenses, whereas grapplers are burly types who can easily get you in a headlock (which require some quicktime pressing of buttons to get out of) and need to be defeated by heavy strikes and counters. Therefore, melee combat shouldn't bore anyone in the slightest.
Wei can also defend himself with various objects and weapons (usually which enemies carry) ranging from handbags to machetes. There is also gun combat in the game, mostly from about halfway into the main story. I would say that controlling guns in the game is okay, but it's not as good as the melee combat controls. However, in certain situations players can slow down time while shooting. This is available when sliding over a surface, when dropping from a great height or during a vehicular shootut. The slow-motion is quite cool and thanks to an auto-aim which locks onto your target assists with gun combat greatly. The vehicular shootouts are pretty fun too. I really enjoyed shooting out the tires of triads on your tail and watching their cars slide off the road!
When you are not taking part in missions, Wei is able to drive around Hong Kong in cars, motorbikes, vans and boats (whether bought or hijacked). Driving is really fun and it helps that there are plenty of radio stations to listen to while you're cruising along the motorway. However, there is a problem with the camera while driving cars; when in a car the camera (controlled by the right analog stick) only swings round to one side of the vehicle's body or the other. You cannot get it to swing behind you while stationary, which is problematic when you're reversing the car and can't see either oncoming traffic or the game environment. This is the only problem I had with the camera in the game, and when on foot it is easy to move it around your character and look around.
'Sleeping Dogs' has some impressive graphics. Character models are very lifelike and capture different emotions pretty well. The Hong Kong world is very beautiful and I liked how you can distinguish between the different districts of the city, from the neon lights of North Point to the commercial atmosphere in Central. However, the draw-distance isn't that great, meaning that buildings in the distance are not as detailed as when you are up close to them. I also did come across some graphical glitches while playing. Wei occasionally got stuck in a wall or piece of the environment, some dead enemies could look like they were floating on the ground or floor depending on how they fell to the ground, and once when I caught a taxi to the martial arts school the game crashed on me! Don't worry, the glitches are not frequent and do not hinder gameplay much (and regarding the crash, I was taking a taxi down an alleyway rather than a proper road, which might not have been the game's intention for me to do so).
I mentioned earlier that there were several radio stations to listen to in 'Sleeping Dogs', and most of these tunes lend itself to a large, varied soundtrack for the game. I was surprised as to how much I enjoyed both the Cantonese Hiphop and traditional Chinese music songs while driving, and I feel that these help to bring Hong Kong's fusion of modern and traditional culture to life as you play.
There is also voice acting in the game which is fantastic. Some of Hollywood's more prominent Asian stars provide voices: Will Yun Lee (from LOST) is Wei, Edison Chen is Jackie, even Lucy Liu shows up as pop star Vivienne Lu. In addition, non-Asian actors such as Tom Wilkinson and Emma Stone have supporting roles, so altogether this is a great ensemble. The use of English and Cantonese is very genuine, with many of the characters switching between the two within one sentence (with a liberal use of profanities in either to boot!).
Completing the main game took me about 10-12 hours, and this included me doing all of the undercover cop missions as well as the triad ones. On top of this there are plenty of collectibles hidden around the city- lockboxes, health shrines (which increase your max health when you find enough of them in area), and jade statues (return these to the martial arts school to unlock more combat moves) are just some of the stuff you can look for. Furthermore you can take part in car races with the cars you can buy, bust drug dealers by hacking cameras and outrun the police on the motorway. After you complete the main story, you can complete everything to 100% at your leisure. Hong Kong pretty much becomes your oyster!
For those who don't mind spending a little more money, there are some DLC story missions and items available from the Playstation Store. I have not tried these yet, but they do extend the story and gameplay for me. I intend to try one of them, 'The Year of the Snake' pretty soon.
Many people have decried this game as a clone of 'Grand Theft Auto IV' set in Hong Kong. It is easy to see why, however. Both are open-world games focused on crime, driving hijacked cars and jumping around buildings. However, I still enjoy 'Sleeping Dogs' even if it has lifted elements from a seemingly superior series. The story is a lot darker and more serious than GTA, the melee combat is brilliant and the world of Hong Kong is something a bit different for me. I really enjoyed the game and it has made me more willing to try out others in the same genre. If you're a fan of open-world, adventure games then definitely check out 'Sleeping Dogs'. The game can be picked for the PS3 from about £7 used so it's a real bargain!
Summary: An excellent adventure game with only minor flaws. Thoroughly recommended!
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