I’m in a K-Bar. I just finished a lovely rendition of Air Supply’s “All Outta Love” leaving floors suspiciously slippery, when I receive a call from the head hostess- her best friend, Katyana, may have been kidnapped. She’s undocumented, so the police can’t help. This girl needs me, as a cop I need to bust drug dealers, and my Triad side is at war. I just want to sing.
Sleeping Dogs is an open-world, action-adventure, crime thriller video game developed by United Front Games and published by Square Enix in 2012 for gen 7.
It was originally planned to be a new IP before Activision decided to make it the third game in the underrated (though buggy) True Crime series. After a few years, it was deemed to no longer make financial sense, so it was cancelled. Square Enix then bought the game and studio, removed the added references to True Crime, and released it as a new IP (again).
The story follows Wei Shen, an officer for the Hong Kong Police Department, as he goes undercover to infiltrate- and ultimately take down- a Triad sect known as the Sun On Yee. As it develops, Wei Shen is torn between his two lives as his relationships (professional and personal), body, mind, and spirit are all beaten, broken and whittled down.
Gameplay-wise, it’s your standard (for lack of a better term) GTA-clone type game. The City of Hong Kong is free to explore on foot or vehicle. Available missions may be completed in any order, at any time, or postponed indefinitely.
The story is pretty good, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. If this game were a season of crime-drama television, Dick Wolf would be slightly worried for Law & Order. The Grand Theft Auto games (whose stories I do enjoy) often last longer than the plot really requires, leading to some main missions that feel like idle filler. In Sleeping Dogs, it seems ALL the fat was trimmed, leaving only the important parts.
In addition to main and side missions, the game also contains a (very) few amount of RPG elements- namely buffs, but also some leveling. Throughout Hong Kong, there are vendors (and others) who offer items that bestow temporary bonuses.
Examples include: Food that increases the % that health can regenerate, energy drinks that increase melee damage, “massage” parlors that increase “Face” exp (more in next section), herbal teas that decrease damage received, and various clothing bonuses awarded wearing matching sets.
There are three areas to earn Experience they are Triad Exp, Police Exp, and Face Exp (basically renown/fame). Points are earned at the end of missions, with more Triad points gained for more violent actions (evironmental kills, using weapons, etc), and Cop points being lost for bad actions (hurting civilians, property damage, etc). Face points are earned by completing tasks, races, fight clubs, etc. After gaining a level in Triad/Police, a point is earned to spend on an available perk. Face grants a predetermined perk each level. I hope that EXTREMELY boring paragraph makes sense.
One final RPG element is the Dojo. Blackbelt Master Sifu has a collection of 12 idols based on the Chinese (go figure!) Zodiak that have been stolen. For each idol found/returned, a new Kung Fu move may be learned. It’s cool, and it a fun way to slowly increase the complexity of combat at the player’s pace.
Driving is SUPER arcade-y (and Hong Kong action movie...y), more so than other games in the genre. Powerslides are as frequent as Mario Kart. The Square/X button is a ram attack while driving, and players can ram pursuing cop cars (to DEATH) to lose their wanted level.
Pursuits can also become Michael-Bay-Wetdream levels of explosive: Shooting-out an enemy’s tire will cause it to ascend like an Olympic pole-vaulter and flip, while killing the driver will make the vehicle veer like a drunk-driver off the road- each ending in a display of combustive fireworks.
Pulling a Jesus, and saving the best for last, there is the “Action Hijack”. At any point while driving, the player can hold down X/A and Wei Shen will lean out the door. When close enough to another vehicle, time slows and a simple release-tap will see Wei LEAP TO ANOTHER CAR AND HIJACK IT. There is no limit, neither to how often this can be done, nor how fucking dope it is.
This next part will be hard to hear for everyone, because it’s written word. But THIS next part will be hard to READ by those who love this game (especially if they have TAY author status and write “Whatcha Playing?” posts on weekends): This game does have some problems.
No whole system is broken, but many have minor little issues within them.
Remember when I said that all the fat had been trimmed from the story? Well the process must’ve taken some meat with it also, because it moves so fast, it’s comical at times. The VERY FIRST Triad mission after the world opens up starts with a cutscene where Wei tells his friend, “If we wanna climb the ladder and be recognized, we gotta show some initiative.” Bro, you JUST got accepted (barely), slow your roll cuz that’s suspect as fuck. In one mission, you learn your boss is gonna get married and help his fiance make arrangements. In the very next, the wedding is attacked, and the next mission after that is a funeral. This is in the span of under an hour IRL.
In order to enter a vehicle you have to physically face the door. The triangle/Y button can be mashed for weeks, Wei Shen will not enter a car until he is RIGHT NEXT to the door FACING it. And if you’re thinking, “So what? That wouldn’t be inconvenient...” then you haven’t noticed how often you need it.
Fighting is great, clearly inspired by the Arkham games- with combos and other moves sprinkled on top. At any moment, even in the middle of attacking, the counter can be used, just like Batman. All of that is awesome. But one area where these differ from Arkham is directional hits. No matter how adept you become at fighting, there will be a moment when Wei Shen will continue striking in one direction long after you’ve aimed at the next guy. As if he just NEEDS to get a little shadowboxing in before he fights the next guy.
Then there’s little tiny things here and there.
Sometimes bad guys don’t load in an area where you have to beat them up.
Since all the buildings you can enter are seamless, things like Karaoke are appear at random, confusing spots on the map.
The stupid way that Wei (heh, way wei) wraps his arm around a massage girl to walk in the door has occasionally messed up and they either walk (slowly) thirty minutes out of the way, or Wei shows off a new twerk he’s working on while she pantomimes a conversation.
There’s a food vendor Shen clearly has a grudge against. If you approach from the side and attempt to purchase, Wei will keep walking and push the vendor quite a ways away from the cart then cancel the action.
Some minor bugs, glitches & pop-in.
I’m sure most of these were fixed for the current-gen re-release, but still worth noting.
This is difficult on many sides (many sides, buhlieve me). Just like the developers of my last Sequel post on Kingdoms of Amalur, the devs of Sleeping Dogs (United Front Games) tried to follow up a real gem of an open-world single-player game with an MMO before being closed.
I think the people who put their lives into a sweet game deserve to make the sequel. But they can’t.
The other side is, I don’t know what studio SquEnix owns that COULD make SD2. But they own the IP, so one of their studios WOULD make it. And they should. I need more Sleeping Dogs in my life. All these pups are insomniacs, gimme a dev with a warm cup’o milk and a soothing story.
Finally, Activision should make a new True Crime game. That is all.
How about you? Do you have a good developer in mind? Do you want to see a sequel? Is this game “Um, Actually!” terrible, as well as all my childish attempts at “humor”? Sound off in the comments!