Sleeping Dogs – Xbox 360
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: United Front Games and Square Enix London Studios
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date (NA): August 14th, 2012
Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10
Reviewed by AKA Persia
Square Enix! Thank you for Sleeping Dogs. I would like to just say good job. Square Enix was involved with both Batman: Arkham Asylum and Hitman: Absolution, which is evident in certain elements throughout this game. I was first introduced to Square Enix (then Eidos) through Tomb Raider as a wee lass, so I have a fondness for the publisher, if only because Lara Croft was my second mother growing up.
The environment and setting of the game are detailed and extensive. You’re on the streets of Hong Kong, surrounded by persistent street market vendors peddling their wares to anyone who walks by. You pass by shops for clothing (updating your outfit increases you “Face,” or reputation), massage parlors, temples, restaurants, and various hotels and apartments. Most of the shops, similar to Grand Theft Auto and Saint’s Row style gaming, are inaccessible and only there for show, but checking your map will allow you to see exactly what is interactive.
The environment really makes the player feel like they are experiencing Hong Kong, the side unseen, maybe a little shadier side than the Vegas-style city that we see on TV. This is the thugged-out part of Hong Kong, complete with gangsters in crinkled up wife beaters, fully tattooed. The AIs’ in-game conversations are pretty entertaining if you ever decide to slow down and eavesdrop. Spoiler alert!: the women almost exclusively talking about their husbands or boyfriends. I was surprised to see some names I recognized as voice actors in the game, like Emma Stone and Lucy Liu.
The graphics are standard GTA-style, which means that the characters have emotionless faces that look like they are injected with an overdose of Botox. Does this take away from the gaming? Absolutely not. But it does make the cutscenes a little robotic. The part the developers succeeded with was the environment. The detail of the outside of the shops is impressive, like the meat shops hanging out their meat carcasses. Near the beginning, you enter a New Years festival, complete with raining confetti, a dragon dance, and a full crowd. This actually reminded me a lot of the Hitman game series, where there is a lot of detail with certain settings you enter.
Fighting involves bloody faces and blood splatters. I was delightfully disgusted when I punched a gangster in the face, Kung-Fu style, and his blood decorated the nearby wall. Even during the practice sessions in the temple, my fellow fighters had a face full of dripping blood. So that was a nice touch. Fighting control is best described as a match to the Batman: Arkham series, where the X button is your best friend. Don’t be mistaken, though – fighting is much more difficult and realistic in this game than the Batman series. I had my ass handed to me more than I’d like to admit, but usually only in one mission where I had to beat 11 million knife/crowbar-toting enemies, all hand-to-hand on my part.
Once your ass is kicked the first time, regardless of how many waves of gang groups you fight, you are taken to the very beginning of the mission. This is not uncommon for games, I realize, but due to the difficulty of some of the fighting, this can make you scream. Of course, you have controls other than X (punching and kicking as well as other takedowns you learn through upgrades), like grappling with B, blocking and counterattack with Y, and combos with all buttons.
When fighting, you can also grapple an enemy and use the environment around you to finish them. This is quite fun, regardless of whether you’re slamming them headfirst into a box of glass or ramming them into an electrified object (there are many). You learn different melee attacks with upgrades earned throughout the game at the martial arts temple, and are able to practice them on immobile targets first, and then a full-on practice group fight. Most combat is melee, but every once in a while, there is a gun involved. Per the cutscene, there is not a lot of influx of guns in Hong Kong among the general public (“unlike in America,” said a cop).
Movement is overall very realistic, which can be an annoyance sometimes. Running into people, even walking slowly into them provides angry outburst by passers-by, a large stumble by your character and difficulty maneuvering a crowded street. When you must sprint and run, running into people significantly slows you down and pushes you to the side. So when you’re chasing a thief, make sure you’re cognizant of those around you! It can end a mission running into the fools walking down the road all innocent-like. Driving is similar to any other open-world game, so no surprises there. Pretty simple to weave in and out of traffic, and avoiding running into people or objects can increase your cop level. One of the achievements in the game is to drive for 2 full minutes without damage to your car. This is not a difficult task, but woe to the person attempting to control the camera whilst driving on their own, as the camera wants to face forward, regardless of what the player wants. This includes walking. Remember to drive on the left side of the road if you want to go with the flow of traffic as they do in Hong Kong.
I love a game with a good storyline. This game does not skimp on that but rather delivers it heartily. The beginning cutscene shows the main character, Wei Shen participating in a drug deal, caught and chased by the cops – a very fun chase, I might add. You get to run through different shops, off roofs, and across obstacles. It’s an exciting introduction to how the character controls. You find out that Wei Shen is not an offender, but an undercover cop, fresh from America, entering back into the Hong Kong (his home) gangs to bring them down. He goes deep undercover, which includes killing rival gang members and committing serious crimes. Reminds me a little of the movie The Departed. Wei Shen has nightmares of his two lives that disturb his sleep, with Wei waking up each time, cursing to himself.
After each main mission and side mission, you are provided with upgrades. Different missions level you up in different ways. You receive cop credit, for example, for doing both main missions and cop missions, which provide upgrades, such as effective use of weapons, increased damage to enemies/less damage taken, and easier actions such as hijacking vehicles or stealing them. You also receive cash for completing missions, which is used for food, massages, energy drinks, all to make you a more effective fighter and increase health.
I would absolutely recommend this game for purchase. There is a lot to do as far as side missions go, although I pretty much was able to fairly quickly go through main missions. Each one is pretty short. I can see myself spending more time on the fun little side missions like karaoke and favors the second time through, because as I said, the main missions are easy to get through as they’re pretty short.
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