Sleeping Dogs was originally developed as a sequel to the True Crime series back on the PS2. After a lot of changes and full on company switch, the project was re-titled Sleeping Dogs and cut it’s ties from the True Crime series, which if you ask me is a good thing.
I played through True Crime Streets of LA and found it quite bad, so Sleeping Dogs distancing itself from its predecessors is okay by me.
The game opens right in the middle of the action and doesn’t really slow down a whole lot throughout the story. The story stays engaging from start to finish.
Story is something that a lot of open world games seem to struggle with. Having a continuous, complex, and engrossing narrative throughout the entire game is not often accomplished, but Sleeping Dogs managed to do it. Their story is not completely fresh, there are plenty of cliches, but it’s done differently. Most of the key characters are wonderfully developed, and you grow attached to them throughout the story, which makes the death of major, and even side characters have an impact.
The characters are written well and a portrayed pretty well by their voice actors. Aside from some NPCs who are just plain awful, all of the voice acting is solid enough to hold the story. All of the important characters are well cast and well executed. There are some recognizable voices to be found in Sleeping Dogs such as Tom Wilkinson, Lucy Liu, and Emma Stone, some of which are actually rather underutilized. Emma Stone is held within just a couple of optional side missions.
The main character, Wei Shen seems a bit flat at first, but as the game progresses he deepens substantially. His struggle between the police and the triad is well crafted, more so than I expected. He is cool character and it’s fun to play as him. He would fit right in, in an old Hong Kong action film. Makes me wonder who would play him in the movie.
In every sandbox driving game the player has the compulsive need to test the police. Piss off the cops and have them chase you. At first the cops in Sleeping Dogs seemed much more adapt at their job than in most games. The cops kill you faster and catch you quicker than most games. This seemed a little strange at first until I realized that half their police force is probably filled with hong kong action stars. John Woo must employ half the force.
United Front, the company that made Sleeping Dogs, had only worked on racing games before doing Sleeping Dogs. So you can figure that the driving is solid, but that leaves you in the dark about the other aspects of the game. Sleeping Dogs set a goal of having the the 3 main aspects of the gameplay be solid enough to carry a game on their own, and in turn work together to create a great gaming experience. The 3 aspects being: Driving, shooting, and fighting.
THE DRIVING: The driving is near perfect. Cars aren’t overly realistic in the way they handle. You have good control over what you’re doing and it’s a lot of fun to do. I would actually say that Sleeping Dogs has the 2nd best driving mechanics in any open world game. 2nd only behind Scarface the World is Your’s on the ps2.
THE SHOOTING: Guns are very rare in sleeping dogs. You can’t go anywhere to buy guns, the only ways to get guns are to have them given to you during a mission or to kill a cop and take his gun. Once you beat the game you get to keep a gun in your apartment, but they are treated more like a privilege rather than a utility. Due to this fact, the few shootouts scattered throughout the story are made more intense and exciting. There are shootouts in some classic locations such as a cemetery and a hospital Hard Boiled style. There are a lot of guns in the game considering how rare they are. there are a few guns that you only get to use once. Shooting is fun and brings to mind classic Hong Kong actions films particularly the films of John Woo. Playing Sleeping Dogs often left me in the mood for a John Woo film. The shooting is fun especially when you add the excellent use of slow-motion. You can also shoot from cars like in most open world games, but this is one of the only open world games that pulls it off well. Aiming while in a car triggers a slow-motion aiming mode, during which the car autopilots down the road. This is the perfect system for shooting out of a car. 2nd place belongs to the Scarface game.
THE FIGHTING: The fighting system is deeper in this game than any other sandbox game I’ve ever played. In most sandbox games the fighting is awful and only implemented as an afterthought. In Sleeping Dogs the fighting is good enough to carry a game of it’s own. You have an excellent arsenal of fighting moves that grows throughout the game. The shooting brings John Woo movie to mind, while the fighting brings martial arts movies to mind, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Bruce Lee, Donnie Yen all the greats. The fighting uses a batman arkham type system that works perfectly. The fighting is awesome.
Sleeping Dogs also has parkour chases, which are a bit of a let down. The parkour is cool, but the chases never come to fruition. No matter how fast and how flawlessly you do in these chases you can never catch the person you’re chasing. You just follow them until they lead you to a place where you fight.
Sleeping Dogs is full of references to old action movies. the references range from items and places in the game, to costumes that you can wear. There are cool little homages to Hard Boiled, Rumble in the Bronx, Game of Death, Ong Bak, and even Reservoir Dogs. some of these references are really clever and well hidden. They take a knowledgeable mind to find and aren’t shoved in your face. I had a lot of fun seeing all the references in Sleeping Dogs.
The ending of the game is great. Things escalate and take some sharp unexpected turns leading to a string of action packed show stopping set pieces the explodes into a finale akin to Fargo. I was sad to see Sleeping Dogs end. I just wished there were more. Luckily you can still explore the world after you beat the game which allowed me to collect and do everything that hadn’t done or gotten yet.
Sleeping Dogs is only the 2nd sandbox driving game that I have bothered to finish. Usually open world games don’t hold my interest long enough to reach completion, but Sleeping Dogs held it throughout. I don’t count games like L.A. Noire into that retrospective because I feel that the open world is not the focus of the game, so that being said the only other sandbox driving game I’ve played to completion would ironically be True Crime Streets of L.A. which I only finished to unlock Snoop Dog.
Sleeping Dogs is my favorite sandbox driving game I’ve ever played. I highly recommend playing it.