The summer of sport has come to end and as expected new big title releases were very hard to come by with the last batch of big titles coming out way back in May when we had the likes of Max Payne 3, Dragon’s Dogma and the latest Tom Clancy title. So it’s safe to say the summer was quiet, but the one big shining point was “Sleeping Dogs”. Released on the 17th of August and developed by United Front Games, the game has been top of the sales chart since its release, but its progress to the top hasn’t been as straight forward as it would seem. The title was originally announced back in 2009 as “True Crime: Hong Kong” a re-boot in the True Crime series, but after numerous delays and because of the games high development budget, Activision cancelled the title in early 2011 leaving the a game with great potentially stuck on a road to nowhere and leaving fans disappointed. However, Square Enix picked up the title in August 2011 and later re-branded it as Sleeping Dogs as they did not acquire the True Crime IP. It’s also worth noting that this is only United Front Games’ second official title so what a fantastic success it is for them!
The game starts in a Hong Kong Shipping Harbour when a drug deal goes bad for you and you get thrown in jail. Turns out you are an undercover cop, Wei Shen, who is on a mission to get close to the triads and take them down from the inside out. When in jail Shen meets an old friend of his called Jackie Ma who he knows from his time growing up in Hong Kong as a child, Jackie is not aware of his police status and the pair get talking and Jackie offers Wei the chance to join up with his gang once they are both released. Wei is then taken to an interrogation room where is greeted by Superintendent Thomas Pendrew and his handler Raymond Mak. Wei explains to the two men that has now made a link with the Sun On Yee. Once released from jail you meet up with Jackie once more and he takes you to meet Winston Chu, this is where the story really beginnings. Throughout the game the struggles of being an undercover police officer and carrying out task for the triads that go against the law begin to affect Wei Shen, as he gets deeper undercover will he get hooked on the life crime or will he stay loyal to his badge?
The game is set in an open world so you can free roam around all day if you wanted to. On your radar you will have blue crests for missions that are to assist your friends on the police force and green crests indicated missions for the triads. You can’t just steal a car and put it in your garage like in GTA or Saints Row unfortunately. You have to buy or earn the vehicles you have and to access them just go to one of the various parking lots indicated on your map. On top of the main story missions you have various side missions, from favours for strangers to gang activity. The gang activity side missions require you to take out a group of gang members in a specific area and they hack in to the camera located near there, you then have to head back to your home and use the TV to have their drug supplier arrested. By doing all the various missions you level up with your police colleagues or triad members and unlock different moves when fighting or exploring the city. The game is very much based on hand to hand combat and getting in people’s faces, the counter attack system works very well and enables you to get the upper hand on large groups of opponents. There are times where you have to draw a weapon but the emphasis is definitely on hand to hand combat!
If you feel you need a boost for your character then you can purchase food or drink from different places that will increase your damage, replenish health quicker etc. You can test your fighting skills by going to one of the fighting events that are indicated on your map, in the events you have to survive 6 rounds of various opponents so be sure to prepare yourself! Scattered around the city are collectables such as health shrines that increase your max health and cash boxes that can be a real boost to your bank balance!
The game plays very nicely, the fighting style is epic, the story is gripping and you can’t predict what the future will hold for Wei Shen. The game feels like a perfect blend of Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row but with its own uniqueness that makes it really stand out. This title has definitely been a big loss to Activision who will no doubt had wished they had kept hold of it.
Sleeping Dogs is available now for Play Station 3, Xbox 360 and PC.
Review in association with Duracell Gaming Accessories, which are available from Amazon, Play.com and Zavvi.com Review by Thomas Thompsett, White Room Games.