Sleeping Dogs. Not exactly the best open world game, but it's still a really good game
(Spoiler Warning!) It took me a while to do it because I couldn't get off my lazy behind, but I had finally managed to finish playing Sleeping Dogs a few days ago. Now, I think that sandbox (or open world) games are my favorite kinds of games to play. Since I am an expert sandbox player myself (Audience: (-_-)), I have to say that Sleeping Dogs is a fun game to play, but it still has its share of lackluster qualities.
Okay, let's start with the Story. So, you're playing as this undercover cop named Wei Shen, right? And Wei is a pretty likable character. Although, he's a former gang member, he still has some really good qualities both morally (has great manners, generous, diligent) and physically (can beat the crap out of baddies like there's no tomorrow! :D). Tasked with infiltrating one of Hong Kong's biggest Triads, the Sun On Yee (Sun Yee On in real life), Wei encounters decisions that could not only affect his reputable career as a cop, but also his relationship with the gang he used to be a part of. Constantly flung around moments that force him to side with either the Sun On Yee or the HKPD, Wei frequently makes dire choices that impact the story further and further. It's an okay story, just your typical undercover cop story; I never really felt any tension when I was playing it. Whenever I was about to start a mission I would basically just be excited to see some explosions and gunfights, or stealth and lots of kicking and punching. But that's a bad sign because a good story has the player dying to see what happens next, and I certainly didn't feel that way. For an undercover cop story it was a pretty good one, but it was one that had some pretty predictable moments. We can all predict what happens in these kinds stories, right? Some betrayals, a few corrupted cops, gunfights, explosions, expected pivotal deaths, and lots of cliche lines like "No, (*insert random name here*)! Don't do it!" Overall, it's not exactly "moving" story-wise, but it's a story that anybody can enjoy to some extent.
Apart from the story, the game's Environment and Visuals are actually pretty amazing! With Hong Kong as it's setting, Sleeping Dogs takes the player to a place where sandbox games don't normally go. In-game Hong Kong is a vibrant setting, both during the day and at night. How do I know that this place is a well-rendered replica of Hong Kong? Because I've been to the real place, and I think I'd know if it was done perfectly or not :). The traffic is bustling, the city lights are structured perfectly, and the people act the way they're supposed to (especially those street vendor guys). The game has tons of great vistas of Hong Kong and it just feels great to move the camera around while driving to get a good look at the awesome architecture; I felt like I was there again!
The game's Combat is definitely something you should love as well! One of the reasons why I love the combat of this game - and I think it was really smart of the developers to do this - is that the guys up at United Front Games decided to get help from Rocksteady Studios, noted for their critically-acclaimed Batman Arkham series, in order to incorporate the Arkham series' combat system into the game. Sleeping Dogs' combat is so exhilarating because its use of the Arkham combat system makes fighting enemies adaptable when confronted quickly; the same goes for the Arkham games (Arkham City was the best!). The system works like it does in Batman; special combos, picking up items and using them to fight, countering (enemy turns red when you must), and finishing moves. The combos in this game are especially good! The game's upgrade system (also much like Batman's) lets you unlock amazing moves to pull off on your enemies. It's a lot of fun!
Being a critical part of combat, Gunfights are introduced a little while after you start the game. The gunfights were pretty awesome, and the variety of weapons you could use wasn't bad either. One gunfight feature that I literally used all the time was the "Bullet-Time" feature. Yeah, the gunfights were pretty awesome; shootin' up thugs, shooting barrels and cars filled with fuel to make things blow up, and getting head shots. The only problem was that the gunfights were way too easy. First of all, the developers spoil the player with the "Bullet-Time" feature, which had an auto-targeting system, making it easy kill enemies in an instant all the time. Second, enemies barely advance on you sometimes. Then, on top of that, when you narrow it down to the last enemy to shoot, you can barely get the guy to come out sometimes. Once again, the gunfights are pretty awesome, but they still have their ups and downs.
Both Character and NPC Dialogue are serious and sometimes funny, but they're cheap and common. Like I said before, the game's story is your typical undercover cop story, so what's an undercover cop story without undercover cop story dialogue? Dialogue like that is serious but can get really cheesy at some points (and this isn't just for Sleeping Dogs, this is present in all kinds of books, movies, comics, etc. except for some notable exceptions). When encountering NPCs, you realize that dialogue is being re-used relentlessly and not held back as much like in better open world games. I'm not really sure about this either, but I sensed that the writers, when running out of things to say, filled up empty lines with either lots of curse words and threats or Chinese curse words shouted in mid-English sentence.
Open World/Sandbox games are supposed to give the player a sense of Freedom, right? Well this game certainly does that very well. Apart from occasionally bad dynamics and frequent glitches, there's practically a wide variety of things you can do in Sleeping Dogs. Not as wide as that of a truly excellent open world game, but it's still a pretty good variety. At the start of the game, you're basically free to move around anywhere; there aren't any off limit places like in Assassin's Creed. You can drive like a madman while listening to music, find and use guns (though the game doesn't let you keep them because it disappears after not using it for at least 15 minutes), steal police cars and take shotguns out of their trunks, hit masses of pedestrians, drive boats, ride motorcycles, launch yourself over cars while riding a motorcycle, hijack cars, jump from car to car while driving in order to steal it (action hijack), shoot at other cars while driving, anger cops to the point where they try to kill you and set up road blocks, date women (only 5), hack security cameras, eat food (gives you power-ups in combat), participate in cockfights, gamble, find large sums of cash, join fight clubs, do side quests, build a massive wardrobe , beat the hell out of thugs, buy furniture, buy expensive cars, blow up expensive cars, gain territory, and harass citizens *out of breath*.
A good aspect of an open world game is its Missions. Sleeping Dogs' missions are superb, filled with lots action (as if you're in a movie; not in a way like Uncharted, though), and most of the time have something entirely new. But its side quests are sooooo boring! Why? They're unoriginal, repetitive, and annoying. The missions are exciting because always have something new to do, they build up on each other in line with the story, meaning that you're always doing something different. Some missions may have you doing routines that you do on a regular basis, but they're generally pretty fun to do. Side quests, however, aren't that really entertaining. The side quests aren't that variable, meaning that there are either side quests that serve as sequels to ones that you've previously done or side quests that involve the same situation countless times with the only thing different being a switch-up of NPCs.
The one set features of this game that'll never fail, no matter how you look at it, are its many epic Car Chases, Vehicular Action Scenes, and Races. Most of the cars and motorcycles available to you in Sleeping Dogs are fast, expensive, and sexy ;) Now, I want you to tell me what other kinds of cars belong in kick-ass car chases with tons of explosions, lots of shooting, epic car jumps, drifting, racing (modeled off of Need for Speed's racing system), and epic crashes! Can you? Hm? That's what I thought! One of the many things I often unintentionally do with the cars in Sleeping Dogs is driving around, pissing off a whole bunch of cops while listening to music, and uncontrollably driving into masses of pedestrians, who make funny noises when they get hit, by accident...Oh! Yeah! and I realized that I listen to music when I do that as well :D... :
Despite its share of lackluster qualities, Sleeping Dogs was still a pretty good blast. It's one of those games that you finish and you end up saying "That wasn't so bad." I still think there could have been a better ending, but I still think that all of the characters deserved whatever happened to them, good or bad. The last thing needed to be discussed is one of the most important aspects of an open world game: Post-Game. A good open world game lets you mingle in its immersive world after you finish the story, right? Sleeping Dogs does that, but the big problem is that there will literally be nothing for you to do after you finish completing all the side quests, buying all the clothes, buying all the cars, collecting all the special items, and getting all the upgrades. A total bore :( The only thing left to do is to mess around with cops, jump off of stuff, and do crazy things with cars and boats. Honestly, it really does get boring after a while. However, like I said, this game is still a blast; so if you're bored and are looking for a random sandbox game to play while waiting for the launch of a game that you're really looking forward to playing, simple....get Sleeping Dogs.
This concludes my Sleeping Dogs Review. My second article already...isn't that something....
Thanks for reading!
Sleeping Dogs was reviewed on a PS3 using a retail copy of the game. Sleeping Dogs is now available for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.