Review by Cortolio
A Dragon Kick to the GTA Clone Trend
Sleeping Dogs is the unofficial continuation of the True Crime series. Its the usual affair of playing an undercover cop during story missions, and having free reign to cause chaos when youre off duty. One could call this game a simple GTA clone and be done with it, however Sleeping Dogs has some fresh elements to go along with its open-world structure. IE lots of Kung-Fu fighting.
You play as Wei Shen an undercover detective whos tasked with climbing up the Triad ladder of hierarchy. Wei makes friends on both sides as he attempts to pinpoint drug kingpins and so forth. As far as stories go in this genre, Sleeping Dogs is actually good. Though, all of the surprises and betrayals can be seen from a mile away, the voice acting is solid and cutscenes are quite watchable. Compared to the awful story in Just Cause 2, another Square-Enix title, this is a pleasant surprise.
Story length is around 13 hours, a little on the short side for an open-world game.
The shining aspect of this game is the kung-fu fighting system. Its similar to the recent Batman games, but features heavy attacks and grapples. Environmental finishes are plentiful during storyline encounters, and offer great variety. Its pretty rewarding to ram a dudes head into a guitar amp, or impale someone on a pallet of swordfish heads. Executing counters and combos elevates this game from simple button mashing and gives fighting a level of depth that almost makes it an entire game in itself.
As great as the fistfights are, the same cannot really be said about gunplay. It just feels a little tacked on, and was obviously not the focus during the games development. The game does its best at the start to remind you that Guns are hard to come by in Hong Kong but the later missions are nevertheless spoiled with uninspired shootouts.
Compared to GTA IV, this games driving is on the unrealistic side. This not a bad thing, though as driving in Sleeping Dogs feels tight, and oddly natural compared to other arcade style open-world games such as Saints Row. Big props have to be given to the devs for making motorbikes fun to drive. Another nice touch is that when a vehicle is blocked in on both sides, Wei will actually punch out the windshield and climb through it to get out. Shooting from a vehicle is smartly integrated into the control scheme, and is almost effortless.
The health system in this game works on a sort of slow replenishing system. Wei can also eat food, or guzzle energy drinks to gain bonuses used for fighting. Character customization is limited to buying new clothes and accessories. There is no vehicle customization, though buying vehicles and accessing them is the best Ive seen so far in any GTA-style game. Future DLC will undoubtedly expand on some of these elements.
As far as diversions go theres: poker, street-races, cock fighting, karaoke, martial arts clubs, and plenty more. Getting 100% in this game is no easy feat as there are plenty of collectibles and side-events to be tackled.
Nothing abysmal, but certainly nothing of noteworthiness either. Character models are bland, and even Wei Shen doesn't stand out. Vehicle models are good, but dont sport the level of detail found in GTA. Also the name of the car you've just jacked doesn't show up anywhere on the screen. That should be a staple in this genre by now!
Its disappointing that the devs didn't do a better job bringing Hong-Kong to life, as there aren't really any memorable landmarks or locations to visit. This makes navigating around town listless and a bit of a chore.
The radio stations in this game are bad. There are some Cantonese stations, but theyre only listenable for about a second. All of the other stations are lame, with nothing compared to the humor found in GTA titles.
Ambient music is what youd expect from a game set in Asia. Theres not really much to be said there unfortunately. Gun sounds are unrealistic. The games only SMG sounds like somebody dangling a chain rhythmically. Vehicle sounds are mixed low, and even sports cars dont sound powerful.
As mentioned before, the voice-acting is solid and definitely the saving grace in this department. Emma Stone and Lucy Lui are instantly recognizable in the cast of characters. Its too bad the script the actors had to work with wasn't a little bit better.
None besides leaderboards thank god!
Difficulty: Just Right
Some missions are laughably easy, however non-story related events can be a bit challenging.
Sleeping Dogs is a welcome and to some extent innovative addition to the open-world action/adventure genre. Sporting great gameplay and voice acting it is a definite buy for those interested in causing chaos and giving pedestrians an unsolicited lesson on how to receive a flying kick to the face.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Sleeping Dogs (US, 08/14/12)
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