Sleeping Dogs is a terrific crime open-world with an electrifying combat, a compelling story and fresh ideas that make the genre feel entertaining once again.
During the PlayStation 2 era, Activision published a series of Grand Theft Auto clones known as True Crime. There were only two games in the series with a third one in the works that was later delayed and canceled. Eventually, Square Enix acquired the publishing rights to the game and years after its announcement, the True Crime game became Sleeping Dogs. The GTA DNA is still noticeable in parts, but for the most part, this open-world crime game feels fresh and unique thanks to stunning visuals, graceful combat, electrifying chase sequences and a new setting. Sleeping Dogs may have a tumultuous past, but this open-world game was well worth the wait.
In Sleeping Dogs, you play as Wade, an undercover cop who infiltrates a Chinese gang in Hong Kong. In order to bring this criminal organization down, you need to run errands, attack members of opposite crime groups, collect money from vendors, steal goods, escort people to places and so on. To do all that, you need to explore the city of Hong Kong and luckily, that’s always a blast. The city’s vibrant and full of life, you see people celebrating the Chinese new year, vendors selling illegal merchandise and labyrinthine streets covered in neon signs that give the environment and authentic feel. From the Cantonese dialogue to the neon signs, this world is brimming with personality.
Naturally, you’ll engage in combat quite often. Those who played any of the Batman: Arkham Games will feel right at home in this department. You can attack, connect strikes, hold the attack button to perform unblockable moves, use melee weapons, use the environments in your favor and counter attack. Also, you find stolen statues from your former sensei which allows you to learn new attacks. This makes combat much more entertaining, varied and fluid and combining attacks in new ways is both visually appealing as well as effective. Eventually, gunplay comes into play and while there aren’t any surprises if you’ve played a third-person shooter in the past years, I was glad I could take cover and shoot guns every once in a while.
As in some of the best action movies, there are car chases and Sleeping dogs introduces a mechanic that makes them feel fresh. By approaching a car from behind and getting close enough and climb on it and hijack which looks great and is a blast. When other cars become a nuisance that you don’t want to deal with, you simply crash into them and if you do it enough times, you’ll put them out of commission which automatically removes one of the most annoying parts of Grand Theft auto formula.
There’s a basic upgrade system that’s divided into two. In cop upgrades, you start with three stars and they decrease if you don’t abide by the law and in triad upgrades, you start with no stars, but you can get up to three as you defeat more enemies and make use of the combat creatively. There’s also face value which increases as you do favors for random people and complete different side-quests.
All these innovations make the traditional open-world experience fresh and entertaining. Missions involve escorting NPCs, escaping the police, participating in underground races, dating Emma Stone, collecting money from protection, busting drug operations and so on. There’s also a slew of side-missions, including going on dates, raiding enemy bases, chasing criminals on foot, cockfighting, doing favors, singing karaoke and more. There are also radio stations and they include rock, pop, heavy metal, classical, typical music and some Chinese music as well.
In the end, Sleeping Dogs is a terrific crime open-world with an electrifying combat, a compelling story and fresh ideas that make the genre feel entertaining once again. There are missteps here and there, such as the finicky cover system or the plain shooting, but Sleeping Dogs is a robust sandbox title that empowers the player.