Sparky's Update - Sleeping Dogs

"I've read a lot of blogs. Sparky's Update is lyrical honey. Oh, hey, toss me a roll of toilet paper, would you?" -Ernest Hemingway, circa 3012.

I really devoted myself to playing only one game this week. Judging from the title of this blog, you've probably guessed I played Legend of the Mystical Ninja. Well, you're wrong, you foolish, foolish person, you. Sleeping Dogs is yet another good open-world game in a generation of consoles that has seen many awesome entries in the genre. But is it as good as the likes of, say, Red Dead Redemption or Saints Row: The Third? Well, not quite.

Dogs does a lot of things well. The car combat in particular is superb - if you want to smash into another car, all you have to do is point yourself in the right direction and press X. I can't tell you how much more fun this makes things like street races - if the competition's sneaking up on you, let 'em up next to your car, and then bash them into oncoming traffic. It makes the cops in the game practically pointless, which not-so-hilariously echoes real life, doesn't it? Anyways...

There's also an RPG-like upgrade system that's pretty nifty too. Missions and side quests award you three types of experience - cop, triad, and/or face. Leveling up in these allows you to select a new, usually useful, ability. You can also find statues scattered around Hong Kong which can be returned to a kung fu master to learn new attacks, which are practically essential for the hand-to-hand combat sequences in the late game. As if that weren't enough, you can also find shrines scattered around that award bonuses to health when you've found enough. Collectibles with real rewards are a treat, and it makes exploring Hong Kong a lot of fun.

There's also a stunning amount of quests and activities to do within the city, not to mention things to purchase. Side quests are scattered all over the map, and range from beating down cheating racers' cars to chasing down deadbeats for a triad collections man. There are also all manner of races scattered throughout the city, most of which are surprisingly fun. I bought some DLC for the game when it was recently on sale. Some of the DLC has added numerous little side missions, which are fun but pretty inconsequential. The best of the bunch are definitely the on-rails shooting galleries, where you're a passenger in a car trying to take down as many vehicles chasing you as possible.

Scattered throughout the city are also shops and vendors of various types. You can collect clothes, cars, and furniture for your various apartments. The clothing looks outstanding, with a great variety of serious and goofy outfits. The furniture is somewhat hard to find and frankly didn't do much for me, but I love that the option is there. More games like this need random, awesome ways to spend your hard-earned in-game currency. One particularly cool idea is that you can buy food or massages for temporary benefits, such as increased damage or health regeneration.

All of these ideas are great. They make for a pretty good game, one I really do recommend you play, but there are some shortcomings that leave plenty of room for improvement in a sequel. Some activities are bare bones at best. This is particularly true of dating. Throughout the game, you meet various women you can go on a date with. It's a fine idea in theory, but in execution, it's pretty awful. Each date ends with a cutscene that makes it seem as though the developers had more plans for the women, but then in a cutaway scene, Wei (the lead) convinces the girls to hook up with him in brief, jarringly bad sentences. It's very clear that multiple dates were planned, but ultimately cut out. While the rewards for these dates are great - you get mini-map locations for collectibles and the like - it's a waste of the talent involved, which includes Lucy Liu and Emma Stone.

That lackluster petering out of the dating goes for some of the late-game story as well, particularly the conclusion. Two big story elements are done entirely in cutscenes, which doesn't give the villains in question enough time to shine. It reeks of a missed opportunity to add two very important missions, which is a damned shame. The game is plenty long, but I'd sacrifice those dating missions for a more explosive conclusion. And while the character interactions that are here are pretty great, none of the side characters and antagonists are given enough time to shine. You meet most of the villians only once or twice in cutscenes, so the eventual payoff against them feels limp.

This last thought isn't so much a complaint against the game as it is this console generation in particular, but the beginning of the game, in the Night Market, looks a damn sight better than the rest of the game. The Night Market feels alive and vibrant, packed with people and vendors all shouting and vying for your attention. The rest of the game world feels lackluster in comparison. If future games in this series can manage to make the entirety of ther cities feel as alive as the Night Market did, they'll have created something really phenomenal.

And that perfectly sums up Sleeping Dogs in general - it's a good game with a lot of neat elements just on the cusp of greatness. With enough TLC in a sequel, I imagine it'll be as revered as GTA and Saints Row.

The Rest

-I burned through the first season of Once Upon A Time like a madman this week. While there are some repetitive, eye-rolling moments with Snow Whtie and Charming, most of the stories told are fun. For someone with as much love of folk and fairy tales as me, this show is a joy.

-If Phantom Pain is indeed MGS 5, I hope it's a launch game for the next generation of consoles. What better game to demonstrate the hardware potential of future consoles than a Metal Gear game?

That's about it for this week. Hugs and kizzez, you salty dogs.

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14 Comments
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

"I've read a lot of blogs. Sparky's Update is lyrical honey. Oh, hey, toss me a roll of toilet paper, would you?" -Ernest Hemingway, circa 3012.

I really devoted myself to playing only one game this week. Judging from the title of this blog, you've probably guessed I played Legend of the Mystical Ninja. Well, you're wrong, you foolish, foolish person, you. Sleeping Dogs is yet another good open-world game in a generation of consoles that has seen many awesome entries in the genre. But is it as good as the likes of, say, Red Dead Redemption or Saints Row: The Third? Well, not quite.

Dogs does a lot of things well. The car combat in particular is superb - if you want to smash into another car, all you have to do is point yourself in the right direction and press X. I can't tell you how much more fun this makes things like street races - if the competition's sneaking up on you, let 'em up next to your car, and then bash them into oncoming traffic. It makes the cops in the game practically pointless, which not-so-hilariously echoes real life, doesn't it? Anyways...

There's also an RPG-like upgrade system that's pretty nifty too. Missions and side quests award you three types of experience - cop, triad, and/or face. Leveling up in these allows you to select a new, usually useful, ability. You can also find statues scattered around Hong Kong which can be returned to a kung fu master to learn new attacks, which are practically essential for the hand-to-hand combat sequences in the late game. As if that weren't enough, you can also find shrines scattered around that award bonuses to health when you've found enough. Collectibles with real rewards are a treat, and it makes exploring Hong Kong a lot of fun.

There's also a stunning amount of quests and activities to do within the city, not to mention things to purchase. Side quests are scattered all over the map, and range from beating down cheating racers' cars to chasing down deadbeats for a triad collections man. There are also all manner of races scattered throughout the city, most of which are surprisingly fun. I bought some DLC for the game when it was recently on sale. Some of the DLC has added numerous little side missions, which are fun but pretty inconsequential. The best of the bunch are definitely the on-rails shooting galleries, where you're a passenger in a car trying to take down as many vehicles chasing you as possible.

Scattered throughout the city are also shops and vendors of various types. You can collect clothes, cars, and furniture for your various apartments. The clothing looks outstanding, with a great variety of serious and goofy outfits. The furniture is somewhat hard to find and frankly didn't do much for me, but I love that the option is there. More games like this need random, awesome ways to spend your hard-earned in-game currency. One particularly cool idea is that you can buy food or massages for temporary benefits, such as increased damage or health regeneration.

All of these ideas are great. They make for a pretty good game, one I really do recommend you play, but there are some shortcomings that leave plenty of room for improvement in a sequel. Some activities are bare bones at best. This is particularly true of dating. Throughout the game, you meet various women you can go on a date with. It's a fine idea in theory, but in execution, it's pretty awful. Each date ends with a cutscene that makes it seem as though the developers had more plans for the women, but then in a cutaway scene, Wei (the lead) convinces the girls to hook up with him in brief, jarringly bad sentences. It's very clear that multiple dates were planned, but ultimately cut out. While the rewards for these dates are great - you get mini-map locations for collectibles and the like - it's a waste of the talent involved, which includes Lucy Liu and Emma Stone.

That lackluster petering out of the dating goes for some of the late-game story as well, particularly the conclusion. Two big story elements are done entirely in cutscenes, which doesn't give the villains in question enough time to shine. It reeks of a missed opportunity to add two very important missions, which is a damned shame. The game is plenty long, but I'd sacrifice those dating missions for a more explosive conclusion. And while the character interactions that are here are pretty great, none of the side characters and antagonists are given enough time to shine. You meet most of the villians only once or twice in cutscenes, so the eventual payoff against them feels limp.

This last thought isn't so much a complaint against the game as it is this console generation in particular, but the beginning of the game, in the Night Market, looks a damn sight better than the rest of the game. The Night Market feels alive and vibrant, packed with people and vendors all shouting and vying for your attention. The rest of the game world feels lackluster in comparison. If future games in this series can manage to make the entirety of ther cities feel as alive as the Night Market did, they'll have created something really phenomenal.

And that perfectly sums up Sleeping Dogs in general - it's a good game with a lot of neat elements just on the cusp of greatness. With enough TLC in a sequel, I imagine it'll be as revered as GTA and Saints Row.

The Rest

-I burned through the first season of Once Upon A Time like a madman this week. While there are some repetitive, eye-rolling moments with Snow Whtie and Charming, most of the stories told are fun. For someone with as much love of folk and fairy tales as me, this show is a joy.

-If Phantom Pain is indeed MGS 5, I hope it's a launch game for the next generation of consoles. What better game to demonstrate the hardware potential of future consoles than a Metal Gear game?

That's about it for this week. Hugs and kizzez, you salty dogs.

Moderator
Posted by Slag

I think the thing I've liked best about Sleeping Dogs, the little I've played so far, is the setting. I agree with you that mechanically and execution wise it seems a little undercooked in places. I guess that's understandable given it's dev history.

The setting for the open world games, for my own personal enjoyment of them anyway, usually is what makes or breaks them. It's probably why I liked Vice City but not GTA III etc.

Posted by dankempster

Ah, a new Sparky's Update has appeared! I'd better get on this now!

Sleeping Dogs is a game that's definitely on my radar, and one I'll most likely pick up at some point next year when I've made a bigger dent in my Pile of Shame (all those Sam & Max episodes have left it looking mighty unwieldy of late). It's good to hear the game manages to hold its on in a market that's not only crowded, but crowded with pretty stellar competition. Considering it was originally conceived as a reboot of the less-than-exemplary True Crime franchise, I'd say that to have turned out as solid as it did is a huge achievement on its part. The niggles you mention seem like things I would be happy to endure to experience the positives of the package, which by the sound of things are plentiful. Although if Emma Stone is under-used, I'm not sure that's something I can forgive...

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@dankempster: It's practically criminal how underused Emma Stone and Lucy Liu really are. That sounds vaguelyl dirty. Hmm. Anyways, yes, it's a small miracle that the game didn't wind up being a disaster like Duke Nukem Forever or its ilk. And for what it's worth, despite all those little negatives bitig at its heels, it really is a pretty good game. I'm very pleased it sold as well as it did. Square Enix might be faltering in its RPG department, but by helping release games like this and Just Cause 2, they've definitely done gamers a great service.

Side note - my Steam list would be considerably shorter if I hadn't bought a Telltale collection at one point. At the time, it was $30 for all the Sam and Max eppies to date (which was, at the time, up to the third season, I think), along with the Monkey Island reboot, Wallace and Gromit, Bone, and a handful of others. It's still one of the best purchases I've made on Steam, but it single-handedly skyrocketed my Steam pile of shame.

@Slag: I like the setting too. There are a lot of nice touches, particularly in that Night Market. I'm also a fan of some of the music, though I have no idea what's part of the score versus the soundtrack. I wouldn't mind seeing future sequels set in various other cities around the world. Could you imagine a Russian mafia game? That'd be badass! Though truthfully, I think there's enough in Hong Kong that they could easily do another couple of games in that setting, and I'd be perfectly okay with that.

Moderator
Posted by Slag

@Sparky_Buzzsaw said:

I wouldn't mind seeing future sequels set in various other cities around the world. Could you imagine a Russian mafia game? That'd be badass!

That would be really sweet! Oh man I would love to play that.

Yeah there a ton of locales around the world that get little or infrequent appearances in Games.

Rio De Janeiro is another that comes to mind. Berlin, Venice, New Delhi, Rome, Istanbul the list could get pretty long if you think about it

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@Slag: Rio's a fantastic idea. Any city in South America, really. I mean, you've kinda got that going on with Just Cause, another tentpole for SE at the moment, but if you focused in on the cities and gangs, it could really work. Maybe Mexico and Mexico City, too? All good ideas.

Moderator
Posted by Slag

@Sparky_Buzzsaw said:

Maybe Mexico and Mexico City, too? All good ideas.

Oh yeah, you really have something there.

Imagine if you set the game there during the 80's (1985?) and have the entire environment destroyed part way through the game due to the massive earthquake.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@Slag: Holy crap, that's a stellar idea.

Moderator
Posted by Mento

Yeah, there are definitely spots in Sleeping Dogs where you can see where something might've gone or been expanded upon if they had a little more time. But really they had all the time in the world for this thing. I think people might've overrated it simply because we saw how Duke Nukem Forever turned out and marveled at how this game was as good as it ended up being. Like meeting a pregnant stripper and coming back twenty years later to hear how her kid's putting himself through law school.

All that said, it's presently sitting at the top of my GOTY list. I've got a few more games I want to play before the year is out (Far Cry 3 and X-COM in particular) so it might not stay there for long. Honestly, at this point I might rate it my GOTY for Vinny's interactions with it alone.

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Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@Mento: Hmmm. I don't know if it'll make my top ten list or not this year - I haven't really gotten that far in my GOTY thoughts - but I certainly can't fault anyone for putting it in their own. It's certainly a good game with nothing really discernibly bad beyond those dating missions.

As for how much time they had on the game, I'd love to see a post-mortem analyzing where the game was before SE picked it up. It certainly seemed to enter into a brief period of polishing and development afterwards, but maybe I'm mistaken. In any case, I guess it's pretty foolhardy of me to hope that every game gets tons of time and attention, or else we'd likely never be playing games at all.

Moderator
Edited by Mento

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: Honestly? Kind of slim pickings this year. I have a lot of weird picks for my list at the moment, but I want to squeeze a few more on there before I commit to anything concrete.

Serious business, and what not.

Edit: Actually it just occurred to me how interesting everyone's lists will be this year, not to mention the GOTY debates. Without a unequivocally loved title like Skyrim, it's anyone's game. So to speak.

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Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@Mento: My lists include games from years past that I've only just now gotten around to playing. If I limited it to strictly 2012 games, I'm sure it would be in my list. As it is... well, it has to deal with games like Metal Gear Solid 3, certain games from my Retrospective series, and others. I might split it up into two lists - the best games of years past played this year and this year's best games, but we'll see.

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Posted by Bigandtasty

Loved Sleeping Dogs, but agree with most of your complaints. It would be fun to chase [spoiler] down as he attempts to get out of Hong Kong rather than have that end in a cutscene. Moreover, a lot of the drama came from the basic premise of the game -- that Wei is a cop and sooner or later his Triad buddies will find out. The fallout from that was almost nonexistent. Disappointing, but still an enjoyable experience.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@Bigandtasty: Very true. That wasn't addressed well enough for my liking either. I wouldn't have minded a big choice scene for Wei where things came down to being a cop or being a triad at heart, but as it stands, those last two missions did an all right job of showing how he kept toeing that line.

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