Surprise! Sleeping Dogs
The fact that we have recently enjoyed some behemoth open world titles in Grand Theft Auto IV and Saints Row: The Third, the tide is definitely pushing and pulling on the possibility of success for this little known open world Hong Khong storyline, but boy does Sleeping Dogs deliver an exceptionally enthralling storyline.
Sleeping Dogs is a fast and entertaining game, with blood, drugs, cars and karaoke, but sometimes just like 'real life' the story and side missions slow down the pace and give you a chance to be embraced by the mini replica of Hong Khong and its citizens. As Wei Shen who is an undercover cop seeking justice for his dead family, working his way up from a foot soldier to a leader in the 'Sun on yee', you'll be completing the usual stand over work and territory protection. catch bag snatchers, taking care of drunk buffoons in the streets, hacking cameras, cracking locks and playing the cad with the ladies. You get attached to some of your ladies and even the odd salty crab, however, the characters drop in and drop out much too quickly. Treating me mean but keeping me unfortunately too keen.
The fighting system in Sleeping Dogs runs rings around any other open world title out there, using a similar style as rocksteady's 'Arkham Asylum' titles, you'll fight a number of variations of triad enemies that you'll need to outsmart individually and then during crowd control. I found myself picking fights with groups of enemies to just use the fighting system, the punches and kicks FEEL strong and heavy, especially when you use a baton, a kitchen knife or cleaver and especially some of the nasty finishing moves. Completing these 'messy' moves or breaking your enemies bones fills your fighing face bar that feeds into your enemies fear of you, giving you added abilities. Just as a side note, you have only your fists for about 90% of the game, the later you have some middling guns that are entertaining, but just the usual.
Driving in Sleeping Dogs' Hong Khong is so enjoyable, its quick, smart and has a definite arcade feel. You will eventually work your way up to some extremely fast cars and bikes, and cripes, do you need to hold on to your seat in the tight areas. I found it ingenious that even in a car I felt so in control of the game, being able to bump in any direct using only a button and 'eventually' you'll feel like a god with a gun in a car/bike/boat. Some smart choices were made with a quick map destination button (analog L button) and arrows the same as you see in racing games giving you visual direction. Small things that made the game enjoyable.
Now, you'll be upgrading Wei in four different ways. FACE: Which is how the citizens of Hong Khong see you, these missions are orange and they are about 'helping' your fellow triad members, winning fighting championships or just helping citizens in need. TRIAD: Which is how your triad members/enemies see you, these missions are green and they are your triad story line jobs. COP: Which is how you stay a law abiding cop, these missions are blue, a number of side storylines involving investigations, clearing out thugs and completing drug busts. HIDDEN CHINESE JADE STATUES: Returning these statues to your fighting mentor, he will chat to you about who you are/were. Each of these have 10 levels that give you a 'Y' shaped tree increasing your fighting, driving and social abilities.
The island of this mini Hong Khong doesn't stand up against the larger titles, the furthest I found one point to the other was never more than 3km, loading screens are perfectly hidden (although sometimes annoying how driving through a snaking road is aggravating when your trying to be quick), the visuals are not spectacular. But I think the storyline makes up for the visual middlings, with so much to do in the city, I think at this stage of the current generation we are noticing that the depth of story or world are more important than jaw dropping graphics every single time.
Sleeping Dogs has a city that grabbed me, made me feel a part of its breathing world, the story made me unable to put the controller. A few characters were fantastic and to be honest I was annoyed they disappeared so quickly without any notice. I wanted more of them. Although that is a negative, its a positive that I was invested. This is what I want from my games, intelligent, dark, engrossing and developing storylines that are backed up by a strong, believable and interactive backgrounds.
Well worth the 20 odd hours I enjoyed in Hong Khong (sleeping dogs)