A solid game
Sleeping dogs is a solid game - there isn't anything it does badly and plenty of things it does very well. No, it won't light the world on fire, but for a game that was very nearly cancelled, it has done well for itself.
The main draw for sleeping dogs is not the open world mechanics - other games have done it before. It's not the combat - other games have done it better. It's not the graphics - which are good, but won't make your jaw drop. No, the main draw for Sleeping dogs is the setting and the story - more the setting than the story.
You play as Wei Shen, an Asian-American Police Officer on loan to the Hong Kong Police as an undercover agent. Shen's stellar arrest record, physical and mental prowess and his childhood that was spent growing up with the children of triad families in Hong Kong make him the perfect tool they need to bring down the powerful "Sun on Yee" crime gang. The game revolves around Shen worming his way into the higher reaches of the Sun on Yee, while also helping the HKPD deal with related crime activities. Despite the set-up, there are no "choices" or "moral systems" at play here - there is no need to "balance" your actions in regards to the two groups, and there is no way the player can impact the story at any point. Shen's story plays out as it does.
And it is an interesting story, even if it is not very original. While the Chinese triads are not exactly the same as the Italian Mafia, a crime syndicate is a crime syndicate and there are commonalities to be found between them. Predictably enough Shen will have to deal with his growing attachment to his triad "family" while trying to maintain his cover and his goal to bring down the Sun on Yee.
It's a good story and it lasts a decent amount of time, clocking in at around 10 hours if you just do the main quests as quickly as possible.
Like GTAIV, but more polished and fun to play. Wei fights, drives and shoots his way through Hong Kong much as you'd expect. The Gunplay is nothing special. The driving is nothing special either (although it is also not frustrating like GTAIVs). But the brawling system deserves some mention as it borrows elements from the Batman Arkham games, and even manages to incorporate a few new elements such as brutal (and I mean brutal) environmental kills, different enemy types, a variety of combo moves and melee weapons. It is not as polished as Batman's but it's still pretty good.
As with GTAIV, the game world will contain missions you drive to and complete. At the start, these missions are very easy, but as you progress they can become mildly challenging. I say mildly, because there is no area of the game which presents great difficulty. As long as you have decent reflexes, all physical fights, even boss fights, are easy. There are also a large number of "face" missions - sidequests that improve your "face" or honor.
While the game has no morality and while you cannot affect the outcome, you can affect your progress through the ability trees depending on your actions. While (and only while) on a mission, actions you perform can decrease or increase two metres: the "Cop" metre and the "triad" metre. Using brutal environmental kills and being very violent will cause the triad metre to rise. Harming civilians or damaging property will cause the Cop metre to drop. How far the triad metre rises and how far the Cop metre drops influences how much experience you earn for those two ability trees.
The game also has a decent amount of collectibles for you to locate. Health Shrines which can increase your max health, to jade statues which can unlock new brawling/martial arts techniques, to lockboxes containing money or new items of clothing.
For an open world game, Sleeping dogs looks good and looks especially nice on the PC. They manage to get a good representation of how Hong Kong actually looks (and I've been there). Rain, day/night cycles, lights and textures all look very good. It won't light the world on fire, and the character models for unimportant characters is a little shabby, but overall it looks very good. Some animation problems, but nothing serious. If you want a game that looks nice, Sleeping Dogs won't disappoint.
A real highlight. Having been to Hong Kong and grown up around Cantonese-speaking people for all my life, I can say that they get the hustle and bustle down right. Chinese societies really do sound like that. The way the pedestrians shout, curse, speak and greet are all pretty accurate - except for the amount of English spoken, which is inaccurate.
The voice acting is rock-solid, almost across the board. One or two characters sound like they're phoning it in, but for the most part they actors work like they are in a movie.
Sleeping dogs is a good game. I will not say it is perfect. There are more than a few progress breaking bugs that I have run into and the combat becomes quite dull after a while. It does not offer much of a challenge and while the story is good, I will not say that it is one I'll remember for a long time.
Still, it's worth your money and time.