griddler's Sleeping Dogs (Xbox 360) review

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It Truly would be a Crime to not play Sleeping Dogs (sorry)

It is safe to say that Sleeping Dogs has had a difficult journey up to it's release. The open-world crime game originally began development in 2008 as part of Activision's True Crime series. It was subsequently canceled 3 years into development, and it seemed that the game would never make it to store shelves. Then in August 2011, publisher Square Enix announced that they would be picking up the title under the new name Sleeping Dogs, scheduled for release in 2012. So now the game is out, which is a success in itself, but what's better is that it's actually pretty great too.

The animation in cutscenes is pretty poor compared to Rockstar's realistic mocap.
The animation in cutscenes is pretty poor compared to Rockstar's realistic mocap.

Sleeping Dogs sees you playing as Wei Shen, a detective for the Hong Kong Police Force who must go deep undercover to infiltrate the Sun On Yee, a feared triad gang. On his way up the ranks, Shen must prove himself to the Sun On Yee by completing tasks for the triad and getting close to key gang members while also collecting information for his police superiors. Herein lies much of the story's tension as the line between Shen's allegiance to the police and his allegiance to the Sun On Yee becomes blurred.

The plot in Sleeping Dogs is surprisingly engrossing and features strong voice performances from a top-notch cast including Will Yun Lee, Tom Wilkinson, Emma Stone, and Lucy Liu. While the story is a little on the short side, it features some interesting characters and brutal twists which make it worth playing to the end. The city of Hong Kong makes a great backdrop to this story and from the bustling markets to the Buddhist temples, the sights and sounds of the Chinese metropolis make a welcome change to the drab, grey skyscrapers seen in most open-world games.

This open-world is filled with side-missions and other activities for the player to complete, which help to make up for the short length of the story. The player begins the game simply collecting money from businesses and escorting members of the Sun On Yee around town, but it's not long before they're taking part in savage fist-fights, parkour-style chases, gunning down dozens of rival gang members or competing in street races. I found the most entertaining part of Sleeping Dogs to be the melee combat, which will be recognisable to anyone who has tried the combat in Batman: Arkham Asylum, although with an added layer of brutality provided by the use of melee weapons (such as kitchen knives, crowbars and comically, in an early mission, a fish) and violent environmental attacks.

Can't tell if playing Sleeping Dogs or Stranglehold...
Can't tell if playing Sleeping Dogs or Stranglehold...

The gunplay will be familiar to anyone who has played any third-person shooter, ever, and it's not going to beat Gears of War, but Sleeping Dogs makes use of some stylish slow-motion and a combo system which keeps the shooting interesting. In general, the game's over-the-top action feels like a love letter to the Hong Kong action films of John Woo.

Sleeping Dogs is not a particularly innovative game, United Front have clearly borrowed ideas from other popular games, and while these individual elements might not be best-in-class on their own, when put together, along with an interesting story, they make a very entertaining package.

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