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Thursday, 24 July 2014

Sleeping Dogs Review

Sleeping Dogs
Kung Fu Review

Warning: There will be minor spoilers ahead.
Disclaimer: I played this game on the Xbox 360 and other playthroughs may yield different results.
            Sleeping Dogs follows Wei Shen – an undercover cop trying to take down the Triads.  Growing up in Hong Kong, Wei met a lot of people that would eventually grow up to become Triads.  Wei’s mother had moved the family to San Francisco where Wei would eventually become a cop.  After returning to Hong Kong, Wei is placed undercover in the Triads to try and take them down, but it becomes difficult after he meets some childhood friends.

            Sleeping Dogs does a good job at portraying east Asian gangs from both the perspective of the law and the perspective of the members of that gang.  To the police the Triads are just a gang of murderers willing to go to any lengths to make money: drugs, murder, and even human trafficking.  To a point this is true, some of the people Wei meets on his journey are horrendous individuals that have earned the reputation that the police give them.  Others though, are good people caught up in a bad situation.

            The game briefly goes over some very touchy topics of crime in Hong Kong.  Little things such as theft, assault, illegal gambling, and illegal immigration.  As well as some pretty heinous crimes such as kidnapping, murder, gang wars, and even human trafficking.  Sleeping Dogs goes into some pretty dark corners of society, but manages to break the tension with a witty joke or a well-placed fight.  This is quite the achievement considering there is a mission where you discover a human trafficking ring; the mission shows immigrants that have been locked up in a cage, some of which were there for over a week. The game really paints Hong Kong as a beautiful city with a seriously dark underbelly.

            The gang Wei joins is all about family and looking out for each other.  Although violent – the gang members are not liars, and consider each other to be family.  There are people like Jackie, who grew up dreaming of becoming a triad but soon learns that he doesn’t want to live that life and finds himself stuck. The gangs that are being portrayed in this game are reminiscent of the mafia from the 1920’s-60’s.  I feel as if in twenty years the gangs of today will be portrayed as the mobs of yesteryear; filled with honour, loyalty, and violence.

            On the technical side - this game works.  It is a cross between a beat ‘em up and an open world RPG.  A cross-genre that’s not really seen on today’s market, but it works pretty well.  The story is great and a lot of fun to participate in and the fighting sections were fantastic.  However the driving was clunky and the fire-fights worked but felt unoriginal.

The fighting is the main draw of this game and it works really well.  Wei is a fantastic fighter and can take on over fifteen people at once.  The fighting style is very kung fu/karate-esque, and it makes it a lot of fun to fight with all the flashy moves that accompany those fighting styles.  Personally, I feel that Sleeping Dogs suffers from the same thing that Assassins Creed or Arkham City suffers from, and that’s that the fighting can be too easy.  Wei can tackle hundreds of guys and all the player would have to do is counter the moves, eventually taking them out.  This problem was most noticeable during the boss fights as an entire encounter could be essentially completed with one button.

            The parkour in this game was fantastically fun.  It was so awesome to watch Wei run on the rooftops of Hong Kong.  Wei moves like a real person would and he has a weight to him that can be felt in the gameplay.  The fire fights were very generic and I feel they didn’t add anything significant to the game with the exception of natural story progression.

            I found the driving was the weakest section of the game as some of the cars had horrible handling that made just staying on the roads a challenge.  The camera was awful during these sections as it would either ride so low that I couldn’t see in front of the vehicle or it would glitch out altogether and get stuck in a building.

            Speaking of glitches, Sleeping Dogs riddled with them.  Even for an open world game I found that there was an overabundance of non-trivial glitches that affected my playthrough.  A lot of them had to do with the camera just straight up doing whatever it wanted to do.  Others included Wei getting stuck on a sidewalk and not being able to jump on something I needed to jump on to progress in the mission. One time my game even crashed.

            Creatively, I think that Sleeping Dogs has a lot going for it.  The story is fantastically interesting and made me want more from it.  The city of Hong Kong was beautiful with all the neon lights.  The world the developers made was populated and felt like it was a real place and the NPC’s each had a personality which made me feel bad when I stole a car from one of them.

            As far as the story goes, it felt really strong but lacking in places.  There were a few times where I wanted to know more about what was going on but was denied the information I desired.  There were also a few moments where I thought to myself “Really?”.  These moments are not very abundant though and have a very minor effect on the overall game.

             The musical score in the game was forgettable.  While driving around the radio would be drowned out by the engine of the car.  During cut scenes I didn’t even notice any music.  You may be thinking to yourself that I should be invested in the story and not be paying as much attention to the music anyway.  I respectfully disagree - I believe that the musical score should be used to enhance the story.  Take Red Dead Redemption for example, during a cut scene there would be music to enhance the situation that the player finds themselves in.  If the dialogue is pushing for action, then the music should build up that action and make it feel epic rather than just action.

            Overall, I felt that Sleeping Dogs was a solid game with several high moments, but felt that it lacked some personality.  At points it would remind me of old Kung Fu movies, but most of the time it did not.  I felt that this game should have had more of that, because those moments were the most memorable for me.  I understand that Sleeping Dogs wants to be its own thing and not be remembered for all of its references, but it's not a bad thing to show your influences.  The developers could have had thousands of references to people like Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and Jet Lee but ultimately chose not to - this does not make Sleeping Dogs a bad game, it just holds it back from being something better.

            Sleeping Dogs really is good though, and it does stand apart from others within the same genre.  It is full of high octane action, and has a compelling story as well.  If you like games with solid gameplay and a beautiful and alive world then I suggest that you give Sleeping Dogs a try.


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