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“Sleeping Dogs” is an undercover criminal versus cop adventure set in open world Hong Kong. It features a liberal dose of Cantonese Chinese with subtitles and English with subtitles as well. You play as Wei Shen, an undercover operative from the Hong Kong Police Department freshly returned from America. Sent to infiltrate and rise in the Son On Yee Triad, you gain the loyalty of past and present friends while battling against rival gangs across the four sections of Hong Kong.
United Front Games and Square Enix London Studios teamed up to create an open world gaming experience that has some of the best gameplay elements for this generation of consoles. United Front Games itself is made up of staff that has worked on games such as the “Need for Speed” series, the “Max Payne” games, the “Prototype” games and the “Saints Row” series.
The Chinese language is, thankfully, exceptionally well translated, with social and slang terms used correctly. Players who speak Cantonese will find familiar vocabulary throughout the game, with nearly the entire stable of Chinese curses included to get out the aggression. However English is still the primary language for nearly 90% of the entire game, foul language included. Needless to say, this is not a game to play around anyone with sensitive ears.
Breaking a bone, meanwhile, isn’t quite as easy as expected. It’s a hit against “Sleeping Dogs” that there is only one attack button, one counter button and one grappling button. Combined with the sprinting button, the layout of the combat usually revolves around these four buttons plus the lock on feature. The combat system is just interesting enough to keep gamers entertained with bone crushing maneuvers, but they aren’t the easiest to pull off. There isn’t much room for button bashing here if you want to play it smart.
Do just that, though, and you’ll be awarded with exciting finishes and slow motion action sequences that excite the mind. Destructible elements during combat further enhance the gameplay experience in an otherwise routine and frustrating combat system. The first time a bad guy is dumped into a meat grinder or crushed by an engine bay is an equally jaw dropping and body cringing experience. This game is certainly a shade on the bloody side but in a game with cops and gangsters, it’s expected.
The armed combat, which rolls seamlessly between armed vehicle combat and unarmed combat, is easily accessible and only requires a small learning curve to get the buttons down for shooting. Takedowns against an opponent holding a weapon is easy fun, as is sliding over an obstacle to jump down onto an armed assailant while under fire. Cover action is liberally encouraged for gamers lest they die a frustrating bullet-riddled death.
The sound effects are fairly standard, even the ones when you break someone’s elbow. But one of the most unique features of this game is the rotation of satellite style radio’s that are included whenever a car or motorcycle is in use. This has a great mix of tracks for the player to select from, depending on mood and gameplay action. Some is interesting enough to search the internet and add it to your MP3 player.
Because United Front Games has staff from the “Need for Speed” series and now defunct EA “Blackbox Vancouver,” the street racing is exciting and has a suitably arcade-like response and feel. Anyone who has ever raced a “Need for Speed” game in the last 10 years will find familiar territory here with the GPS system and the sprinter style races through a crowded city.
The general level design of Hong Kong is good, with each of the four sections of Hong Kong having a different fit and feel. While the streets have basic layouts, the buildings in each of the sections are noted for having different stores as well as a variety of construction materials. In Central you’ll find cars and clothing stores that are more upscale and posh while North Point has cheaper cars and older buildings. In actuality, there is a particular section of real life Hong Kong that is shaped just like the Hong Kong in “Sleeping Dogs.”
One hit against the game is that the graphics are pretty standard for this generation of consoles and do very little to elevate the look of the game. On par with many other games of this type, the weather affects in the game do have a physical impact on the game but they are limited. Gamers who have played “Prototype” will remark on a few similarities with the cut scene designs and some of the gameplay design as well.
Still, the level of detail in this game is commendable. The depth of level design is fairly intense; for example, a motorcycle crash sends Wei Shen into a second story balcony where he took physical damage upon landing. Many other games of this kind would have the character falling endlessly through digital limbo after such a crash or splatter against the building like a bug against a wall rather than landing on an actual ledge. That is the level of detail that this game possesses.
Be on the look out for Toonari Post’s review of “Sleeping Dogs” as this two part review continues.