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FB – Let’s Be Friends
In many games, especially those in the action, adventure and role playing genres, character growth, mission variety and storytelling are two critical components of the game. It is what draws players towards a character and enhances gameplay experiences.
The storyline is one of the essential positive marks of the “Sleeping Dogs,” bringing to life characters that are relatable and memorable. The Son On Yee is a brotherhood; those that betray it are likewise treated to lethal punishments. Already suspected of a traitor in their midst, Wei Shen is tested time and time again for his loyalty and skills. Players will sweat through initiation fights as well as early missions, struggling with little money or respect.
The player’s journey as a cop and triad living dual lives will draw them further and deeper into the life of a triad gang member than ever before. In the triad, nothing is as safe as it used to be and the gamer gets a sense that change is coming. As one character in the upper echelons of the Son On Yee remarks, there were days when honor and brotherhood meant much more than it does now.
His rise in the Son On Yee hierarchy feels organic and yet also scripted. The journey feels pretty natural for a man to return to his hometown and reconnect with people from his past. Wei Shen had a past with the Son On Yee through the death of his sister and another member before he left for America. Still, due to an eventual power vacuum, Wei Shen has the chance to rise quickly in status and favor. He makes allies where he can and takes out the competition of a rival triad gang, even against the orders of his superiors.
The story does feel a tad scripted, since his rise to fame is fast for gamers who play through the main storyline missions one after the other without doing any of the side missions. Not long after Wei arrives and starts making waves, he has a chance to prove himself. What is not expected is that there aren’t harder ways to test for Wei Shen’s loyalty than for him to kill a man. This seemed too easy, which is why the side missions add immensely to the overall gameplay of “Sleeping Dogs “as well.
The side missions themselves offer a great deal of variety. There are the aforementioned street races, but also favors for other members of the Son On Yee to gain face or Cop points as well. These optional side missions are fairly standard but are still entertaining since they add to the length of gameplay. They add to the Triad and Cop points that can help open up the later abilities on the skill tree. The triad points are, thankfully, easier to attain and much more useful in a fight.
The gamer can also go about the city of Hong Kong to retrieve either lockboxes full of cash, visit the various health shrines to increase the overall health bar of Wei Shen, or look for the Jade statues to upgrade melee attacks. These side missions show the game to be an intelligently designed game. For example, the health upgrades don’t happen at a certain level, you control when that happens by finding the health shrines. A few of these shrines are locked behind areas that have to be opened during the main storyline but many of these shrines are available during the early stages of the game.
Additionally, the game shows the same level of dedication when upgrading melee attacks, leaving the player free to access most of the Jade statues. Many of these 12 Jade statues, shaped to follow the Chinese Zodiac, will be open to early retrieval by the player. The last three attacks on the melee skill tree are a life saver in combat.
Getting at those lock boxes are also fun. Many of them are guarded, including cops or gang members. Some of the lockboxes, especially those with higher denominations, will have a combination lock that needs some finesse and patience to open. Gang members will be guarding these lockboxes on foot most of the time while the cops will chase you down in their cars if you steal an armored truck full of money.
The most important side missions are the ones that increase Face, or respect. As the gamer explores Hong Kong, certain sections will yield nicer clothing and cars to purchase; some of these items are locked behind a prerequisite amount of money and face. Some of these items have melee or monetary bonuses and enhance the players overall gaming experience. There is sufficient variety to keep the player entertained for 12 plus hours of side mission gameplay outside of the storyline’s 31 main missions.
As the main storyline continues, the player finds themselves drawn into the ending of this story and the sense of divided loyalty. As a cop Wei Shen should have been glad that he’s taken down key members of the Son On Yee, but at the same time he knows that those who replace the Son On Yee will be worse people. Likewise, as a triad Wei also knows the value of brotherhood and feels a sense of responsibility for them. This wonderful psychological dilemma is what plagues gamers as they come to the close of the game. In essence, the player has become Wei Shen, fully stepping into his shoes after spending so many long hours with his character and mannerism. Excitement mounts as the last cut scene is played and all questions are answered. The game has a lot of potential, almost all of it achieved.
“Sleeping Dogs” has flown under the radar for much of its launch. Fans that have followed it since the announcements taut its awesome gameplay while newcomers to the game marvel at the authenticity. “Sleeping Dogs” becomes more than just the sum of its parts, growing into a life changing and enriching experience for gamers. There is a storyline that tugs at the heartstrings while also showing gamers the wealth of cultural differences that exist in the Chinese speaking world. More than a game, this is an expression of true life.
Rating: 4.5/5 For an enriching experience that is eye opening and inspiring. Graphics and combat may be run of the mill but the storyline and overall gameplay are outstandingly well crafted. Replay value is good, which gives this game that extra push into the almost perfect category.