And a couple of things we don’t…
Sleeping Dogs is Square Enix’s big gamble.
The former Activision project started life under the guise ‘Black Locust’ before being branded as the revived True Crime label only to be dropped by the esteemed publisher two years ago.
So when Square stepped in to pick up the project and get it back on track, the renamed Sleeping Dogs suddenly had something to prove – that some big wig executive at Activision made a very big decision when they decided to let these dogs lie.
With a release less than a month away, we’ve spent some quality time with two sizeable chunks of the game and, though we’ll reserve our final verdict for the finished game, Square looks like its onto a winner.
Here’s five things we are loving about Sleeping Dogs so far and a couple of things we’re not loving quite as much.
Things we love…
Kick, punch, it’s all in the mind
It’s fair to say you’ll unload a fair number of bullets during your stay in Hong Kong but it’s far more satisfying to engage in Sleeping Dogs’ thoroughly realised hand-to-hand combat than poking your head out of cover.
Borrowing systems from Arkham City, beating the stuffing out of a foe and countering with a killer move is easy to pull off but only if you keep your wits about you, watching for enemy’s attacks highlighted by glowing red outlines.
If you fancy getting brutal, grab a thug and you can throw them into dumpsters, phone boxes, slam store shutters down on their spines, and hang their bodies on meat hooks. You can even send a poor chump through the meat grinder.
Big Trouble, Big China
The last time we saw a game capture the essence of Hong Kong quite so magnificently was when we jogged through the streets of Shenmue 2′s 1980-era districts.
An early section of the game sees Wei asked to hit the Night Market to collect protection money. The market bustles with activity, Wei navigating crowds in Assassin’s Creed fashion, ducking and weaving through the Hong Kong masses.
All around you sit vendors where you can roll up to purchase drinks and snacks for temporary attack and move boosts. You can even pop by a clothing store to pick up some new threads if you’ve got enough face (reputation) to pull it off.
Delve even deeper and Hong Kong offers fight clubs and street races to compete in and cockfights to gamble your money on. There’s even a spot of karaoke to get involved in.
Pedal to the metal
Sleeping Dogs’ free-flowing combat is really just the tip of the iceberg. Missions can go from gunfights, to punch ups, to car chases in a matter of moments taking cue from all manner of asian action cinema.
From the wheel, Wei can drive, aim, shoot, and tune the radio as bikes and cars spin out of control and explode in mid-air in your pursuit.
And when your car has been thoroughly worn out, Wei can leap out of his ride and onto a nearby vehicle getting behind the wheel in a matter of seconds.
Where do I recognise that voice?
Adding to Square Enix’s gamble, a serious amount of top tier voice talents have been procured to lend their vocals to Sleeping Dogs’ cast.
Kill Bill villain Lucy Lui and The Amazing Spider-Man’s Emma Stone might be the most recognisable names on the list but appearances from an English star like Tom Wilkinson and the legendary James Hong who many will recognise from Wayne’s World and Blade Runner.
Call me, maybe?
Being an undercover cop comes with its perks, one of those being the nifty mobile that Wei carries around. It works a lot like Niko Bellic’s phone did in Grand Theft Auto IV but without having Cousin Roman ringing every five minutes.
In addition to making calls and taking texts, Wei’s phone can be used to check up on suspects and track them down using satellites to find their position. It’s pretty nifty.
A couple of things we don’t…
What Sleeping Dogs boasts in a stellar cast, its script doesn’t quite match up. Dialogue in particular is uninspired swapping in profanity wherever it can slip it on.
One scene sticks out like a sore thumb of awkwardness in which a rival gang leader regales Wei on the time his sister performed oral sex on him. Later on as you leave your apartment, housewives can be heard nattering about the latest in erectile dysfunction remedies.
A face for videogames
Woven into Sleeping Dogs are a number of variables that change with almost every mission and interaction.
One of those is Face XP, working almost like a levelling system for Wei. New skills become available to you when your face level is high enough and certain activities (even wearing certain types of clothes) will be locked out if you haven’t got the face for it.
Similarly, there’s Cop and Triad XP: the former being earned through police side-quests and lost by harming innocent civilians and the latter for helping in Triad dealings.
We like the idea of reputation levels, we just didn’t see enough of it in action during our hands-on time and we look forward to seeing these ideas pan out in the final game.
Look out for our review of Sleeping Dogs in the next issue of 360Zine.
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