Game Review: Sleeping Dogs (Xbox 360)
Oh look, it’s another open world environment action-adventure game; as if this hadn’t been done before on so many games. What makes Sleeping Dogs so special? Well, not much really, but if you are in between Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row releases, then this will surely keep your skills intact for subsequent releases of similar open-world environment games. This isn’t to say that Sleeping Dogs sucks as a game. It really doesn’t, it’s just a tweaked version of a game and story that’s been done before. Then again, looking at the game shelf today at my local store leaves much to be desired in the realm of originality. When people said to recycle, I thought it was to save the environment not recreate the wheel in gaming. But, if I am going to play a recycled story, I would rather be an open-world action game than a shooter. On with the review…
The story line can be summed up like this: Asian-American San Francisco cop lent out to Hong Kong to defeat gangsters. That’s basically the short version. Of course, it wouldn’t be all that exciting if the story didn’t come equipped with twists and turns. Don’t worry I won’t spoil things for you unless I just did by telling you there are, in fact, twist and turns. You really didn’t expect anything straightforward in a videogame did you? Of course there is going to be a twist. Anyway, the main protagonist, Wei Shen (you), has to maintain a delicate balance of making your way up through the ranks of organized crime (undercover) whilst doing your duty as a police officer making busts on the side. Good luck with that.
During the course of your main missions there are many side missions. My personal favorite was locating gangs around the map and beating the shit out of them, hacking the security camera, and then busting them on CCTV. I was able to locate most of those missions, but like Saints Row you have to drive near their hideouts so they get highlighted with a symbol on your map. You will find about half of them during the course of just playing the game. When you find stolen jade statues you bring them to your friend and as a reward you learn new fighting moves. There are also mini missions where you help out a damsel in distress or help a buddy deliver stolen goods. These side missions help you earn funds and build your reputation. So, it’s best to knock them out as you find them. There are also racing events, stealing armored cars, street fights, and betting on cock fighting….the latter of which is a bit tacky, but it can net you a lot of money if you pick the right bird. You have no control over the bird, just watch and win.
Hand-to-hand combat does play a larger role in Sleeping Dogs then the other popular open-world games you may have played. Though it’s mostly repetitive by pushing one or two buttons in succession, there is a decent amount of variety when kicking someone’s ass. It also helps that when a thug is about to punch or cut you, he turns red allowing you a miniscule amount of time to hit another button to counter the move for which you gain points. Also, some of the finishing moves allow you to use the environment such as crushing a head with a dumpster lid of pushing someone’s face into a table saw. Those are fun.
Firing weapons was a bit clunky, but after a while it gets easier. The creators have strategically placed barriers for you to hide behind while engaging in a bullet exchange festival. The “parkour” feature allows Wei Shen to leap over objects quickly and move forward without taking on too much damage. You will also find yourself in several situations where you have to chase someone on foot. You end up kind of “parkouring” your way through narrow streets, on balconies, etc trying to catch up. A simple push of the same button at the right time allows Wei Shen to seamlessly glide or climb over objects with ease.
As you build your reputation and earn money, you can by vehicles and store them in a parking garage near one of Wei Shen’s several apartments. I found I never needed anything more than one car because you can steal whichever one appeals to your senses. You start with a bike and earn another car later on. The rest you have to buy, but there is no valid reason to waste your money on cars. When you go to a street race you automatically get placed in a vehicle for which you can win any race. By the time I ended the game I had at least $1 million in the bank because there was little I needed to spend my money on.
Recharging your health is important, so when you need to do that there are food vendors and drink machines all over fictional Hong Kong. There are also massage parlors, but whether you pay $35 for a pork bun or $1 thousand for a massage, the result is the same. Dying is expensive as the hospital takes a nice chunk out of your wallet. If only they had national health care, this would not be an issue.
I have only three main issues with this game. First, when compared to Saints Row I felt this Chinese-themed game could have used a helicopter. The ability to own a helicopter in Saints Row proved quite beneficial when the need arose to travel across the map for a mission. In Sleeping Dogs, your options are to drive or take a boat, but when you need a boat you have to drive to get to one and it doesn’t help the cause much when the mission is inaccessible via boat. Unless I missed it, I would have liked to have access to a gun dealer. I would have liked that option because sometimes shooting people is just easier. Though on missions when you “need” a gun, there is one to pick up before taking on gangsters. It sort of just magically appears. At some point in the game you earn an option to grab a weapon out of a police car trunk, but that requires finding a police car and usually ends up in a chase. I just would have liked to go buy a party crasher when needed. Lastly, the fictional Hong Kong, probably based off the real Hong Kong, is quite congested and hard to memorize. Though you have GPS to help you get around town, I relied on it heavily because of the tight streets and bright lights. On the other two games at some point I felt I got to memorize the streets better.
This review wouldn’t be complete without noting the radio stations. There were quite a few stations, but the RoadRunner Records station played metal…DevilDriver, Opeth, Dream Theater, Killswitch Engage, Soulfly, and Machine Head to name a few. While cruising around, feel comforted to know that there is good metal to be heard even on the motorcycles.
All sarcasm aside, I had fun playing this game. Yes, there are others like it, but Sleeping Dogs has its own unique element that gives it a bit of flair. Then the next open-world game will come up with new ways of keeping people interested in playing these games. Time-wise, it’s worth the money based on the hours it will take to finish…even more hours if you try to find all the side missions.