Friday, September 7, 2012

Review: Sleeping Dogs

I was going to do a full-on review for this game but I never got around to fleshing out my points into a cohesive and well written and structured article. However, I did list out the key points I wanted to talk about and I figure I might as well post that. I've cleaned it up with proper grammar, punctuation, and more details. This is actually longer than some of the reviews on our blog even if I had not put it in bullet form but I suppose you can consider this a mini-review!

  • You play as Wei Shen, a total badass who is working undercover to infiltrate the heart of the Triad. I want to say he looks like a cross between Jet Li and Jackie Chan but that's subjective. The main cast is pretty likable. Some of them seem like they were put in as plot devices but I think the writers did a decent enough job of making you care about them. On the other hand, you really hate the villains. Personally, when you hate the opposition then you know the writers did a good job.
  • The guys at Square Enix got top notch voice talent. Each character is portrayed fittingly and some side characters are pretty funny to listen to like the pork bun seller who tells you that you're not a whole man unless you've eaten a pork bun. Also, Emma Stone's in it! Albeit for not very long but she's in it!
  • The game looks fantastic, especially on PC but it looks surprisingly good on consoles as well. There's real-time lighting and reflections. Rainy nights in the city is a work of art because of that. It isn't just a random texture plastered on the ground. The glow of neon signs will mirror its source.
  • The whole setting and culture reminds me of San Andreas but with Chinese people.
  • Everyone is trying to scam you. It might be a stereotype but it's pretty hilarious when you approach so many people to do a good deed out of the kindness in your heart and some other dude tries to run off with your money every single time.
  • The city is pretty sizable but the outer parts that you access later in the game are lacking. It's big enough for this kind of game, for sure. Their stat tracking website shows that most players don't spend much time there but that's mainly due to the fact that they're tiny and later in the game. I'm not sure if those parts are locked out early on in the story progression because I never really explored at the beginning of the game but I figure they should be.
  • You're rewarded for exploration. Not only are there collectibles and side missions everywhere, if you decide to go out of your way to check the markets, you can get a pretty decent and long lasting buff for real cheap.
  • There is lots of stuff to do after the game is over such as buying everything and collecting everything.
  • Quite a variety of missions that never really force you to loop back to the origin. Like, you might have to take pictures for one mission and then you just e-mail those pictures through your phone and the mission is over instead of you having to drive over to where the mission started to give those pictures to them. Some of the missions will make you feel guilty. Highlight for spoilers: At one point, you have the option to beat up monks. You can run right past them or get a decent amount of EXP and score for the mission. It's especially uncomfortable for me as a Buddhist. To be fair, they weren't pushovers.
  • Side missions and some minigames are pretty fun. Reminds me of GTA Chinatown Wars when you have to unscrew vents to bug places. Beating up waves of enemies like a challenge map in the Batman games are fun. I never did any cockfighting but I heard that was a decent way to make money if you abuse saves. Picking locks is a real drag on PC but I don't know if it can be any better on consoles. Drug busts aren't really fun either.
  • You can knock out police cars when they are chasing you to get them off your tail. This is something that comes from GTA Chinatown Wars. Interesting coincidence since both games start Chinese dudes!
  • Clearly draws inspiration from GTA, Batman, Max Payne, and most obviously Kung Fu films in general. There's some stuff that I feel like are nods to Mirror's Edge, MadWorld, Shenmue, and Scarface but I wouldn't write it as factual. Still, it's a good thing!
  • Combat isn't a direct rip off of Batman's Free Flow system. Sleeping Dogs brings its own spice and is pretty fun. You can learn new moves as you level and collect statues. Unlike in Batman, you don't have the option of taking down enemies quietly so there's no stealth element which is fine. It sets it apart more. Environmental kills are reminiscent of MadWorld and is pretty damn sadistic but it adds a some variety to the gameplay.
  • Gunplay is obviously limited to force the player to fight hand to hand more. I think that's a smart design choice because the hand-to-hand is what should be the focus and main draw of the game. It doesn't really appear until the second half of the game. There's not too many weapons in general, you can only hold one at a time, and they just seem to like to disappear. Not to mention you can't do anything while holding a weapon. People will be afraid of you and won't talk to you if you're waving a glock in their face. Besides that, there's a decent and familiar cover system and Max Payne bullet time is neat because it'll reward you with even more bullet time if you pull of some headshots.
  • You can customize the outfit your character wears with different clothing pieces and some of them give you different boots like 20% more Triad EXP. I made my character look like Fayt from Mirror's Edge which is among the nods I mentioned in my previous point. There's also sets of clothes which you can only wear together. A downside, but it's cool to be able to dress up like Rico Rodriguez from Just Cause 2, another game published by Square Enix.
Wei looking ready to run along walls.
  • The action button lets you do all kinds of hardcore parkour and I want to say they take that from Mirror's Edge too but I was informed that you can do that in True Crime.
  • Also from True Crime, you can shoot the exhaust of a car and it'll blow up.
  • There's a new feature in this game called action hijack which has you jump out of your own car and on to another care to steal it. It's really bad ass thing that they let you do straight out of the movies.
  • Sleeping Dogs is similar to another hit title from Rockstar, Red Dead Redemption. It's a love letter to Hong Kong action movies in the same vein that Red Dead Redemption is a homage to old western movies.
  • The story is suspenseful and has some neat twists.
  • The game feels rushed. This is probably due to the change of publishers. This game was originally going to be released by Activision under the name True Crime: Hong Kong until Activision decided it was going to work out... Which I bet they're kicking themselves for now because Sleeping Dogs is doing decently well in terms of sales. I still got 17 hours out of the main game+. It will probably take another 10 for the other additional stuff. I just want more, and I felt like there could've been more. They've announced some DLC on the way but those are not going to affect the story for smart reasons.
  • Incredibly buggy. In my experience, in the very first mission after the opening cutscene, Wei is chased down by cops and you're thrown into following an acquaintance of yours except, at one point, the person you have to follow decided to stop for some unknown reason. This confused the hell out of me until the cops came and busted me into a Game Over screen. When I attempted the mission for the second time, the guy stopped again but this time I figured I should maybe go ahead but the guy you're supposed to follow remained behind so I was forced to go through the cops chasing me to get back to him. Miraculously, the guy finally was triggered to move and I was able to go on with the game. This other time, I once tackled a dudethrough a wall who was supposed to be the last target and ended up having to restart from a checkpoint because it was impossible to progress. Plenty of graphical hiccups where things will clip into other things or textures will stretch across the screen (I saved a shot for this one too but it got corrupted somehow). Sometimes, the car valet will spawn right in front of you and I've heard the valet guy does some other peculiar stuff too. As a first hand account, there was one time where I got in my car as he was getting out but he appeared in his sitting in the seat animation outside of the car. So strange. At one point you get a voicemail or something from one of your girlfriends who calls it off which is triggered after going to bed but it gets overridden by a message from someone else.  There was the other time where I was doing a racing mission and as I was doing a really sharp turn, my car launched in to the air and all around me were the sides of buildings with rows of windows. I've read reports of the same bugs as well as some others and I've also seen some hilarious videos. If you drive behind a fence somewhere, your car will go nuts and skyrocket. It's similar to what happened to me.
  • Dating girlfriends was abysmal. They were all just cases of hit it and quit it. It's hard to get attached when there's no character development because it was over too quick and it doesn't really affect the outcome of the game. Not enough Emma Stone. With so much violence, you'd think there would be some nudity but nope. There aren't any explicit scenes. Take that as you will. Like I mentioned before, this game feels like it could have been more and I would've liked if there were more to dating the girls.
  • Driving feels a little dated. It's like playing a GTA game before GTA4 where a lot of the turning is best done with the handbrake. In a sense it works for the setting but it makes it hard to be a cop. I want to say, it might be a meta jab at the stereotype of Asians driving poorly but that's kind of a stretch. I generally preferred to wait around for a taxi and spend some cash to get me to places 1000+ meters away. The freeway and pathfinding could use improving because it was more confusing than it was helpful since I drove in circles sometimes. I suppose it's more my fault for not knowing my way around.
  • The conditions for maintaining 3 badges for Cop points are kind of hard. Because of what I mentioned in the last bullet about driving, it makes it hard not to kill pedestrians or crash into other cars or signs which deducts from your points. The driving would be fine because it would fit the setting where it's hip to drift but the counter intuitive mechanics hurt it. There's definitely people out there who like the driving in this game and don't have a problem with it.
  • The radio is lacking and there were plenty of times where I heard the same part of the beginning of a song every time I entered the vehicle. However, apparently you can put on custom tracks. I think it's cool when the game controls what you're listening to fit the mood of the mission too. Not necessarily a spoiler but towards the end of the game: As you are driving during the last mission, somber music plays on the radio, it's raining, and Wei recalls lines of dialogue from all of his friends throughout the game. It's a really powerful and memorable moment that builds up to the final part of the game. As a random note, my personal favorite station is Softly.
  • Getting Triad to level 10 after you beat the main missions is hard in comparison to maxing out Cop with things like drug busts. Perhaps this is to balance out the fact that it's hard to get points in the missions.
  • Gets really grotesque in the last couple missions. Although, I'll admit it's satisfying to give what the final boss deserves.
  • I won't spoil the ending but there is only one outcome. It feels like there could have been depending on what path you decided to take as either a Cop or a Triad and how the ending is laid out.
Despite all its shortcomings and bugginess, I enjoyed the main game. It samples a lot from other games but mixes it up to make it their own. If the developers had a bigger budget, then perhaps it would've been fantastic but what's here is good enough to compete with the best open world sandbox games. I'm crossing my fingers for a sequel while looking forward to the DLC.

Don thought this game was... 

As a bonus, here are some animated gifs I made during my playthrough!

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