Sleeping Dogs preview
24th May 2012 | 17:10
Sleeping dogs takes the Grand Theft Auto gaming template to the Far East
Sleeping Dogs is the video game equivalent of an over-the-top Hong Kong action film and was announced for the Xbox, PS3 and PC. This is a game in which an undercover cop takes down the entire Asian underworld using kung-fu moves, heaps of firearms, high-speed chases and mind-blowing action sequences. The only thing missing from the game is Chow-Yun Fat.
Sleeping Dogs: Plot
The story kicks off with its protagonist, Wei Chen, returning to his native Hong Kong after a lengthy stint in the States. In short order he’s thrown in a holding cell for violent behaviour, where he runs into his childhood mate who just happens to be making his way up the ranks of the local Triads.
Chen offers his services as hired muscle and before you know it, he’s breaking heads and taking names on the neon-encrusted streets of Hong Kong. Little do his new criminal buddies realise, Chen is actually an undercover cop.
Sleeping Dogs: Features
As you’d expect from an action hero, Chen is an expert in martial arts, handy with all sorts of firearms and he doesn’t lose his composure in a high-speed chase.
The combat mechanics are very well implemented; players will start off mashing the X (attack), B (grapple) and Y (block) button, but will soon find the combat boasts hidden depths.
Apart from moves like spin-heel kicks and arm-breaking takedowns that they can unlock, players can also use items in Chen’s environment for particularly grisly finishers – such as ramming a goon’s face into a power saw or kicking them down an elevator shaft.
Gunplay is smooth and easy to use. The controls are your standard LT-aim and RT-fire affair, although if the player vaults into the air, a small window of bullet-time activates and allows the player more time to pick off opponents.
Vaulting also plays a big part in the game’s parkour element, as Chen is frequently required to chase bad guys through the busy streets of Hong Kong. By holding down the A button, players sprint through crowds, side-step pedesrtains, leap over obstacles and shimmy up walls in an admirably free-flowing fashion.
While the open-world urban setting feels like GTA, the driving mechanics owe more in their implementation to Midway’s GTA clone, Wheelman. Players are able to hit the X button to actively shunt enemy cars off the road, and can even leap between vehicles and hijack other drivers.
Sleeping Dogs: Content
On top of the game’s plot, the map in Sleeping Dogs is filled to bursting with mini-games and side-quests. Players can help out Hong Kong’s citizens, beat up gangs, hack into cameras to help arrest drug suppliers, engage in street races for cash and even head into underground fight clubs to increase their street cred and bank balances.
They can enjoy a spot of Mahjong, bet money on cock fights, learn new martial arts moves and even visit a massage parlour for a spot of (ahem) relaxation.
Naturally, players can customise Wei’s wardrobe and there’s even an RPG mechanic to play around with. Everything Wei does feeds into his Triad, Cop and Face meters. Once they surpass a certain level, players can spend points to level up attacks, rep and other skills.
Sleeping Dogs: Verdict
Sleeping Dogs isn’t exactly the most original game to come out this year. Its well-worn GTA gameplay template is older than a decade and the action movie tropes it riffs on are even older than that.
But if games like Uncharted and Saints Row have taught us one thing about game design, it’s that it doesn’t matter how old all the elements that make up your game are, it’s what you do with them that counts. In that regard, Sleeping Dogs probably doesn’t have much to worry about, because it’s fun from the moment you pick up the control pad.
Sleeping Dogs availability: 17 August 2012
Sleeping Dogs price: £39.99