Words: Daniel Provan
There’s a very good chance that, like me, you missed out on playing Sleeping Dogs when it came out in 2012 or probably haven’t even heard about it at all. Luckily for us, the Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition exists and it is fantastic! Although it seems like a Grand Theft Auto clone with an Asian skin, Sleeping Dogs is actually a great open-world crime drama with a lot of soul and its own unique gameplay mechanics, which set it apart from a lot of other open-world games.
Set in the vibrant city of Hong Kong, Sleeping Dogs puts you in the shoes of Wei Shen, a police officer sent undercover to infiltrate and dismantle the city’s triad gangs. What starts as a simple premise opens up a whole world full of interesting characters and thrilling action that comes complete with all the fun you’d expect from an open-world action game. The story is really the star of the show in Sleeping Dogs as it easily encapsulates all the highlights of a tense crime thriller. Experiencing Wei’s battle to remain loyal to his role as a police officer whilst ingraining himself deeper and deeper into the world of the Hong Kong triads is a tense and thrilling experience thanks to the strong character work and voice acting that make you deeply invested in Wei’s story. When combined with a host of charming, deadly and outright detestable supporting characters, Sleeping Dogs really brings the crime world of Hong Kong to life in an interesting and enjoyable fashion. That’s not to say the story is perfect though…I was left wishing some of the major characters were fleshed out a little more and the climax of the main story wasn’t so rushed, however these are just minor gripes in a story that will leave you attached to so many of its characters and impacted by every twist and development in Wei’s attempt to bring down Hong Kong’s major triads.
The gameplay in Sleeping Dogs is fantastic and really helps to define the Hong Kong crime experience. Centred mainly around a slick kung-fu style of combat, you’ll need to bust your way through enemies by utilising a variety of combos, weapons and environmental advantages that promotes more than just mindless button mashing, but can still accommodate less precise players. On top of the melee combat, Sleeping Dogs also gives you access to a selection of guns and a vast array of cars, motorcycles, buses and boats to wreak havoc all over Hong Kong should you get bored with the huge and diverse range of side missions the game gives you. What makes Sleeping Dogs stand out is that many of your combat and transport options are governed by a set of unique skill trees that you earn experience for depending on the type of missions you do and the way in which you accomplish them. For example, undertaking a street race mission may earn you more experience for you Triad skill tree, but every time you hit a pole or a person you will lose experience on your Police skill tree. It’s these little touches that encourage you to be thoughtful and creative, which help to set Sleeping Dogs apart from its competition.
Sleeping Dogs is not the newest game you could play, but with the Definitive Edition being recently released, you now have the ability to play through a surprisingly fantastic open-world crime drama that has all the action and craziness of a game like Grand Theft Auto, but comes complete with its own unique flourishes that make it a deep and enjoyable experience. While the game does lack some polish on visuals and parts of its story, the tense story of Wei Shen is a fantastic experience thanks to strong character work, fun gameplay and an amazing soundtrack that provides a truly atmospheric experience.
Sleeping Dogs is available on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, whilst Sleeping Dogs: The Definitive Edition is available on PS4, Xbox One and PC with all of the game’s DLC.
Image via Game Hack Studios and GearNuke