Somehow, I managed to avoid Sleeping Dogs for five years. It was never intentional; I didn’t just see a game that resembled Grand Theft Auto, and decided to actively avoid it. If anything, that would have pulled me in. I appreciate anything that can fill my time until a Grand Theft Auto VI appears. Sleeping Dogs didn’t really gain my attention, until I seen my dad laid out on the living room floor shooting down the triad. Look, my father is annoyingly picky about his video game choices — anything I have ever suggested, he has shot down. And I know the problem isn’t with my taste. So, anything he could be interested in, was something worth checking into.
Yet, I still neglected Sleeping Dogs. I even purchased a used copy for the PlayStation 3; a copy that collected dust on my shelf as I found myself immersed in some other world. It wasn’t until XBox Gold offered up a remastered copy for the XBox One that I decided it was finally time to see what Sleeping Dogs was about.
I’m going to just get it out of the way and say it: if you made the same mistake as me and have yet to play Sleeping Dogs, please do. It will only take about 16 hours to beat the main story, so just give it a shot.
Sleeping Dogs places you into the shoes of Wei Shen, a Chinese-American police officer who goes undercover in order to infiltrate the Sun On Yee triad. Throughout the main story, there are two different lines of missions: one, provided by the police force and has you committing crimes in order to prove yourself to the triad, and the other, where you are given tasks by the Triad lieutenants, such as assassinating other lieutenants. As for the story, it wasn’t necessarily the most shocking plot — there’s no unexpected twists, as I believe everything went down in Sleeping Dogs as I would expect it to, but Wei Shen was an in-depth character that I found myself cheering on, and continuing the story for his sake.
There’s more to Sleeping Dogs than the main story though, it’s Hong Kong, and there’s so much to do! Just like several other open world action-adventure video games, there’s a plethora of side missions. On the map, there are markers indicating civilian missions (very minor side missions that may consist of destroying a racer’s vehicle or dropping off a payment for someone), fight clubs, and street racing. There are also opportunities to get down on some karaoke. I know I said that it would take 16 hours to beat the main story, but in order to see everything, you’re looking at 20 to 25 hours.
Sleeping Dogs’ combat is very similar to the Arkham series, as it’s simple and consists of a lot of button-mashing. There are collectible statues found throughout Hong Kong, that once collected and returned to the Dojo, Wei Shen is taught another move. With an entire arsenal of hand-to-hand combat techniques, with a melee weapon tossed in at times, it’s not very difficult to continue throughout the story. This simplicity doesn’t put a damper on the game whatsoever — like the Arkham series, it was one of the reasons I enjoyed the game, as the combat felt fluid and comfortable.
Like in Grand Theft Auto IV, Wei Shen can have several potential girlfriends and going on dates with them can unlock collectibles and other bonuses. But, only one of them seems to be semi-important to the story’s plot, and the others will not appear again, besides to text you and accuse you of cheating (and one of them does appear in Sleeping Dog’s DLC Nightmare in North Point). Personally, I would have enjoyed there to be more umph to these female characters, and not just as a device for Wei to unlock content.
Although the graphics are good, it’s really nothing to fawn over. What I did find really cool about Sleeping Dogs was the amount of detail that went into creating the city. Art designers for the game spent a week studying Hong Kong’s environment in order to create an accurate portrayal. This included studying various locales and interviewing ex-Triad members and retired members of the Hong Kong Police Force to find inspiration for narratives and character design. Sleeping Dogs’ sound designers also spent sometime studying Hong Kong — listening to citizen’s conversations as they passed by and capturing the ambient noises around the city to help give the game a more realistic feel.
So, what’s the Verdict on Sleeping Dogs?
I loved Sleeping Dogs. I may have just beat it, but I’ve already made plans to turn it on again for another play-through. Sure, the story isn’t the most unique, but Wei Shen is a well-developed character residing in a well-designed Hong Kong. The amount of attention and time given by the designers appears evident due to this realistic portrayal of the city. Combat, although simple, feels fluid and comfortable. If you don’t own a copy of Sleeping Dogs, do yourself a favor and purchase it. With the amount of things to do in the game, along with the main storyline, you’re looking at an experience that’s well-worth the money (especially since it’s under $20 on Amazon!)