Sleeping Dogs Review – Does Square Enix’s answer to GTA deliver?

Sleeping Dogs is developed by United Front Games and it is their first try at a game that’s not a racer.

The game was originally conceived by Activision as the 3rd game in their True Crime series but eventually the game was canceled because they didn’t think it was going to be good enough to stand up to the likes of Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row, since their both open world sandbox games that already had a dedicated fanbase.

After its cancellation, Square Enix bought the rights to the game and changed the name since they don’t own the rights for the True Crime series. United Front Games then finished the development and released the game which turned out to be profitable and fun.

You play as Wei Shen, an undercover cop, who’s tasked with infiltrating the Sun On Yee–one of Hong Kong’s biggest most violent criminal organization.

Working from a foot soldier all the way up to Red Pole, Wei tries to balance the bad that he has to do to keep his cover with the good he was sent there to do, leading to choices that blur the line between cop and criminal. It is full of twists and always keeps you wondering what’s going to happen next.

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Most of Sleeping Dogs’ action takes place in the form of good ol’ fashion fist fights. This was interesting since most open world games like these put an overabundance of guns in the world. The game does the opposite. Guns are treated as more of a power up than an ordinary part of the game.

There’s no place you can buy or store guns, the only way to get them is by picking them up off of an enemy (at least until you beat the game). You get to keep the gun until you run out of ammo but after that you’re back to your fists. Once you get a little further into the story you will run into more gun fights but not always having access to a gun outside of mission’s limit’s what there is to do.

The hand to hand fighting is what sets the game apart from the other sandbox games and a reason a lot of people liked the game, however, I don’t really see it quite like that. The shooting is really fun, much more so then the hand to hand fighting.

It wants to be an open world kung-fu game with an emphasis on hand to hand combat and I’m fine with that. Its an interesting new style for a game like this, but it just doesn’t do it right. Fighting is done by pressing just 1 button(let’s call it Square) and counters are done with just 1 different button(let’s say triangle).

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You can make combos by pressing and holding the fight button but it’s mostly just something along the lines of tap square, tap square, hold square, tap square and the likes. If an enemy flashes red then you can press triangle to do a counter. Its all very simple and works well but it’s also a part of the problem.

If you want to make a game with guns you have to give it great gun mechanics. If you want to make a fighter you give it great fight mechanics. Batman: Arkham City has a similar control set up but it works much smoother and you don’t get guns so it fits the game.

I don’t feel that pressing one button over and over is a good mechanic for this game since its supposed to be so focused on fighting. Maybe there should have been a punch and kick button to give the fighting some more depth.

You can always grapple enemies but its still the same thing mostly; grab them and hit square, or use the environment which is cool and there’s plenty of different things you can use to kill and KO enemies, however it can get a little old. I’m not saying it’s all bad it just feels like the fighting system could have been a little deeper.

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There’s an upgrade system that let’s you add a few tricks to your repertoire. Doing cop missions gets you police XP while doing triad missions gets you gang XP. You can get things like a slim jim to break into cars easier or abilities like attacking while getting up from being knocked down and disarming enemies.

Missions are done in the same style as Grand Theft Auto. You go to a place on the map and walk into a colored area and you are treated to a cut scene telling you what you will be doing. The same goes for side quests and mini games.

While playing I didn’t really feel like there was much to do other then missions. The lack of guns makes going on a rampage through the city almost impossible. Even being chased by the cops is kinda boring because it’s pretty easy to lose them. I assume they did this because cops have guns and if you can’t escape its going to be a very one sided fight and I can understand that.

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Driving is something that was definitely done right. That shouldn’t really be a surprise since United Front has made a few racers. Each car has their own style and handling. Bigger cars can’t turn on a dime but can smash a few things while some smaller cars can tap the e-brake and do a quick 180.

There’s a good number of different cars, trucks, and bikes. The best part of driving is changing vehicles. At any point you can hold the action button to stand on your bike or open your car door and jump to another car near you that you promptly steal while moving. Its really fun and cool looking and my favorite part of driving.

There’s plenty of places to go to catch some crazy air off of ramps and even online leaderboards similar to Burnout Paradise that tracks jump distance and things like that among your friends. The only problem is driving isn’t always an option. At points when I was out exploring I found myself running through allies or along roads looking for a car to take but couldn’t find one.

You would think there would be at least 1 car parked in an ally somewhere but I can’t think of a single time I saw one leaving me running until I found a more populated area. Even some intersections and streets can be bare at times. You can buy cars and bikes at a dealer and get access to them through parking garages found throughout the city, mostly right out front of one of your apartments.

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Graphically the game looks good but compared to something like Saints Row 3 which released about 10 months before, it just doesn’t stand up to the challenge. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying it looks bad just not as polished as other titles out there.

During gameplay it looks good but the cutscenes so-and-so. While they put a lot of detail into the surroundings and the people it all looks very stiff sort of like someone playing with an action figure.

The game sounds great. Cars each have their distinct engine sounds and squealing tires sound amazing. Punches and kicks of course sound like their from a kung-fu movie. Moans and screams for mercy all sound very realistic. Guns each have there own recognizable sounds but there aren’t many guns so you wont have to worry about that to much.

The voice acting is great. Emotion is clearly audible and the game even has a few big name stars like Lucy Liu and Emma Stone to round out the cast.

Overall Sleeping Dogs is a good game missing its own identity. It wants to be a martial arts focused sandbox but it does shooting and driving much better then the actual fighting. The story is great and keeps you wanting to know what’s going to happen next all the way to the very end. Even with the things I didn’t like about the game I had fun playing it.


  • Vic 2.0

    Sleeping Dogs was (and is still) better than any GTA game ever made. Let’s compare it to GTA 5, shall we?

    I think Sleeping Dogs is much better. For countless reasons, it’s just plain more fun. Slightly better graphics do not make a better game, nor does a huge map when there’s little (that’s fun) to do in that map considering its size. Getting from one side of the map to the other is a hassle if not a bore, the characters and the story are laughable compared to those in SD, and even the lamest extraneous content in SD (karaoke and cockfighting) blows the lamest of extra content in GTA 5 (dog training and yoga) out of the water. That’s not to speak of the hand to hand and melee combat which is infinitely better in Sleeping Dogs, as are the abilities surrounding gunplay and hijacking cars while driving alongside one and hopping onto its roof from your own vehicle, etc.

    Let’s see here. You can buy a vehicle, destroy it, and go back to your garage for another one. Skill/perk progression is easily superior. There are minor things that make it better as well, from the ability to take a human shield to the ability to put someone in your trunk and drive around with them to the ability to frickin use your cell phone and car door at the same time! Even the collectibles give you more incentive to run around looking for them, in both terms of their rewards and the likelihood you will actually find something (also thanks to the enormous map in 5). Lastly, consider that Hong Kong is an entirely new location in every way, whereas Los Santos is really just a fraction of the same map you played back in 2004. Sure, they added some places but they took out a lot of the content that made San Andreas so great so it’s a wash.

    Skydiving? That’s what Just Cause 2 is for! GTA 5 is an altogether unneeded game… unless you want to watch porn but can’t admit it to your friends, I guess? Or have an addiction to the word “f***” :P