IT may not the best known open world game but it is one of the most refreshing.
Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4 / PC
Score: 8.7 / 10
WHEN it launched in the summer of 2012, there was little fanfare surrounding Sleeping Dogs, with the majority of the public and the gaming press alike viewing it as another run of the mill open world adventure; a title to plug the gap ahead of the eagerly anticipated launch of Grand Theft Auto V. It was, and remains, an assumption that is as unfair as it is inaccurate. In actual fact, developers Square Enix London and United Front Games struck upon a riveting combination of mechanics that, to this day, makes it stand out from the crowd.
There are two main reasons why playing Sleeping Dogs remains a distinctive and enjoyable experience. The first is the on foot action; routinely a cumbersome slog in many open world titles, is a joy thanks to parkour-inspired mechanics and martial art style not dissimilar to the robust fighting in Rocksteady’s Batman games. Pursuing an enemy through alleyways and over rooftops is a fluid, thrilling journey and actively encourages the player to eschew vehicles and explore the densely designed cityscape on foot. Impressively, even when you eventually progress enough to use guns, they feel less effective than the hand-to-hand combat.
The game world of Hong Kong is a nice alternative to US cities
And the game world is the second big draw - whereas the vast majority of developers are unwilling to set a open world GTA-style title in anything but an American city (perhaps for fear of losing sales in that lucrative market) Sleeping Dogs offers up a refreshing alternative with Hong Kong as the locale. The scale and detail of the map may not be an accurate representation, but it is fine tuned for gameplay and atmosphere. It throws you into a neon-lit humid, overpopulated land mass and does not let up.
The story, too, is involving and does not go in for easy Chinese stereotypes. The protagonist, Wei Shen, is an undercover police officer working outside the boundaries of the law as he attempts to infiltrate and ultimately bring down the crime empire of the Sun On Yee organisation. The campaign sees Wei Shen carrying out missions for his superiors in the police as well as the increasingly powerful triad crime lords he comes to befriend.
Graphical upgrades are thin on the ground but the DLC adds value
The game never quite manages to pull off a sense of moral dubiety with its dual narrative but it makes for a diverse playthrough as one moment you are hacking security cameras to bring down drug dealers before the next you are siding with the kingpins.
According to Square Enix, the Definitive Edition of the title has been reworked for the new generation of consoles, but graphically, it struggles to compete with other games on Microsoft and Sony’s latest systems. The package does, however, come with a generous welter of DLC that adds value and variety to the core campaign. Once again, it is likely that Sleeping Dogs will be overshadowed by other releases in the packed calendar, but it deserves better: this is a game that breaks from the formula and holds your attention from beginning to end.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
1) The martial arts clubs scattered around Hong Kong are essential stopping off points if you want to stand any chance of surviving a mass brawl. Learn and master new moves and combinations and soon you will be able to take on several enemies at once.
2) Combat in Sleeping Dogs demands careful thinking about your strategy. For the most part, it is wise to avoid strong attacks which leave you open to counters. Instead, adopt a defensive approach and try and lash out with quick, well-timed combos.
3) The collectible aspect to Sleeping Dogs offers good value once the main campaign is over, but don’t wait until you complete the story. Locating and unlocking the various locker boxes scattered around Hong Kong provides you with much needed finances, especially in the early hours of the game.