Sleeping Dogs screenshot
Sleeping Dogs screenshot

Much like the Hong Kong cinema it lovingly recreates, Sleeping Dogs adheres vehemently to genre. Instead of trying to reinvent the open-world game, United Front's once-troubled tale sits squarely inside the city limits defined by Grand Theft Auto, happy to cultivate memorable moments on and around well worn roads.

So, as we embark on our voyage deep undercover in the Hong Kong triad, our hero Wei Shen picks up missions from spots on his radar, jacks cars when he's stuck without a ride, flicks between radio stations in search of suitable mood music, and occasionally takes his aggression out on innocent passersby. Sleeping Dogs is generic by definition, but that isn't a criticism. It's a game that knows the rules, and knows that you know the rules. There's not too much to learn. You can get straight on in there and start enjoying yourself.

And enjoyment is what Sleeping Dogs does best. Every element has been fine tuned in pursuit of outrageous fun – nothing's complicated, nothing's fiddly or pernickety. Think about all the things you usually have to do in these games. It's all in here. Fighting, shooting, driving, even a bit of free running, and it's all executed with class and flair.

During the early stages, you're drawn into Wei's double life. On the one hand, he's a cop (a supercop, if you will), but in order to get in with the Sun On Yee triad, he has to go deep. While United Front has spent time and a lot of money crafting a compelling tale that sits somewhere between a Jet Li movie and Infernal Affairs, the studio hasn't bogged itself down worrying too much about reality. So when Wei kills ten dudes in a street fight, or slows down time when he leaps over a wall, you don't care, because it all serves the action. Is this how a cop would really behave? Of course not. Does it matter? Even less so.

Sleeping Dogs is at its best when you're tackling one of thirty story missions, denoted by a green shield on your mini map. These operate in a duality – they're telling the story of Wei's conflict as he struggles with the violent reality of life in the triad, and they also blend the game's component action-heavy parts beautifully, meaning you're never stuck just doing one task. Even early missions blend free-running (handled gracefully with a sprint button and smoother animations if you time your jumps well) and hand-to-hand combat. And the scrapping itself is crunchy and satisfying, even if it is just a lift of Batman's Arkham ass-kicking.

Sleeping Dogs screenshot

Facing up to a pack of enemies makes you feel powerful and vulnerable at the same time. You can counter any incoming attack when an enemy flashes red, and you'll do so with guile and, often, uncompromising brutality. Yet it only takes a few hits before Wei crumples on the floor in a broken, dead heap. So you have to remain calm and aware, picking your shots and deflecting incoming blows. Isolate an enemy, and you can grab his lapel and hip-throw him into the concrete, or if you see anything in the vicinity flashing, drag him over there and deal out a magnificently violent environmental finish. They're just funny enough to not be completely at odds with the rest of the atmosphere, but this is certainly not a game that's shy about a bit of bloodshed.

By the time you've got a gun in your hands and a sports car under your backside, Sleeping Dogs revels in throwing closed fistfuls of action at you and seeing if you can keep up. The shooting focuses on speed and forward movement, with cover meant for vaulting rather than hiding behind, and flying disarms as useful as headshots. And as for the driving – well let's just say it's not exactly Forza. If you can hold an accelerator and turn left and right, you're going to be alright. That's not to say it's not great fun to whip a snappy little import around the city streets, though. Everything in Sleeping Dogs' missions is about speed. Although perhaps at times it's a little too fast.

While the city is a marvel to look at, it does struggle to keep up at times. The framerate's choppy during drives, occasionally dipping to single digits during hectic police chases, and the roads are alarmingly bare. It makes navigating in a car easier, of course, but it does damage the game's sense of place. While it's not the game's intention to make you feel lost or alienated - Wei is a local – Hong Kong often feels like a video game space rather than a living city. However, the amount of work that's gone into the NPCs is supreme – countless animations, interactions and routines. Walking the streets is far more effective than driving them. It's just not as fun.

'... sharp, thrilling and just downright enjoyable action to savour.'

Thankfully, Sleeping Dogs isn't a game that expects you to spend too much time just milling about. The story, while hampered with editing problems and inconsistent in its dialogue, is still a cracking yarn of deceit, betrayal and internal turmoil. The cutscenes have a real cinematic flair and the performances are excellent.

There's plenty of other stuff to do in Hong Kong too. Random events, mini-missions, races and underground fight clubs are joined by drug busts (take out a gang, hack the nearby camera and pop home to catch them in the act), martial arts training and even karaoke. There's a cell phone that lets you call people to go on dates (although thankfully no one's pestering you asking to play darts every five minutes) and take snaps. And there's an entire sub plot where you work with Detective Teng on murder cases. They're even less interactive than LA Noire, but great fun nonetheless. And most of the time you end up in some big fight for no reason. No shame there.

Sleeping Dogs may not offer anything particularly new and certainly nothing groundbreaking, but what it does do is deliver sharp, thrilling and just downright enjoyable action to savour. Other open-worlders have tried to veer from Rockstar's path, some have even tried to lampoon it, but Sleeping Dogs has shown, confidently and emphatically, that you don't always need to change the rules. You just have to know how to play.

Version Tested: Xbox 360

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Wido's Avatar

Wido@ FantasyMeister

Exactly my thoughts. I like how the game comes with a proper instruction manual, that was more of a shock to be honest haha.
Posted 13:26 on 18 August 2012
FantasyMeister's Avatar

FantasyMeister

I've started the game, went through the preliminaries (spookily they remind me a lot of Red Dead Redemption's start, just hints of it, but it's there), a few cutscenes, but then... I woke up in my bed in my apartment, opened my map with all those collectibles, side-missions, quests, and a big grin spread across my face as I got one of those "holy fook it's GTA" feelings.

Me likey long time.
Posted 13:22 on 18 August 2012
clangod's Avatar

clangod

Hey All,

Been off the grid again lately but I have recently bought a new gaming pc and have been enjoying all of my games at super high settings. Including Sleeping Dogs.

Great game, and brilliant looking with the HD textures pack and the world activity set to extreme. I've put quite a few hours in over the last 2 days and even though i can't help but feel like I've done it all before, there's no question Sleeping Dogs is an enjoyable game to play.

Just the fighting, although rather simplistic, is thoroughly enjoyable and a well needed change to the typical GTA style hand to hand fare. This morning I discovered the Shaolin Challenge after completing a certain mission. Sat there for what seemed like forever kung fu-ing monks to death. I think I gave up around the 320 mark. Could have sat there forever. They just keep on coming.

The only thing bugging me so far is the way Wei runs. Looks kinda kooky. And the fact that headlights and radio switch on before you enter a vehicle/ or after you exit vehicle.

Hardly game breaking.
Posted 10:02 on 18 August 2012
FantasyMeister's Avatar

FantasyMeister

My copy arrived today from Tesco Entertainment (they mailed it 2nd class on Wednesday) so looking forward to getting into it later on.
Posted 14:36 on 17 August 2012
tvr77's Avatar

tvr77

Bought this from Morrisons early this morning for £29.99 and i gotta say i'm more than pleased with my day one purchase. Sleeping Dogs is great fun!
Posted 14:01 on 17 August 2012
Wido's Avatar

Wido

Good reviews for this game. Looks like I'll be buying it on Friday if I can afford it.
Posted 15:35 on 15 August 2012
Bloodstorm's Avatar

Bloodstorm

Guys, all i can say is, if you LOVE asian cinema, real gangster films, you'll really enjoy this.

This is A Better Tomorrow/ Exile mash up and it's FANTASTIC.
Posted 21:38 on 14 August 2012
dazzadavie's Avatar

dazzadavie

Yep this is my MoTM choice. I wasn't expecting much ether Clockpunk and yeah everything I've now seen and heard has gotten to me.
Plus you can put peoples heads into air coolers on the roofs, which is what we make at work........a few people I wouldn't doing that to atm :cursing:

Good review!
Posted 20:29 on 14 August 2012
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

Having finally finished Ballad of Gay Tony a few weeks back, I must admit that the engines used to simulate such cities really are fantastic. Hope there is opportunity to exploring some 'off-the-main-route' areas...

I really wasn't expecting to get into this, but the last trailer and all the positive hype has gotten to me. Here's hoping at least a few of the DLC packs have a substantial amount of additional content...
Posted 12:15 on 14 August 2012
scaz2244's Avatar

scaz2244

Seems like its quite good fun but I'll wait for the price drop in September
Posted 12:05 on 14 August 2012
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx

I still have all the DLC to do on Saints Row 3 so I will do this one when its 15 quid with all the DLC on PSN personally.
Posted 11:34 on 14 August 2012
Batmamerc's Avatar

Batmamerc

This game has sounded like my cup of tea (yet I don't like tea) since it was true crime hong kong, I love open world games like GTA, saints row, true crime, crackdown etc mainly cos I love the idea of it just been a big playground, when your bored of the main game just go off and piss about. I am suprised about the 8/10 though thought it would be good but not that good, so will definitely be picking this up. And as far as originallty goes, it has guns cars fights murdering violence and digital boobs in tight tops, why would you ever need originallity when you've got all that.
Posted 11:32 on 14 August 2012
pblive's Avatar

pblive

Nice review. Definitely sounds like an enjoyable game. I don't care about lack of originality either, this isn't Edge magazine ;)
Posted 09:50 on 14 August 2012

Game Stats

8
Out of 10
Sleeping Dogs
  • Varied and violent
  • Fantastic missions
  • Technologically shaky
  • Generic, by definition
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 17/08/2012
Platforms: PS3 , Xbox 360 , PC
Developer: United Front Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Action
Rating: PEGI 18+
Site Rank: 1,998 226
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