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As far as titles go, “Sleeping Dogs: The Definitive Edition” is rather questionable – at least on consoles. If you want a version of the 2012 Square Enix game with all DLC content and spruced up 1080p (or higher on PC) visuals, that’s exactly what you’ll get. Compared to the work put into Tomb Raider, Square’s previous Definitive Edition release, though, Sleeping Dogs can’t help but come across as a project that’s had considerably less love poured into it.
You can check out our original review from 2012 here, in which the strengths of the core game are discussed. It’s an opinion I very much agree with. Back when Sleeping Dogs was the project Square Enix rescued from Activision’s dumpster, the final game turned out to be a very nice surprise. It didn’t do anything especially original, but the combat was a huge step up from other open-world action titles, while the undercover cop story of Wei Shen and fictionalised Hong Kong setting were strong enough to keep you engaged through to the conclusion.
At launch Sleeping Dogs was already a substantial package, albeit one that focused entirely on single-player shenanigans. The Definitive Edition still lacks any form of online multiplayer, but does include all DLC, amounting to a few hours of new story content, loads of costumes and other bits and pieces.
According to Square Enix Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition features the following visual and gameplay improvements on top of the increased console resolution:
- Character faces have been reworked
- New environmental effects, such as fog
- Greater draw distances
- Difficulty of certain sections has been tweaked for a better experience
- New breakable objects in environments
It looks good on paper, but in reality these improvements seem rather minor. Driving through the neon city, especially in the wet at night, looks great on new-gen and PC, but a Tomb Raider-level improvement this is not.
Anyone picking up this Definitive Edition having already played a lot of the game on last gen may well struggle to notice the improvements unless a direct comparison is carried out. The fog looks great when it’s used, and the new breakables add to the level of destruction during the many exciting melee fights, but for an Xbox 360/PS3 game running on new hardware, the fluctuating frame rate just isn’t good enough. The stuttering is most apparent when driving, and is something the dev team should have ironed out. The draw distance may be improved, but there’s plenty of pop in on object detail, making traveling at speed quite the eye sore at times. Again, not something that should be present in a port across from older consoles.
It’s hard not to feel a little disappointed with Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition. What was already a good-looking last-gen game could have shone on PS4 and Xbox One, but the upgrade is sloppy. An irregular frame rate that doesn’t top 30 fps is the biggest problem, and undoes some of the visual refinements made. As a package this is as feature-complete as you could want, but it’s a long way from the version it could have been.
The horror-themed Nightmare in North Point sounds the most interesting, but is over before it gets going and disappoints despite the introduction of some nifty vampire/zombie-like monsters. It’s a similar tale when it comes to the Enter the Dragon-inspired Zodiac Tournament. It’s a neat idea that fits the game’s combat extremely well, but isn’t fleshed out enough to be of any real significance. It’s fun, but over very quickly.
The most interesting of the bunch is Year of the Snake, which sees Wei Shen back on the streets as a cop, no longer undercover. He gets a nifty stun gun and can arrest perps when they’ve had their health knocked down. While it lasts this is the best DLC included on the disc, but it’s once again over far too soon.
All in all there’s plenty of content here, adding upwards of four hours of story content and even more missions, outfits and weapons. I wouldn’t say any of it is worth buying this edition for if you’re yet to experience it, but it adds up to a nice bonus.
Second Opinion – Dave Scammell: Is the Xbox One version much cop?
Ha! You see what I did there with the cop and the… Yeah, well look, never mind. The Xbox One version of Sleeping Dogs has been kept behind closed doors until release and, unfortunately, as you may have predicted, it suffers from similar issues as the PlayStation 4 game.
Just like the PS4 version, it targets 1080p/30fps but suffers from frequent (and often fairly significant) frame rate issues, particularly while driving around the city and during the game’s cutscenes. It’s often unpredictable, too. In the opening hours that I played, while performance issues seemed fairly rife throughout, they were at their most noticeable during a mission that sees the player attempting to escape from the cops on foot after completing a drug deal. The scene doesn’t seem like it should be particularly testing for the console, but it inexplicably sent the frame rate to a crawl.
In fact, first impressions of both versions suggest that United Front Games may have achieved parity across the two consoles – with issues shared across the two of them in similar places.
The game’s overall look doesn’t leave you wowed like previous remasters may have done either, and even with the extra bells and whistles the Definitive Edition can still look definitively last-gen. The 1080p output, higher resolution textures and improved particle effects save the Xbox One version from being a complete disaster, but you still can’t help but feel that it’s nothing much more than a rushed, poor-performing port of the original PC version.
As a side note, there also appears to be a peculiar bug that turns Kinect on and off during load screens, the pause menu and while transitioning between cutscenes and gameplay. It’s a minor issue admittedly, but one that can be somewhat of an annoyance if you have your Kinect set up directly in front of your TV.
Overall, then, while it can look nice under the right conditions (usually during well-lit cutscenes or when the sun goes down), Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition is the least impressive new-gen remaster I’ve seen so far. And as somebody who played through the entirety of the game upon its original release, the visual tweaks on offer here did little to convince me that I need to play it, or more importantly pay for it all over again.