Preview: Sleeping Dogs
Sleeping Dogs started out life as something called Black Lotus before being put under the wing of the now-dead True Crime franchise as True Crime: Hong Kong. Six months after that game was canned due, in part, to a high development budget, it was picked up by Square Enix and rebranded as Sleeping Dogs. Given a new lease on life this game shows plenty of promise and may just be one to remember after a difficult gestation.
Title: Sleeping Dogs
Developer: United Front Games / Square Enix London Studios
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Expected Price: R605 (PS3, Xbox 360), R325 (PC)
Release Date: 17 August 2012
True Crime may be dead, killed off by Activision, but Sleeping Dogs is certainly alive and kicking and holds all the potential of a sparkling new franchise. At the very least, it’s a new IP to definitely keep an eye on this year.
What we have here is an open-world action game with role-playing elements which offers players a diverse sandbox experience while engaging them in lots of gang violence. Basically, you’re looking at a crazier, Chinese version of GTA because the game is in fact set in Hong Kong and revolves around the Triads. Players will take control of Wei Shen, a Chinese-American San Francisco cop who goes undercover in Hong Kong in an attempt to assist the Triad Bureau in bringing down the Sun On Yee Triad organisation.
The game will focus on Wei Shen as he moves up through the ranks within Sun On Yee as part of his investigation and to establish himself within the organisation. Emphasis will be put on the moral conflicts facing him with his loyalty and motives doubted by both sides. It should make for some interesting cop drama and possibly a bit of a Departed-style experience.
“From the moment you pick up the controller and experience the blend of driving, close combat and shooting you know you’re playing something fresh and a bit special,” said Lee Singleton, General Manager of Square Enix London Studios.
“Sleeping Dogs has one of the best melee combat systems out there – it’s super brutal with devastating takedown moves, and when added to UFG’s proven heritage in driving games, a first class story and the vibrant backdrop of the Hong Kong underworld we get a fiery recipe with fun written all over it,” he added.
Like GTA, players can do any number of things from running around on the streets looking for fights/gunning people down to jacking cars and getting into street races to going for a cruise around the coast. The gunplay is not trying to do anything special but gives you everything you’d want from cover-based shooting to targeting individual body parts. The real focus is on bare-knuckle brawling and getting yourself into street fights because Square Enix London happens to have assisted on the development of Batman: Arkham City and so the combat system takes great inspiration from that game’s sublime Freeflow combat system. It’s brutal, satisfying and, in this case, very violent.
Incidentally, some of the developers happen to have worked on previous Need for Speed titles so in addition to merely being able to speed around the streets of Hong Kong and hijack any of the 80-odd cars in the game, players will also be able to engage in street races and expect some of that NFS pedigree to be brought in. If you happen to be whizzing about on a motorbike, you can also jump onto moving vehicles at high speeds. If that isn’t cool then I don’t know what is.
In addition to all that, you’ve still got your main story missions but good luck getting to them with the amount of distraction you’ll encounter on the way. There’s a ton of things to do on the side from random stunts to joining fight clubs, karaoke bars, gambling dens, attending cockfights and betting on them, maintaining relationships with a few potential girlfriends and then there are the stores where you can buy accessories, clothes or even vehicles. You might even be persuaded to buy knock-off items from a guy on the street. There’s also supposed to be a street fight just waiting to break out on every street corner so be mindful of that.
Everything you do and every side activity you partake in earns you rewards in addition to XP which collects in 3 different areas. Face XP, Triad XP and Police XP.
To give an example of the attention to detail that has been put into this game, for the combat system and specifically for the fight clubs, United Front brought in UFC welterweight champion George St-Pierre. There might not be any multiplayer component but Sleeping Dogs will track all your stats and allow you to compete directly with friends in that regard.
The game is said to have a vibrant and breathing recreation of Hong Kong which is bound to make for a very entertaining sandbox experience. This is where Square Enix London’s previous work on Just cause 2 will surely come in handy. For the record, JC2 offers one of the most fun and entertaining sandbox experiences I’ve had to date.
Sleeping Dogs may not be looking to revolutionise anything or re-invent its genre but it’s sporting some great looking gameplay and an amount of effort that should surely show in the final product and ultimately make for a memorable game. It’s got plenty going for it and as Alessandro said in his hands-on of the game, it can be the springboard for a very promising franchise.