Kung fu, fast cars, explosions, beautiful women, barbaric gangsters and undercover cops: there’s never been a Hong Kong quite like the one portrayed in “Sleeping Dogs.” The new open world crime drama video game from United Front Games is a spiritual successor to the much- beloved “True Crime” franchise. It’s everything this writer has ever wanted in a crime and kung fu adventure, minus a few ninjas or samurai.The story follows Wei Shen, an undercover police officer infiltrating the Sun On Yee, a major Triad gang in Hong Kong. As Shen works his way up the power structure, he struggles with just how far he’s willing to go to keep his cover, and whether his cover has become his true self. It sounds fairly cliché, but without spoiling things, it takes a few grizzly paths most players will never expect.
The balance between cop and gangster plays a big part in Shen’s progression, as every mission has a score for both factors. Hit a pedestrian or a light post and you’ll start losing cop score quickly. This can be annoying at times when Shen has to hurry across the map or escape enemies; with 30 Triad gangsters chasing and shooting at Shen, does it really matter if he bumps into civilian cars a few times?
“Sleeping Dogs” is visually gorgeous, portraying everything from the glitz and glam of the upper class areas to the down- and-dirty slums of the gangs in awesome detail. Although the console version isn’t quite as beautiful—given the constraints of the now-elderly current generation of consoles—the PC version takes full advantage of many of the latest features of DirectX 11 and other developments. Faces seem to be the only area where the developers had trouble, particularly on females.
I was pleasantly surprised to see many UI and graphical options— a rarity in games ported over from consoles. Though it might seem a minor detail, the mouse has separate sensitivity for both aiming and camera and is further separated by X and Y-axes. This level of attention to the tiniest customization PC gamers love is something you don’t often see, even in games designed solely for the PC. When it comes to gameplay,
“Sleeping Dogs” has some of the best hand-to-hand combat. Fans of the current-generation “Batman” games (“Arkham Asylum” and “Arkham City”) will feel right at home with “Sleeping Dogs.” The kung fu flows with ease from Shen’s fists and feet, as he delivers powerful blows that are almost a guilty pleasure to behold. Breaking the arms and legs of an opponent foolhardy enough to mess with the best has never been so fun.
Shooting, although not a major part of the game, is polished whenever it does pop up. Players will have a blast shooting down gangster after gangster with a variety of weapons, such as simple pistols or automatic shotguns. However, the game seems to have a slight auto-aim present, which can make getting headshots more of a chore than it should be. “Max Payne”-style slow motion really adds to the experience, especially when you’re trying to shoot enemies from your moving car or boat. The mechanics of shooting from vehicles are easily the best in the industry so far.
Speaking of cars and boats, “Sleeping Dogs” also features some of the most thrilling racing imaginable. Cars and bikes perform at speeds most games never dare to hit with near-perfect handling. However, it might take a while to get used to driving on the “wrong” side of the road. There are plenty of racing side-games to keep the speed demon in every player occupied for hours.
Every moment of the 16 hours it took to complete is a thrill ride, except for the end. Although certainly not anywhere near the level of disappointment found in “Mass Effect 3,” players will likely find themselves expecting a bit more bang for the big finale.
Overall, “Sleeping Dogs” is a tour-de-force of blood-pumping excitement. If you like kung fu, mesmerizing graphics, adrenaline- maxing racing, solid shooting and top-notch storytelling, there’s no reason not to wake up the dogs of war in “Sleeping Dogs”.