A hard hitting video game tribute to the best of Hong Kong action films.
Sleeping dog’s troubled release is relatively unknown to many gamers, but developers United Front games nonetheless was able to survive though developmental hell and delivered a stellar game in this loving tribute to some of the best Hong Kong action cinema has to offer. The was first developed as a unnamed original IP under publisher Activision, but Activision decided to capitalize on the fanbase of their long running open-world crime series “True Crime” as a result the game was announced in 2009 as True Crime: Hong Kong. But the development of the game was plagued with a high budget and multiple delays hence in 2011 publisher Activision decided to axe the game. Six months later, Square Enix announced that they had picked up publishing rights to the game but did not pick up the rights to the True Crimes IP.
The opening of the game starts out by dumping you straight into the fray, you are introduced to your character Wei Shen and without skipping a beat; you are immediately chasing down a rival gangster in a deal gone bad. The section is a neat tutorial introducing the free-running system which draws heavily from Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series, you would basically hold down a button to sprint and vault over obstacles; simple, familiar but it works. Less than an hour later, you are facing down multiple triad gangsters in an all-out brawl. The hand to hand combat system is basically a carbon copy of Batman Arkham Asylum’s Flowing Combat System, enemies would flash red to indicate that they are ripe for a brutal counter attack, combination of button presses and holds would differ in different finishers being used and a grab button to initiate a myriad of limb breaking throws; Wei’s attacks are very reminiscent of 90’s Hong Kong action films, they look and feel powerful but some limb breaking moves would often make you squirm.
The story centers around Wei Shen, an undercover police officer who returned to Hong Kong after spending some time in the United States. Carrying a personal vendetta against the Triad for the death of his sister, he was tasked to infiltrate a triad known as the “Sun On Yee” and help dismantle in from the inside. Starting out as an ordinary foot soldier, he was quickly risen through the ranks of the organization but his behavior like many Asian movie clichés, made his triad brethren suspect he’s an undercover cop while making his police colleagues believe that he is in too deep.
The cast of TV and Hollywood actors providing the voice work for this game is top notch and the writing that blends both English and Cantonese complements the narrative well. It successfully immerse the player into a believable version of Hong Kong, providing much needed context for the game’s missions and cut-scenes.
There are several nods to Bruce Lee, Donnie Yen and Jet Li in Wei’s fighting style, during gun battles he vault over tables and hose down enemies in slow-mo in a style that would make John Woo proud and he is able to don a suit and look cool just like the cast of Infernal Affairs. Sleeping Dogs is overall a stylish game with plenty to do and it comes highly recommended to gamers who loved the original True Crimes series and even fans of Hong Kong crime dramas.
Ratings: 4.5 out of 5 stars
by Chen KangYi
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