Let’s face it, it’s been a rough cycle for Square Enix. The once mighty giant with the Midas touch has made one colossal mistake after another with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It’s hard to even pick a good title from them for the current gen consoles. Even their most popular franchise, Final Fantasy has been tarnished with recent iterations. It only makes sense for them to look outside their company for some help.
Thanks to United Front Games, Square-Enix may finally have a game worth being proud of. Although their new game, Sleeping Dogs doesn’t break new grounds, it still delivers a solid game with a good story. Game play follows an open sandbox format and is very reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption. United Front also adds in elements from Max Payne’s bullet time to Batman Arkham City’s fight mechanics, to Gears of War’s cover system to provide an overall engaging game.
The story follows Wei Shen, an undercover cop who was born in Hong Kong, but raised in America. Now Wei has returned to Hong Kong to take down the Sun On Yee Triad from the inside. These bilateral arches require playing missions to further the mob and missions to further the police. Of course there are also plenty of side mission to keep yourself busy if you want to take a break from the main story which also helps in bringing up stats. Completing missions and tasks level up your character and unlocks more fight moves and objects to buy, i.e. better cars and cloths.
Attention to detail is pushed in all aspects from great looking character models to the environment and when it rains at night, the city starts to look like scenes straight out of Blade Runner. Actors such as James Hong from Kung Fu Panda and Seinfeld, Lucy Liu from and Charlie’s Angels, Will Yun Lee from Die Another Day, Tom Wilkinson from Batman Begins and Emma Stone from The Amazing Spider-Man lend their voice talents to help drive the story. Music channels also bring some big names which include Deep Purple, The Who, Fear Factory, Killswitch Engage and Dream Theater.
When it comes to game play, controls are good, but needs a little polishing. Entering a brawl typically seemed a little jarring and although you unlock some great moves to grapple and slam people into environments, a lot of times the bad guys can block most of your punches. If you send a barrage of attacks to a thug who blocks them all, there are times when Wei becomes unresponsive and you have to wait a few seconds to re-engage the fight. In the end it felt like even after unlocking a great diverse amount of attack skills you really just need to wait for the enemy to fight you first, allowing you to counter-attack. Once you counter-attack their defense drops and you can use your unlocked skills. Death by sword fish is somewhat entertaining, if not a little bizarre.
With a so many elements to game play there’s bound to be some glitches and quirkiness from time to time. Since the game plays like GTA, I assumed I could steal a car, and I did, however I couldn’t bring it back to my parking lot to keep. I had to earn more Face in order to buy better cars. Even after some missions required some super fast cars, I expected to maybe have more cars added to my parking lot. I also found it somewhat amusing that you could grab any bystander and drag them across the street and throw them into environments.
I dragged one person about 5 blocks without them putting up a fight. I even found it possible to grab a person and drag them into my apartment. However, when you are in your apartment, mechanics change. You can’t run, fight, or grab and if you drag someone into your apartment and let them go, you can’t re-grab them. In fact you can’t do anything but let them scream and run away.
Some required mini missions, although cultural, still seemed hokey, such as the karaoke bar. Thankfully I wasn’t required to pull out a microphone and dust off my Guitar Hero rig, but it still seemed awkward for a gang member to take time out of his full day of killing, to sing perfect pitch.
I also found some actions to have small windows for events. In one case I grabbed a bad guy and dragged him to my car. The mission asked me to throw the guy in the truck. Due to the small window of where I needed to stand, the first three times I ended up slamming the bad guy’s head on the trunk and allowed him to fall to the ground. I really had to grab him a few times and re-approach the car to get the angle correct in order to throw him in the trunk. Although it was a little frustrating, it was actually pretty funny. The event window also seemed a little touchy when jumping from vehicle to vehicle.
In the end this game could have easily been called Grand Theft Auto- Hong Kong as much as Red Dead Redemption could have been called Grand Theft Horse-The Old West. You will be spending much of your time comparing Sleeping Dogs to the game that perfected the genre. In some cases you’ll be excited with better fight mechanics and higher graphics, but when the new mechanics don’t work, you wonder if they even make a difference to the game and are needed. If you don’t like open world sandboxes like GTA, you can skip this game since Sleeping Dogs doesn’t bring anything outstanding to the table.
If you are into GTA then you might find Sleeping Dogs engaging with enough added mechanics to distance itself like Red Dead Redemption. Thanks to Sleeping Dogs, Square-Enix might finally have a hit on their hands and allow the new Lara Croft game some room to breathe in case it isn’t a perfect hit. At the time of this review, online was not available.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Good story with great graphics. Great voice cast. Overall engaging game.
Some awkward mini missions and fight mechanics. Controls are slightly unpolished but good nonetheless.
Sleeping Dogs does not break new ground but delivers enough content and visuals to get Square-Enix out of the dog house.