Making a video game is tough. Besides the tedious process of coming up with a game pitch and design document to make said game, there is also the financial side, scheduling how long it will take to make, testing plans, technical stuff, you get the idea. A great deal goes into a game more than the normal person would think. Sometimes, the game might be in a beta form, and due to complicated reasons, get canceled. This can happen a lot in a game’s life span. For example, today’s review is of the Hong Kong free-roaming crime game, Sleeping Dogs. It was in development, but then canceled. However, it was later picked up by Square Enix to be finished, and of course released to the public. Usually when stuff like this happens, the product gets screwed in quality, but this one seemed to be in the good quality zone. Let’s take a look at this seedy Hong Kong crime game known again as Sleeping Dogs.
The story has you play as Wei Shen, voiced by Will Yun Lee. He is an undercover cop who has come back to Hong Kong to take care of the crime that has plagued the busy city. Along the way, you will meet different characters, like your police handler, Mak, voiced by Byron Mann, Police Inspector Pendrew, voiced by Tom Wilkinson, Amanda Cartwright, voiced by Emma Stone, Vivenne Lu, voiced by Lucy Liu, her husband and triad boss Winston, voiced by Parry Shen, and other mob bosses and criminals. The story can be good, with some interesting and intense moments from here and there, but when you look at other games that cover the Asian crime syndicates like Yakuza, this one just doesn’t compare. However, Sleeping Dog’s story is entertaining and will keep you invested throughout most of the story.
The gameplay of Sleeping Dogs is a mix of hand-to-hand combat, gunplay, racing, and free-roaming a la GTA. The whole city of Hong Kong is your playground, and while it isn’t as over the top as say, Saint Rows and Grand Theft Auto, there is still a good amount of things to do, from street racing and thug fighting, to cock fighting, just to name a few. Melee combat is handled like Batman Arkham Asylum and City, where it goes for that free-flowing combat and simple combo’s. There are a few added mechanics, like environmental kills and weapons, but it plays very similarly to the Batman Arkham games. The player can also gain outfits to give him different perks, like more experience for thug activities or police activities. Driving around is your usual driving game stuff, choosing what car fits your mood and how one is stronger than the other in speed. The gunplay is some of your typical third-person shooting with cover systems, but there is a bit of Max Payne thrown into the ring with the ability to slow down time after you jump from cover. Adittionally, there are jade statues to collect, and if you take them to a martial arts master, you will be able to learn new martial arts moves. There are also small shrines around Hong Kong that will increase your perks. You have a lot on your plate to play with in Sleeping Dogs, due to it being an open world game and such. You have about 30 or so hours, and while there is no multiplayer, you can still go around being a completionist if you want. Oh, there is also a lot of DLC that just adds even more replay value to this already expansive game.
Graphically speaking, this isn’t Uncharted 3 or Final Fantasy XIII good, but due to this game going through a bit of development hell, it looks better than say, Duke Nukem Forever. The models on a lot of the characters are great, but can sometimes come off lifeless looking. The city is well set up though, and it’s definitely very lively. I also love the soundtrack to the game. Sure, the normal tunes are good, but the soundtrack they made with actual bands really help you fit into the hustle and bustle vibe that Hong Kong offers. The voice acting is solid, and while the characters may not have full-on facial animation or life in their character models, the voice work done by the actors brings them alive to a certain degree. They even got some big time celebrities like Emma Stone in this game’s voice cast.
So, what is wrong with this game? Well, even though I shouldn’t be surprised, this game couldn’t have been all that other people and I wanted it to be, due to its development time. I just wish they could have taken a more over-the-top style with this game. When you see Saint Rows 2, that game just pull out all the stops to bring in the ultimate sandbox gaming experience, and this game didn’t. There are these cool fast-paced chase sequences, but they don’t break up the boring parts of the game, like the required-to-win first place street race police mission, etc. If it kept its momentum throughout the entire game, I think it would have made itself unique. I also feel like the character models could have had more life put into their animation. They come off as plastic mannequins. These aren’t the worst graphics ever, but United Front Games could have developed this game for a few more months and it would have been so much better.
Overall, Sleeping Dogs is not a bad game, but it is disappointing. I know I shouldn’t have expected this game to be game of the year back in 2012 due to its development hell, but I know there could have been a lot more. I could easily recommend this game when it hits the 20-30 dollar mark since it is one of the better games of 2012, but until then, it's better to let Sleeping Dogs lie.
This game gets 7 out of 10.