After moving publishers and changing names, True Crime: Hong Kong is now Sleeping Dogs but the game remains the same. You are Wei Shen of San Francisco Police Department who has come back to Hong Kong after a long absence to infiltrate the Triad, known as the Sun On Yee in an Undercover mission. Can Wei separate himself from the case without getting too involved?
Once Wei gets in, he must do things that he doesn’t necessarily want to. He does make sure to be as non-lethal as possible. The Triad does catch on to this, and have outed undercover cops in the past who refuse to kill for the cause. So Wei must earn his place in Sun On Yee. Early missions have you do simple things such as collecting debts, and getting into fights while driving from place to place. Collecting vehicles isn’t about stealing them and storing them in a garage. You can’t buy from regular dealerships, but most go to less than reputable places and purchase cars that can be stored in your personal parking garage strewn about town and next to places you live. Later on you’ll earn an ability to have the Triad bring you one vehicle tagged to your location. Now Wei is in deep.
Sleeping Dogs follows a typical Hong Kong action flick formula: there’s drugs, hookers, racing, death, fighting, and a good amount of shooting. When the story and gameplay work together, you’re able to see it all work together. Unfortunately the story is very predictable and won’t leave you very surprised. When the big story moments happen, they are less impactful as a result.
Driving involves straddling a line between arcade and realism handling. The game’s idea of sense of speed is quite lacking, using motion blur and shaking the camera to accomplish this. The “action hijack” maneuver is fantastic while not realistic, drive fast and hang out your car door and when you come upon a car a green arrow displays and you’ll leap to it and take it over. You can never miss, but sometimes you can be shaken off the vehicle by an informed driver. It’s almost like a minigame, but you only find yourself doing this in missions, rarely outside of them.
Combat is fast and fluid. Players of Batman Arkham City will feel at home though it is a bit scaled back. Button configuration is quite similar. You’ll have a base set of moves that you can execute. After a bit of practice you should be able to take on 5-7 thugs at a time without taking any damage. If you find certain collectables, you’ll be able to find new combos and moves to execute to make you do better.
After a short time you’re let loose in Hong Kong to do as you please, take on missions, improve your fighting moves, and go on dates. Dates aren’t very varied but mostly focus on karaoke, taking pictures, or driving fast to satisfy the needs of a woman who doesn’t like going slow. There are also a bunch of collectibles and things to do in the open world such as finding the fighting statues mentioned above, finding health shrines to boost your health, performing drug busts, hijacking armored vehicles for cash, or even hacking random cameras.
Graphics on PC (where it was reviewed) are top notch, including a free “HD Texture Pack” extra, featured in the screenshots. The city of Hong Kong really shines when the rain-slicked roads shimmer from the neon lights. Cars behave differently when roads are wet and gives the city of Hong Kong atmosphere and character as everything else around it isn’t real. The improved textures make everything pop and stand out, and is a technical achievement for making it look like a place that is full of life.
As with many open world games, it has its problems. I had a few instances where textures didn’t load, but the geometry held me up. Or there were a few occasions where characters would stop proceeding towards the next mission checkpoint or I would simply get stuck and have to restart the entire mission. Even some of the story missions presented are just plain boring and offer no real excitement, just are filler missions. Only until the final missions, the game rolls from one mission to the next with intensity and ferocity.
Sleeping Dogs is top to bottom a really good story that shows its hand at every card that’s dealt. But through it all, it makes it one of the most enjoyable open world games that isn’t too crazy or too serious that gets in the way of having a good time. If you have a powerful PC, get it there for the HD Texture Pack. If not though, you’ll find a rewarding experience that challenges the duality of an undercover cop and being a Triad.