Sleeping dogs has had a long and most likely painful history. You wouldn’t know it by playing the game though – it is gorgeous, controls well and feels polished.
Sleeping dogs started its life as a game called Black Lotus which had a female protagonist. It was changed to have a male protagonist because Activision bizarrely believed that a female lead wouldn’t work. It was then renamed to be part of the True Crime series and eventually dropped by Activision completely. Happily, the game (though not the True Crime IP) has since been picked up by Square Enix, and is now called Sleeping Dogs. With so much turmoil in its past, you would think that game has problems, if the parts that I played are at all representative of the whole, that is far from the truth.
You play as a San Francisco cop, who comes back to Hong Kong to go undercover as a member of the historic gang, the Triads. United Front Games did more than a little research in preparing for Sleeping Dogs. They took 10,000 photos on their trips to Hong Kong so that they could capture the look and feel of the city. They also met with cops who deal with the real Triads, and even met with some of the gang members themselves.
When I got my hands on the game, the first thing that struck me was that the city really felt alive, and even crowded. The density of people, activity and organic nature of the buildings and shops lent a feeling of reality that other open world games have always failed to create. This feeling was multiplied even further when I hopped on a motorcycle and started weaving in and out of traffic. Getting around is one of the most important aspects of an open world, and United Front Games’ history with racing games shines through. Getting around on foot is fun as well, as there is a free running system as well.
Besides being an open world game, Sleeping Dogs is also a brawler. MMA fighter Georges St-Pierre was consulted during the creation of the fighting system, and it is appropriately brutal. Combos come naturally, and there are loads of nasty environmental take downs. In my short time with the game, I held an enemies’ head to a gas burner, pushed another onto a spinning circular saw and mangled a third’s face on a vent fan. The animations were absolutely over the top. Shooting feels good too. Time slows down as you vault out of cover to take down your enemies. Very cinematic!
It’s hard to properly judge an open world game when you have only spent a little time with it, but I am excited to get my hands on Sleeping Dogs when it comes out in North America on August 14 of this year. The combination of the exotic locale along with the interesting combat and racing look to set the bar for open world games.