Sleeping Dogs: Fist Fights, Vermin Problems, and Nifty Gadgets

Different name, new setting, same old series? We find out how the title formerly known as True Crime: Hong Kong handles in our first hands-on.

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We know what you're probably thinking: Sleeping Dogs? Has GameSpot, my favorite video or computer game website lost its mind and moved into the fast-paced world of pet accommodation? No sir, we have not. Sleeping Dogs is the recently revealed name for the game formerly known as True Crime: Hong Kong, a title Activision kicked to the curb a little over a year ago after saying "It just wasn't going to be good enough." While Square Enix swooped in to save the game from cancellation, the name has been overhauled, but it is still the same Hong Kong cinema-inspired open-world game that was always planned.

The game follows Asian-American cop, Wei Shen, as he leaves US shores to return to the motherland in hopes of infiltrating and stemming the tide of Triad control across the region. We recently got an updated look and chance to play this (hopefully) second-time lucky game.

Our demo opened with Wei Shen being held prisoner in a jail cell. The familial bonds of a previous and less scrupulous life were mere feet away, and seconds passed before we ran into a former gang brother, Jackie Ma. The pair caught up briefly, and Wei was emphatic about wanting back in on his old turf. Jackie provided instructions on whom to meet and where, before Wei was dragged off to an interrogation room. Away from prying eyes, Wei got a little verbal abuse before a senior officer reached over and disabled the camera in the room. It was all a ruse. Wei had been called in as a deep undercover officer who knows the scene, the players, and the way they operate. The friendly chat ended and Wei left without as much as a scratch--a telltale sign of a jailhouse snitch. The camera lingered, and the pair of officers discussed whether he could be trusted. One suggested Wei's history of "extreme behavior" and risk of exacting revenge for the slaying of his parents at the hands of the Triad made him more of a liability than an asset.

Inside the kitchen of a dingy local restaurant, we met with Jackie and his boss, a heavily tattooed but small-time crime boss. There were no fancy cars, no suited entourage, and his mother, Mrs. Chu, milled around the workspace with food and drink as we chatted. There were no illusions about the sort of people her son associates with or the business her son conducts, but she remained silent and without judgment. Her son needs protection, and we're out to build our reputation. A man named Ming owes money, and our job is to teach him a lesson in manners.

Outside on the street, garish neon lights assaulted our senses, hawkers were selling suits and "I love HK" T-shirts, as a dragon performance entertained watchers. You can interact with some stalls, spending money earned from combat and completed missions to buy short-term buffs, such as reduced physical damage for 10 minutes.

The city was not nearly as dense as the real place it's modeled on--though we're unsure if it was designed this way for the comfort of the player navigating the world or simply a technical limitation of the hardware the game uses. We pushed through the odd body blocking our path, and after confronting Ming, we took off at speed down narrow alleyways over locked fences and waist-height obstacles. The same button handles sprint and interaction, so you need to ease off the gas, release, press to scale or jump, and then repress to resume pursuit. There wasn't a great momentum penalty for the multiple presses, but it felt like it would benefit from being mapped to one of the other face or trigger buttons during these encounters.

Our chase came to a halt when we were confronted by a handful of Ming's cronies. Low-level grunts were easily belted into submission with a few quick jabs, while larger and more experienced fighters required adept use of the one-button counter-grapple mechanic. When it came time to finish the job, we could grab targets and push them around the arena to trigger finishing moves--slamming skulls against walls, pushing bad guys into electrical boxes, or shredding faces in spinning fan blades. Rival gangs seldom appeared to roll alone, but even while beating on one of their friends, they were often reluctant to attack more than one at a time. We felt brief flashes of Batman's fluid melee system here, but the hand-to-hand combat wasn't as natural or free-form as the Dark Knight taking out the trash. With goons defeated, we took on Ming alone, but before we had the chance to finish the job, Hong Kong officers stormed the rooftop.

The timeline jumped around greatly during our demo, and with her son now mysteriously out of the picture, the once quiet Mrs. Chu was out for blood like any mother scorned. Criminal, Johnny Ratface, was implicated in the disappearance, and we used some of the more advanced detective tools at our disposal. Making a prank call and keeping him on the line long enough to triangulate (or is that Triadulate?) his position, we arrived at a nearby industrial estate. As you'd expect, Wei knew his way around a machine gun, and we blasted our way to the end of the area, blowing up cars and wasting suckers shooting back from ledges.

The chase gained speed when we borrowed a motorbike to follow the fleeing Johnny Ratface's car. Aiming weapons while driving cars and riding bikes slows the world around you to give you a chance to fire accurate, well-placed shots rather than spray and pray. Vehicles that take enough damage or have their tires shot out, spin and flip like stunt cars. Once close enough to our mark, we leapt from our bike to the roof of his car, taking him hostage and driving back to Mrs. Chu, who was waiting, meat cleaver in hand, to serve up her own justice.

Though the storyline will focus on Wei Shen and remain quite linear, this is an open-world game. We weren't given much chance to explore the wider city area, but side missions--called Favors--will give you a reason to complete optional content and reward you with money and "Face" points, which are the game's reputation system. One side mission we saw had a friend asking us to destroy a rival street racer's car with a tire iron. Think of it a bit like a Triad stress ball.

After its tumultuous development, fans will be happy to know the game is finally going to make it to shelves. While not bearing the same name, True Crime supporters can rest easy knowing this looks and feels like a genuine follow-up experience that melds melee combat, third-person shooting, and on-road antics. While our hands-on gave us a limited taste of all three elements, we're hoping for a chance to explore more of the city soon. Can Wei Shen stay on the straight and narrow or is the lure of returning to a life of crime too great a temptation? Stay tuned to find out when the game shoots up consoles and PCs this year.

Discussion

64 comments
cjf187x
cjf187x

Infernal Affairs, best movie ever.  Before you watch The Departed watch Infernal Affairs.

hrothgar99
hrothgar99

cant wait to play this game looks awesome :D 

Kaeban
Kaeban

Looks good, it really does...

UnaSolida
UnaSolida

Dammit I really wanted to hear about [if any] the muliplayer =(

Conra51
Conra51

It's like Yakuza that meets Stranglehold that meets GTA. AWESOME!

otto1971
otto1971

I hope it is an open world that reproduces the city, hong kong is small should not be difficult, I want to race cars in the street i know, go under my house, and shoot to the magazines seller under my door, maybe get into the Japanese restaurant where I usually eating! or go to the video game store near my house and destroy everything ....

ManHooYin
ManHooYin

We all need to buy this game to give Activision a giant slap in the face. Watch how if this game does extremely well they will start making True Crime games again and start milking it by releasing one each year as I think they still own the rights of True Crime games.

ohjtbehaaave
ohjtbehaaave

So glad they rescued this one. High hopes for it.

Danny_1993
Danny_1993

I'm so happy this game got revived, and it seems like it hasn't strayed too far from the original model However, Sleeping Dogs? I wish they could have come up with a better name lol, I'll just call it True Crime

Dark_Arcitekt
Dark_Arcitekt

"It's new,it's exciting.it's fresh".Who can complain about what he said there?I welcome this and will be purchasing this indeed. Cheers to SE.I have a good feeling we'll be seeing a lot of "dropped","anticipated" games thanks to them.

shanethewolf
shanethewolf

The graphics look a bit cheap and arcadey, but this looks like a surprisingly good game. I'm really looking forward to it.

MFreeSoul
MFreeSoul

Bravo Square Enix :) P.S. GET jackie chan as Wei Shen...yea !!!

Megavideogamer
Megavideogamer

A spiritual successor which hopefully will turn out to be quite good. Rather than just a quick coat of paint on an old game.

sensei_hEnRY
sensei_hEnRY

maybe this one gonna keep me occupied until GTA V come out

PSR8000
PSR8000

The virtual Hong Kong city looks amazing!!

fox1986
fox1986

I just don't want it to be Just Cause 2-like game...

splinter10
splinter10

This just reminds me of GTA china town wars. But in a 3rd person version.

bsnimunf
bsnimunf

The original true crime had a branching storyline. What was really good about this was you could jump back into anypoint where the story line branched off and play the section you missed with the first play through. Much better than having to pay throught the entire game several times.

B1ueMoonDragon
B1ueMoonDragon

@Evilbunz It's the Just Cause game mechanic where if you shoot a speeding land vehicle in the tires, they'll flip.

Evilbunz
Evilbunz

why does the car jump in the air and do a backflip when he shoots it i don't understand this...

nate1222
nate1222

I've got the PC version on my radar big time. I liked True Crime NYC (Gamecube version), but hated True Crime Streets of L.A. TCNYC actually edged out GTA San Andreas in the open-ended story department.

true_gamer007
true_gamer007

They said Square Enix revived the project. Well done SE, that's the spirit of a developer. It's gonna set in Asia, that's even better.

icetone
icetone

I wonder if they will have multiplayer looks like it would be fun and it seems like Square Enix is saving a lot of games

Chippa7
Chippa7 moderator

@downloadthefile Fixed.Thanks for flagging.

1valiantknight
1valiantknight

I was really bummed when this got canned, glad to see it's been brought back to life. Just hope it turns out good. As long as the open world is fun to explore and there's lots of side missions it should be fun.

icetone
icetone

looks sweet ill get this and gta v

mike21187
mike21187

Cantonese language track option please!

illstyle_
illstyle_

I've only played True Crime: Streets of LA and I loved it

MUKUSS
MUKUSS

I wish this was coming to the psVITA.

pidow
pidow

I am tracking this one.

phillkillv2
phillkillv2

Despite the new name it looks really good.

MJ12-Conspiracy
MJ12-Conspiracy

If they weren't making another True Crime game how did it become that?? IDK, the setting seems interesting I mean come on Hong Kong, how many times to we get to go to Honk Kong in a game?? The story seems kinda meh, after LA Noire I'd rather actually investigate crimes, gather the evidence and build a case before booking suspects not crash through windows bust some head and call it a night..... In a way what would really make part of the story interesting is if you went undercover and lost yourself in the triads and became one of them completely then being hunted by the cops....

DethAngel22
DethAngel22

@downloadthefile I know right! It's so f***ing frustrating when people misuse one word out of an article. It pisses me off so much that I'm not going to comment about any of the actual content, I'm not even going to try to stay on topic. I'm going to b*tch and moan about this.

downloadthefile
downloadthefile

It's the game "formerly" known, not "formally." did you not realize that "formally" in that context makes no sense? really bothers me that someone paid to write can't realize that the title just makes no sense. just like when people say, "as supposed" instead of "as opposed."

DeltaSpirit
DeltaSpirit

It looks good and as long as the world is lively, there's lot to do it will be great.

GuilhermeHQ
GuilhermeHQ

The game icon seems a rip-off of Epic's UDK :P

kvan33
kvan33

@torrne667 Apparently you aren't familiar with the TC series. It's set in an alternate universe where dynamite is strapped to the gas tank of every car.

frodo10
frodo10

Looks good definitely getting it.

BMonkeyAirsoft
BMonkeyAirsoft

Was it just me, or did the melee fighting in the video play out remarkably similar to Batman Arkham Asylum/City? It looked to be based on countering the enemies attacks just like Batman.

Hellsasin
Hellsasin

YES TRUE CRIME FTW I loved True Crime: New dont care what the reviews say

macpc25
macpc25

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