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Review

Sleeping Dogs Review

  • Game release: August 13, 2012
  • Reviewed: August 14, 2012
  • X360

Varied missions, hard-hitting melee combat, and a captivating setting make Sleeping Dogs an enjoyable escapade.

What does it take to survive as an undercover cop who infiltrates one of Hong Kong's most ruthless criminal organizations? If Sleeping Dogs is any indication, it takes martial arts prowess, good marksmanship, driving skill, a reckless willingness to leap from one speeding vehicle to another, and the confidence to sing karaoke. None of the individual elements in Sleeping Dogs are best-in-class, but they're all thoroughly enjoyable, and the structured story missions have you switching from one type of action to another frequently enough that you're never tired of what you're doing at any given moment. Additionally, the fictionalized version of Hong Kong where Sleeping Dogs takes place is an exotic and atmospheric setting for this tale of conflicting loyalties; you probably wouldn't want to live amid the ruthless criminals who populate the game's cast, but this world sure is a nice place to visit.

You play as Wei Shen, a Hong Kong native who has returned after spending some time in the States. Driven by a desire to avenge his sister's death, he accepts a dangerous assignment to infiltrate the Sun On Yee triad and help take them down from the inside. Starting out on the lowest rungs of the criminal ladder, he rapidly climbs up through the ranks, behaving in ways that sometimes make his triad cohorts suspect he's a cop and sometimes make his police superiors think he's getting too attached to his brothers in crime. It's a typical tale of an undercover cop possibly getting in too deep, and the story doesn't have any surprises in store for you. But solid voice acting and writing that convincingly blends English and Cantonese make it a narrative that's more than capable of supporting the gameplay, providing context for many a dramatic mission and building up to a cathartic climax that's bloody enough to be taken right out of one of John Woo's Hong Kong action films.

Sleeping Dogs is an open-world game, but it doesn't start out by setting you free. The opening chapters keep you on a tight leash as they introduce you to the basics of movement and melee combat, which is good, since that combat plays a huge role in the game as a whole. Taking its cues from the standard-setting brawling of Batman: Arkham Asylum and its sequel, this combat has you unleashing combos and using timed button presses to counter enemy attacks. Wei's attacks look and feel powerful, and the bone-breaking animations may often make you squirm and make your enemies flinch.

You weren't planning on using your face for anything, were you?

But what sets Sleeping Dogs' combat apart from games with similar systems is the emphasis on environmental attacks. In most places where you find yourself needing to clobber some fools, you can drag enemies to certain objects around you and use these things to finish them off. These environmental finishers range from the relatively restrained old standby of tossing a thug into a dumpster, to the much more original and brutal attack that has Wei impaling an enemy on a swordfish head. There's a good assortment of these attack opportunities throughout the game, and a number of chances for you to make your own fun with the environment, too. Tossing an enemy from the upper level of a swanky club to the level down below isn't, strictly speaking, one of the game's contextual environmental attacks, but don't let that stop you from doing it. It's empowering and effective.

The early stages also introduce you to some of the atmospheric pleasures of this fictional Hong Kong. People believably appear to go about their business; cooks fry things up in restaurants, merchants hock their wares at the marketplace, and dancers perform at a street festival. What's absent from the behavior of non-player characters is almost as important as what's present. Strangers can sometimes be overheard discussing story events, but they don't constantly call out to you as if their existences revolved around you. (They do, of course, but it shouldn't seem like they do.) Unfortunately, close inspection can shatter the illusion. Character models look like plastic dolls when viewed up close, and some gestures characters make are rigid and unnatural.

You can purchase food and drinks for temporary benefits.

But Sleeping Dogs is more about wide-angle, big-picture atmosphere than about close-ups. The skyline gleams with towering skyscrapers. Neon signs hang from every available outcropping on busy streets, crowding the air above you with glowing Chinese characters. This city may not be accurately modeled on the real Hong Kong, but it nonetheless has a powerful identity, and while you're playing, you feel transported to this dangerous land. Collectibles scattered across the island make exploring it worthwhile as well as enjoyable; finding health shrines increases your maximum health, while blue lockboxes hidden all over the place reward you with cash and sometimes with new items of clothing.

Once you complete the first few missions, you're free to explore the island as you see fit. But Sleeping Dogs is an open-world game in which you're sure to enjoy the structured missions more than the opportunities for free-form mayhem. It's fun for a while to run around jump-kicking people to death, or fatally tossing them off of three-foot-high railings. However, unlike other games in the genre like Just Cause 2 and Saints Row: The Third, which reveled in giving you ways to wreak incredible havoc on your own, Sleeping Dogs is at its best when you're playing through the story. Missions typically string together a number of activities, switching from one type of action to another frequently enough to keep you on your toes and ensure that you never get tired of what you're doing.

Driving in Sleeping Dogs is great. The arcade-style handling makes it easy to hop into any vehicle and start drifting your way around turns in no time, and the physics-defying sideways shunt you can do to damage enemy vehicles or ram them off the road brings with it a satisfying sense of impact. Just as exciting as the many races and car chases that take place throughout Sleeping Dogs are the vehicular shoot-outs that start cropping up a bit later in the game. Taking aim at the tires of pursuing cars and disabling them isn't particularly challenging, but it's still thrilling to send your pursuers flying end over end as you speed along unscathed. Wei also has the ability to perform action hijacks, leaping from one vehicle to another and forcibly taking the driver's place. It's an outrageous move that lends Sleeping Dogs a bit more of that Hong Kong action movie feel.

Whether you're escaping from a big drug deal or just driving your gangster pal's fiancee on an errand, the music emanating from your car radio always makes for fitting accompaniment to your activities. The eclectic soundtrack includes hip-hop, sappy Chinese love songs, throbbing techno numbers, tunes by some of the greats of British rock-and-roll, and more. And of course, if you don't like the tune the game has lined up for your current situation, you can always change the station.

Guns aren't a constant in Sleeping Dogs as they are in many other open-world crime games--the story explains at one point that guns are something of a rarity in Hong Kong--but there's no shortage of gunplay on hand. Gun combat makes use of a standard cover system, and though it doesn't quite measure up to the bone-crunching impact of the melee combat, a few dramatic touches lend it some flair. While vaulting over tables or other objects, you can slip into a slow-motion aiming mode, taking enemies out as you speed forward. And melee combat and gunplay sometimes blend together, as when you use a learned technique to quickly disarm a thug and use his gun to take out others. One shoot-out takes place in a hospital and memorably evokes the climactic sequence from the film Hard Boiled. Another gives you a gun equipped with a grenade launcher, which makes taking out the cars your enemies are crouching behind an enjoyably pyrotechnic process.

But it's not all fast rides and big guns in the life of Wei Shen. Sometimes you need to do a bit of police work by calibrating bugs, hacking cameras, cracking safes, or tracking cell phone signals. These minigames are pleasant little diversions from the core action--particularly the hacking game, which involves code-breaking a la the board game Mastermind. Missions also occasionally find you hitting the clubs to sing some karaoke. This takes the form of an uninvolving minigame that has you moving an arrow up and down as green bars scroll along a track. Still, these rare sequences are good for a laugh; the way your character stands looking straight at the karaoke machine and ignoring his audience is amusing, and it's particularly funny if Wei Shen is singing while all bruised and bloody from some brawling or shooting he's just been involved in.

Those who take the time to explore Hong Kong will find many rewards.

You can seek out karaoke at any time if you want to hear Wei Shen try to belt out a stirring rendition of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" or one of the numerous other recognizable hits on offer. Singing karaoke is one way to increase your face level, which brings with it passive upgrades like increased bonuses from the food and drinks you can purchase from vendors and machines, or from the massages you can purchase in back-alley parlors. Raising your face level is also necessary before you can purchase some of the nicer clothes and more powerful vehicles available in the game.

Thankfully, singing karaoke isn't the only way to go about raising your face level. You can also do favors for people around town. These optional activities usually aren't very interesting, though. Many of them have Wei closely inspecting something just so a thief can run up behind him and make off with some of his money, starting a foot chase that ends with you fighting the thief. Other, more enjoyable favors find Wei playing the part of a getaway driver, or leading a criminal pursuer into a police trap.

Wei also earns cop experience and triad experience throughout the game by completing missions and by keeping property damage and innocent casualties to a minimum, with each type of experience opening up selections on limited skill trees. The triad skills primarily improve Wei's melee abilities, while the cop skills improve his prowess with guns and cars. Additionally, statues you find throughout your adventure can be returned to a martial arts school to learn new moves. All of this brings a pleasant sense of growth to Wei as you advance through the game.

The right combination of clothes can make a better man.

There are other minor attractions throughout the Hong Kong of Sleeping Dogs. You can bet on cockfights, for instance, or sail out to a gambling barge for a bit of poker mahjong. And a social hub ranks you against your friends on mission performance as well as a host of other challenges, like longest bike jump and most cash earned by running down parking meters in rapid succession. Goofing around and pursuing high marks on these leaderboards is fun, but it's the atmospheric city and the varied story missions that make Sleeping Dogs an alluring adventure. It may have more violence than you'd want in a typical vacation, but this is still a fun-filled Hong Kong getaway that will leave you with many happy memories.

The Good
Savage melee combat
Alluring atmosphere
Fun driving and gunplay
Varied missions
Numerous collectibles to hunt down and other enjoyable diversions
The Bad
Unattractive character models and environmental textures
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
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Discussion

11 comments
Amandamarvell
Amandamarvell

Anyone know what the modding communities done for this game? Are there any texture packs around or anything? Because the only fault I can find with this game is that the textures and models aren't great.

jasongm
jasongm

xbox games for gold in January 2014 :)

expeditopaz2008
expeditopaz2008

Started to play this today. Quite weird to play with keyboard and mouse (PC version), but the game looks great, and I'll keep playing.

waterproof9
waterproof9

Just started playing this one last night. I'm really enjoying it so far.  The missions are fun and feel different from any other game that I have played.  Havin't done much exploring yet.

zeonfollower
zeonfollower

Love this kinda game but when is Shenmue 3 are coming out??

timsnake123
timsnake123

I love this game if only i had the game

XxELLI-O-TRONxX
XxELLI-O-TRONxX

PS3 is best... it's free through Playstation plus ATM... WOOT

meoluoi_2102
meoluoi_2102

well the story somehow has 1 thing or 2 in common with GTA 4, especially the wedding 

nanno111
nanno111

what console is it best on x-box360, ps3 or pc?

haze_blaze
haze_blaze

I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be funny... but I can't tell if Carolyn is a man or woman??? Can anyone else tell?

On a sidenote... I thought this game was pretty awesome... although like most open world games these days, I didn't feel compelled to play through to the end. 

saadomar90
saadomar90

lol, apparently asian people are "unattractive" to Carolyn?

benV117
benV117

this game deserves atleast an 8.5/10 for its variety that it delivers to the gamers

Warsilver
Warsilver

This is a really great review, spot on imo.

NTM23
NTM23

I haven't even cared to play this game, but I should.

shefo2012
shefo2012

missions kinda easy but its all goood

GulliversTravel
GulliversTravel

I think hes a great reviewer, but its situations like this when you see hype has a big affect on the critics. Look at ME3 (and im not even talking about the ending) and this which not only hovers around the 80 mark on Metacritic but few critics offer any real criticism of it.

SilentAssassin
SilentAssassin

This is the Japanese version of Saint's Row or Grand Theft Auto.  That pretty much sums it up.

jellyman68
jellyman68

Got this game for "free" with a HD7950 Sapphire. Can't wait to build my latest gaming PC and try this game out. Looks like great fun, though I haven't watched the probably pessimistic and pedantic Gamespot review of it.

MinerAvatar
MinerAvatar

This game is very fun to play. Even the side missions are enjoyable to go along with a good main story. Worth your time and money.

ztg360
ztg360

I thoroughly enjoyed this game and while certain mini-games did get repetitive (mainly camera hacking) I overall really enjoyed it.  I just wish there would have been more gunplay in it and the ability to carry more than one gun permanently (I realize there would be few guns in hong kong and that this was designed as a primarily martial arts game but I would have enjoyed a little more gunplay.)

SebMillGermany
SebMillGermany

Well, it IS pretty good, but there ain`t that big surprises and innovations to suspect.

Ezioprez9709
Ezioprez9709

@nanno111 I've got it on Xbox 360 and I think you should get that version. I would imagine the PC version to be rather clunky.

The_Gaming_Baby
The_Gaming_Baby

@nanno111 Looks much better on PC assuming your rig can handle it, but I'm playing through on PS3 at the moment and really enjoying it. I don't think there is much or any different between the PS3 or 360 version

omnimodis78
omnimodis78

@haze_blaze "Carolyn Petit has been reading GameSpot since 2000 and writing for it since 2008. She has a particular fondness for games of the 1980s, and intends to leave the field of games journalism as soon as she hears that her local Ghostbusters franchise is hiring.".  And the fact that you feel the need to say that you're not trying to be funny indicates that you were being ignorant.

Lord_Python1049
Lord_Python1049

@saadomar90 what? how could you interpret it like that? 

"Character models look like plastic dolls when viewed up close, and some gestures characters make are rigid and unnatural."

meoluoi_2102
meoluoi_2102

@shefo2012 i got stuck with the control in PC version.. i fight against deadly opponents and... the camera system

AXTHEHAMMER
AXTHEHAMMER

@SilentAssassin Am I the only one who gets what you were trying to say?  You weren't actually saying it's japanese made or anything; you were saying that it is very similar to the story and character development in GTA and Saint's Row, e.g. sandbox gameplay and NPCs asking you to do things, except set in Asia.

PayneKiller
PayneKiller

@The_Gaming_Baby @XxELLI-O-TRONxX its not free but its a pretty damn good value! I bought my subs when they offered 3 months free with 1 year, so 15 months for $50, I'm covered thru august 2014.
Now considering the amount of games I'm getting thru Plus, I'd say at least $100 worth per month, this is amazing. I may not have bought these games normally, but thats not to say I didnt want to try them. That's where the big deal in PS+ comes for me, I get to play all these games I would have loved to try, for less than the price of 1 game.

XxELLI-O-TRONxX
XxELLI-O-TRONxX

@The_Gaming_Baby You get 3 months for $17 ATM and I've downloaded $500 worth of games for that fee (closest thing to free i've seen)

McGuirex3
McGuirex3

@omnimodis78 @haze_blaze


" And the fact that you feel the need to say that you're not trying to be funny indicates that you were being ignorant"


(((NO IT DOES NOT)))!!! (AT ALL)! So get over yourself, as well as your 'likes'!!!

electro57
electro57

@AXTHEHAMMER It's not the Japanese version of anything.  If you want a Japanese version, go play the Yakuza series.

SilentAssassin
SilentAssassin

@ratchet_ruler88 @SilentAssassin I said this is the Japanese VERSION I didn't say the game took place in Japan.  This was made by Square Enix.. A Japanese COMPANY.. SLEEPING DOGS IS THE JAPENESE VERSION OF GTA or SAINTS ROW.  and YES sleeping dogs takes place in HONG KONG which is CHINA it's still a JAPANESE GAME.. get it?

Ace20a
Ace20a

@SilentAssassin @ratchet_ruler88 Except that it isn't MADE by Square-Enix, it was PUBLISHED by them. The makers are United Front Games, a Vancouver-based studio, in CANADA. So, like I said, IGNORANCE.

Sleeping Dogs More Info

  • Released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • + 3 more
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox 360
    • Xbox One
    Square Enix is resurrecting the game formerly known as True Crime: Hong Kong from United Front Games.
    8.3
    Average User RatingOut of 2437 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Sleeping Dogs
    Developed by:
    United Front Games
    Published by:
    Square Enix
    Genres:
    Adventure, Open-World, Action, 3D
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs