Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sleeping Dogs

  I'm already a sucker for asian crime dramas. Something about the big Hong Kong John Woo thrillers just gets me all the time. From A Better Tomorrow to the iconic Hard Boiled and more, I can't resist them. And this game feels like you're behind the steering wheel of a classic drama like those. However the promotion that drew me to the game boasted more of its Fast & Furious attitude. And I must say its a wild ride.

  Those here for the story won't be disappointed. The phenomenal voice acting lends a real sense of gravity and believability to the proceedings in an amazing way. With the likes of Kelly Hu (X2: X-Men United), Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins), Will Yun Lee (Elektra), and Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man) its no wonder the dialog and such is delivered so damn well. Its great just listening to their conversations even. The story itself is very familiar to fans of the genre, and probably movie fans in general. It centers on an undercover cop, Wei Shen, who is tasked with taking down a faction of the triads from the inside. However, as he works to earn their trust and their loyalty he starts to get close to them... and the lines between right and wrong begin to blur.

   What's good about this story is that it lets you make up your own mind about who's good and bad in the story. As a cop, Shen is frequently given morally questionable orders, and at times forced by his commanding officer to do things that are downright unethical, and this would be easy to illustrate that the cops are crooked and he should be loyal to the Triads. However, the Triads ARE criminals. They run drugs, prostitution rings and protection rackets. All of that stuff. Hardcore criminals. Which you find yourself instantly in a very difficult middle ground. On one hand, he's a cop, tasked with upholding the law, and on the other... he's a Triad, who's bound to his 'brothers' with loyalty, honor, and a code.

  On that alone, Sleeping Dogs is most engaging while you're doing story missions. I neglected alot of side stuff to do for the sake of finding out what happens next. Its nothing wholly original, but due to the fact the characters feel fresh and have a level of gravitas, its incredibly engaging. The relationships the protagonist builds are endlessly interesting. You don't get to affect how they develop so much, this isn't like Mass Effect or anything. Story-wise, its like watching a movie in the sense that you're just along for the ride. But what a ride this is. From massive speeding car chases that would make Michael Bay green with envy to a climatic shootout in a hospital that feels like it pays homage to Hard Boiled, Sleeping Dogs is amazing from start to finish.

  The gameplay itself is really satisfying and really fun. Your martial arts skills being the shining gem of the bunch with shootouts and driving not far behind. The combat system will feel very familar to Batman: Arkham Asylum/City and Assassin's Creed veterans. Its largely a counterattack based melee setup, but if you know your stuff well, you can look just like a pro movie star, martial artist master and 'Jet Li' the shit out of about 30 or so guys who just keep coming at you.

  Aside from the story, there are endless side activities to do, like... fight clubs. Which have 6 rounds. In the biggest one I've been to, by round six I was fighting easily about thirty guys. But when you win everything you get cool outfits that nod to the greats like Tony Jaa, Bruce Lee and more. Very fun stuff. And speaking of outfits, you can customize Wei to a satisfying degree. The clothing deal is more akin to GTA IV than say... Saints Row 3. But the clothes you can buy for Wei actually look cool. Unlike the short end of the stick poor Niko Bellic got...

  While Sleeping Dogs may not encourage mass free reigning chaos, its still a vast open world sandbox in which you have plenty of diversions to keep you busy for hours. Whether you want to practice your Ezio-ish freerunning or jack a car and crash it all over town, theres also no shortage of transportation. So go roam about and find new shops and such. And you might run into little mini activities that employ some of Shen's more police-ish gadgets and techniques. From picking locks to planting bugs and hacking security cameras, you might be surprised how much effort you have to put into some of these. Its all fun though. All the diversions and such made readily available to you really do a great job of breaking up monotony. Not that there is much, but thats largely thanks to how engaging the story is and like I said, all the cool little diversions.

  If I have any complaints they're small, insignficant and summarily irrelevant. Sleeping Dogs deserves alot of praise. Its a slick polished roller coaster ride through the triad criminal underworld with all the big budget trappings of a fantastic big screen crime thriller. I loved every minute of it. Couldn't have asked for more. I whole heartedly recommend Sleeping Dogs. Even if you think you've seen it all in Saints Row 2, 3, and games like Just Cause 2 and GTA IV, here is a game that takes elements from all of those and manages to be so well put together, it feels like something fresh. A breath of fresh air. And a new must play in my book.
Sleeping Dogs, to put it simply...
simply just... kicks ass.

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