There’s a reason why I’ve been replaying Sleeping Dogs recently. Ever since I first played the game years ago, I’ve been hoping for a worthy sequel to the game; a hope that wasn’t fulfilled when Square Enix revealed an MMO game set in the Sleeping Dogs universe called Triad Wars. However, not too long ago Square Enix announced they were shutting down the beta for the game and cancelling its development, a move I hope was made because they realised fans of the original want a proper sequel and not a spin off. So, yet again, in hope of a sequel I started to replay the game, though this time I played the Definitive Edition on PS4 that contained all the DLC.
The most common description of the game that I hear is ‘It’s Grand Theft Auto but in Hong Kong’ and while this description isn’t entirely wrong it doesn’t do the game justice. You play as Wei Shen, a police officer returning from America to go undercover in a triad known as the Sun On Yee. Shen was picked for this assignment because his childhood friends are in the triad, giving him a way in. What follows is a story of Shen trying not to let his job be discovered, but also trying to do what is right and not just what his handlers tell him to do. The story itself is pretty great, involving an interesting tale of looking out for your friends and seeing the evolution of Wei Shen’s character.
The gameplay is similar to that of GTA, but with some notable differences. Where GTA‘s main focus is guns and weapons, Sleeping Dogs focuses more on hand-to-hand combat. As such, the gun mechanics aren’t fantasti;, they work well enough that I wasn’t annoyed but they clearly weren’t the best. The hand-to-hand combat, however, is fantastic. The whole game feels like you’re playing through a martial arts movie, with some DLC outfits (included in this addition) giving you some unique moves. An outfit designed to look like that of Yip Man the inventor of Wing Chun, for example, gives Wei Shen an altered move set where he uses moves from the Wing Chun school of martial arts. The melee combat is also designed to allow you to use the environment around you – throwing someone into a dumpster, for example. The rest of the gameplay is a fairly standard open world affair and the driving controls are tight and responsive. There is also plenty of activities to take part in such as going on dates, taking part in street races and stealing courier trucks among other things.
I love the story of the game, and I love the focus on melee combat over gunplay. Another huge reason for why I like the game so much, and something I think about every time I play it, is that the setting is so refreshing. When every modern open world game takes place in either a named American city like Watch Dogs or a fake American city like GTA, it’s a lovely thing to be able to play a game set in a city somewhere else in the world. It helps that the developers, United Front Games, did a pretty great job of making the world feel alive. Whether it’s going into karaoke bars and singing songs while various NPCs party around you or walking around a market while a man shouts at you to eat pork buns, it gives the setting a great sense of presence.
Something I want to make a special note of as well is the DLC that’s included in the Definitive Edition. There are two DLC missions I replayed, Nightmare in North Point and The Zodiac Tournament. Nightmare in North Point was a Halloween DLC and deals with a deceased member of the Sun On Yee known as Big Scar Wu who comes back to life to get revenge on those who killed him, or those who use his hated nickname of Smiley Cat.
The second DLC takes the idea that Sleeping Dogs feels like a Chinese action movie/martial arts film and goes overboard with it. Shen is asked to investigate an illegal fighting tournament on an island off the coast of Hong Kong called Zodiac Island. The mission starts with a stylised movie-like intro cutscene and unfolds into a tournament where the loser from each match is killed while spectators bet on the outcome. It feels like a plot point from an old Bond movie, and the game pulls it off fantastically.
The final point I want to touch on about the game is the performances of the cast. There are a few voices in the game that some of you might recognise. Will Yun Lee from The Wolverine, James Hong from Blade Runner and Kung Fu Panda, Tom Wilkinson from Batman Begins and Rush Hour and even Lucy Liu and Emma Stone in small roles. The entire game is brilliantly acted by its great cast and that is definitely part of the reason I love the characters and the story so much.
In short, Sleeping Dogs is a game I fall in love in with every time I play it and it’s a game I would highly recommend to anyone interested in that style of open world game. In the meantime I’m going to continue to replay the game every so often, hoping that Square Enix will one day deliver the sequel I’m waiting for. Have fun and remember: “a man who never eat pork bun is never whole man”.