Like Darksiders II, Sleeping Dogs is very derivative in the way it cherry picks signature elements from some of the best-loved video game franchises. However, this third-person open-world title takes these ingredients and cooks up one of the most enjoyable experiences in the genre. The game can be best described as a love child of Bruce Lee and Faith (Mirror's Edge) in the GTA universe. It incorporates free-flow hand-to-hand combat from Rocksteady Studios' Batman games and Parkour from Assassin's Creed in an oriental open-world setting reminiscent of the Yakuza games. You even have a smattering of RPG elements across multiple disciplines, which give an interesting twist to the proceedings.
An oriental GTA clone
The plot is reminiscent of the Hong Kong crime-thriller Infernal Affairs. You play the role of Wei Shen — an Asian-American cop sent to infiltrate the ranks of the Sun On Yee Triad (Chinese mafia). Set in a fictional version of Hong Kong, Sleeping Dogs features a unique blend of Cop and Triad missions that are played out in a non-linear fashion. The game has you playing on both sides of the law. You gather evidence against the Triad as an undercover cop, while at the same time committing increasingly dastardly crimes to gain access to Sun On Yee's inner circle. The main story missions themselves are quite cinematic and well executed.
The car handling dynamics are impressive
Complex and refined gameplay
The Batman-inspired combat system is fluid and admirably nuanced. It employs a traditional blend of light and hard attacks, along with grappling moves, to create a fighting style bearing a great deal of depth. Wei can grapple Foes and slam them into walls as well as environmental props, whereas various stun and power attacks can be used to disarm or defeat enemy defences. The baddies themselves come in Brawler, Armed, Grappler, and Striker varieties — each requiring unique strategies and move sets to defeat. New moves can be learned and perfected by visiting dojos peppered around the city. Overall, the brawling segments are involving and require much deeper strategy and skill level than your average open-world game. This karma, I believe, is enough to forgive its slightly clunky cover system and Third-Person Shooter mechanics.
The combat system is complex and challenging
A living, breathing microcosm
The city may not be as large as San Andreas, but its four districts have been painstakingly crafted to capture the essence of Hong Kong. The PS3 version doesn't have complex 3D meshes or cutting edge particle and lighting effects evident in GTA IV. However, a mix of brilliant art direction and densely populated streets makes the Sleeping Dogs universe seem like a living, breathing city. My only complaints with the graphics department were anaemic draw distances and minor framerate issues in certain segments. In a nutshell, the game leverages good art and design to overcome limitations of its graphics engine.
Yes, you can (finally) have girlfriends in this game
An experience that's hard to replicate
It's not an easy task for a video game to find acceptance with casual gamers without resorting to a tie-in with either a movie or a sports franchise. It's remarkable then how open-world, crime capers such as GTA, Mafia, Saints Row, and Yakuza are popular with the same lot. What they lack in Hollywood or spectator-sport quotient is made up by their ability to provide an escape from mundane reality. These games let you indulge in stuff that's frowned upon in real life — activities such as beating up random people on the street, dealing drugs, driving like a complete lunatic, and murdering prostitutes. We all like to let off some steam, in a socially questionable manner, as long as there's no one judging our actions. It's not difficult to understand why these games are so popular then.
Vehicular combat is reminiscent of Pursuit Force
Updated 19 Jun, 2013, 11:04 am IST
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