Once again veering from the usual anime and related stuff, a video game review. This time of Sleeping Dogs, a recent game where you play as an undercover cop in Hong Kong who, as with most stories (and in real life situations) involving undercover agents, the line of ‘right’ ‘wrong’ and ‘just’ being blurred and the MC becoming uncertain of where his loyalties really lie and what he “really” is – a cop, or a member of whatever group he was originally sent to get rid of. And with this going on there’s also a civil war brewing in the group he’s trying to infiltrate, one he ends up getting involved in heavily.
The game, to put it really simply, is like a mix of the fighting in the Yakuza series of games (great games by the way, definitely try them out if you never played them) and the sandbox/open world of GTA or Saints Row. As much as it’s like GTA in a lot of aspects, it really feels a LOT more like Yakuza to me. 90% of the combat is hand-to-hand fighting or using weapons that aren’t firearms (crowbars, knives, etc), which is really a nice change. Aside from Yakuza, there aren’t many games with action/fighting – especially like this – that focus on anything but lots and lots of shooting, while in this case there barely is any and the only times I’ve even gotten a gun is during certain missions or from…uh…taking them from, well, ‘subdued’ hong kong police.
Yeah, even as a player you start ending up getting influenced by both sides. You’re a cop, but you’re also a Triad. You’re part of a family, but which is more important and which is in the right? And more importantly, which is the real you? And this brings me to one of the first problems with the – otherwise pretty great – game.
I was really hoping this would go the route of Internal Affairs (the original Chinese film, not the hollywood film with that old white guy, which I’m assuming is about an illicit office romance or something similar as it’s all I ever have seen him in), especially given it takes place in the same basic area and has what could have been the same story going on. Instead, the story is paced way too unbelievably fast and the entire outcome is linear, nothing you do in any way at all changes a SINGLE FUCKING THING at all – and no, it’s not much at all like IA aside the fact you’re an undercover cop. They even trick you into thinking the things you do matter because you have Cop XP and Triad XP, so you figure okay, I’ll have to focus on one of these and get some sort of story where I become a traitor and a real Triad, or where I remember my place as a cop and have to betray all the friends and families I become part of along the way.
But no, no what you get is forced through the same story no matter what you do. You can run around murdering everyone all day long and flying through the sidewalks in trucks, nobody cares. You’re just playing your role, why the hell would the cops care that their undercover agent is a mass murdering psycopath? Or, alternatively, if you were trying to be a good cop, why would they bother caring about why you refuse to kill or shoot anyone? OH IT DOESN’T FUCKING MATTER. Apparently according to this game, being an undercover cop is a license to do WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU WANT, you’ll still always be safe from prison or the death sentence and you’ll always be treated as a bringer of justice – everything you do just being part of the bigger picture, you’re just playing your role after all. You had to beat the shit out of those random women walking down the street on your way to buy a new t-shirt, otherwise why would the triad believe you’re one of them!?
Oh and what, girlfriend side missions? Okay, those are pretty normal nowadays in games like this, let’s see how it goes. One mission. Yup. That’s it. You do get a call from them each later and ONE gives you a mission where you find her “cheating” on you and you can kill her or just deal with it (I’m pretty sure everyone just kills her, I mean, why not?) but aside that these all end after 1 mission and go nowhere. He just meets them, does some stupid tiny thing for them, fucks them, and leaves. Then somehow THEY think you’re in a deep serious relationship and claim to know you’ve been “cheating” because clearly once you spread your slut legs every man who enters becomes your boyfriend immediately after. And the problem is, Shen is the same way because he gets just as fucking retarded about of them “cheating” on him. I mean are you kidding me? There wasn’t even PRETEND development.
Well anyway, one of the greatest points of the game is the fighting, its really fluid and simple, but fun. There’s a handful of combos and charge attacks, grabs and throws, counter attacking, and another thing similar to Yakuza – some of the set pieces nearby can be used against the enemies. See a fan unit for a shop nearby? Slam the guy head first into the blades. See a car? Smash them through the window or slam their head again and again with the door. See a shop with an open shutter? Throw the guy over the counter and slam it down on him. There’s lots of shit like this and it’s always rewarding feeling to kick some ass, especially doing it in style instead of just punching them. Also, using guns is actually pretty good in this and doesn’t feel clunky or fucking retarded like it does in almost every GTA game, it feels more thought out. It does have it’s issues but the gunplay is done pretty good, though I find it odd hong kong police can sometimes take a full mag without dying unless you shoot them in the face…and sometimes then too.
One other thing worth mentioning about the combat is that it’s in the actual open world – it’s not instanced like in Yakuza – so here, if there are some guys doing a drug deal and you want to stop them, instead of going and beating their shit you can just fucking run them over and do donuts into any survivors.
On the note of running people over and doing donuts, the game has some really nice driving, it feels nothing like the horrible driving in GTA (especially the most recent entry) and is incredibly fun all on it’s own, sometimes I end up just driving around doing absolutely nothing because it just feels nice – though usually I end up throwing the door open and hitting people with it, or jumping onto random other cars and stealing them in some sort of chain auto theft on the freeway one after the other. It’s very responsive and does what you expect it to most of the time, and once you get really good with it you can actually speed through town without getting more than a scratch or two. It’s even more fun on motorcycles, which admittedly are kind of done a bit silly, as you somehow have perfect control even during a constant wheelie…and actually from what I’ve experienced no matter what you do you won’t get tossed off it if you’re still doing a wheelie unless you launch too high up and flip off the bike. But launching over cars? Fine sure. Ramming walls to and fro at full speed? WHY NOT?
This game also has a lot of side shit to do as you’d expect from this style of game. There’s your typical stuff like underground gambling, car races, and so on. But on top of that there are things like cock fights (chickens!) which you can bet a lot of money on, random side missions from people on the streets (“favors”) ranging from helping a guy shoot up a store and escaping the cops to simply taking someones money to a store because they can’t leave where they are, and one I find pretty cool – stopping drug deals. You first go, beat the shit out of all these retards, and then you hack into a camera – which involves a short minigame type of deal where you have to figure out the 4 number password, and then you go back to your house where you can connect into the camera and, the retards being retards are back, watch for the supplier to show up and call in the arrest – of course you get to watch the cops run up, everyone scatter, and them arrest and toss down the guy you reported. It’s simple, but for some reason I enjoy it.
There’s a lot of ‘minigames’ in this too for different things like planting bugs, hacking, picking locks, tracing phone calls, and so on, and they aren’t the most fun things in the world but they are entertaining and don’t make you feel that whole “why did they put this in the game at all” feeling that most games minigames end up causing. They are actually kind of fun and they aren’t constant so they don’t get old. Okay, that’s not totally true, picking locks the old fashion way in this game is a huge pain in the ass every single time you’re forced to do it. It’s so clunky and shitty that it’s really frustrating. Everything else is fine though.
As for the story again, I love this type of story as the psychological aspects of undercover work were always really interesting to me because I can’t imagine a more psychologically challenging and screwed up career – the entire thing is a huge mental game, a really fucked up one and no matter what you end up betraying someone and living a life that isn’t yours – be it your original one or your new one. And while there are a lot of movies, documentaries, and books from even real life ex-undercover people, I don’t think there have been many games that really deal with that well at all, so it’s pretty cool. But then, as I already mentioned, it’s ruined by the fact that you have no effect on it whatsoever. And, honestly, that’d be fine…but the story feels very obviously rushed and the finale felt like the half-way big battle to get you pumped for the rest, even the story at that point felt like I was only half through and didn’t really get closure at all to the bigger picture. I don’t know if it’s on purpose for DLC or a sequel, but I didn’t really like that it was so short and felt just so unbelievably rushed at times, I mean there’s no way a random guy nobody knows in the family is going to go from “H-hey this guy is my buddy let him be in the gang?” thug to the fucking second in command of the outfit after helping a couple times. And don’t worry, to make it all the worse, pretty much every single likeable character ends up dead.
Oh and the graphics are pretty nice too, just make sure to get the free “DLC” texture update. But more than the actual quality of textures and such, the whole game is pretty atmospheric and it does pretty good in that area. It looks and feels like the things you see in all the films in Hong Kong and it gets across the same ambiance.
The overall story mixed with some side stuff and plenty of fucking about took me about 15 hours total to complete, and doing more side shit to 100% I’m around 25 hours now and still have a bit to go – so I’d say the total game is around 25~30 hours probably. I know I kind of focused on the negative aspect of the story, but really this game is very fun regardless of that, and the story itself isn’t BAD it just felt cut short and unbelievably paced then felt randomly cut off at the end. It’s an interesting ride though and the gameplay is good enough to make up for that stuff. Hell, half the time I still play I end up just screwing around – driving on the freeway, beating people up, making up little stories in my head as I go around town and and make myself do this or that because of it, and so on. I’m not usually the type to do that but the game somehow really does well at lending itself to that through it’s nice atmosphere and the really fun game mechanics.
I’d say it’s definitely worth playing, and it was totally worth the price (which was lower than I expected). There’s a lot of DLC out and planned, but, from what I’ve read and what’s out so far – it’s all cosmetic or stupid shit like free XP or free money (be sure to get the texture dlc though, it’s free and really makes it look much better). I know they are adding in some side missions in later DLC but they all seem to just fall into the ‘favors’ rather than anything important, so you can easily not ever bother with them if you’re against downloadable content – though I will once they are available.