Almost nothing was known about True Crime: Hong Kong upon its unveiling. There was a floating release date, and the option to receive extra bonuses for your character if plopped down money on a pre-order. Activision released trailers in 2009 and 2010, and eventually pushed the game back to 2011 because it “wasn’t good enough.” Then, in August of last year, Square Enix London Studios partnered with United Front, picked up the pieces, and created Sleeping Dogs.
The story: Wei Shen, protagonist and former abandoned child, grew up in Hong Kong running with the Triads. In an attempt to better his life, as well as his drug-addicted sister’s, Wei moves to San Francisco and joins the police force. When contacted by the Hong Kong police department about working an undercover mission involving the Triads, Wei takes it, hoping to get some sort of closure…on the loss of his family.
Jane Teng, another inspector, learns that Wei’s undercover and has concern that his presence is simply to exact revenge. To convince her otherwise, Wei states that he’ll do whatever possible to help her out, which adds extra missions to your game. Jane isn’t a playable character, but by doing her missions, you can level up Wei’s police skills, which increases his combat and driving capabilities.
Sleeping Dogs carries a very authentic action movie feel. Gameplay consists of parkour-type running, slow-motion shooting, simple combos, and environmental combat. My favorite environmental move involves shoving a guy’s face into a moving fan. Watching his face go everywhere made me laugh. Maybe a little too much.
There are comedic dialogue strings, but the story ranks with Heavy Rain in terms of maturity. The language is strong where it needs to be, and the drama is very well written. Each character you interact with has personality, which makes the story progression that much more interesting.
One of my favorite scenes in the storyline occurs roughly five hours in after the death of a major character. Wei tries to offer his condolences to the deceased’s elderly mother, but she looks at him straight in the eye and says, “you find whoever did this, and you bring him to me. Do you understand?” This scene alone had me holding my breath, as the script captured the weight of the moment and the importance of family in the Chinese culture. Plus, the revenge act is one of the most intense cut scenes I’ve ever witnessed.
Graphically, Sleeping Dogs isn’t the most impressive game, and has little-to-no difference in terms of cinematic to gameplay graphic change. Not that this is a negative point, but it would’ve been nice to see a visual push. Some cinematics suffer choppy frame rates, but when you have a game that’s so big, you can only do so much before you cause a PS3 to explode.
Still, Square Enix London and United Front did a phenomenal job adding lots of detail to the environment and making the world unique. Much like Saints Row’s environments, each Sleeping Dogs area has it’s own look with numerous NPCs that range from prostitutes to businessmen. My favorite design element, however, are the gang members’ tattoos. They are all different, and quite beautiful.
As someone who grew up in high school fascinated with Asian music and movies, I loved the Sleeping Dogs cast. Will Yun Lee, Edison Chen (I had a crush on him Freshmen year!), Lucy Liu, and even Emma Stone provided excellent voices and acting for this title, and each actor fulfilled his or her role perfectly.
In addition to a great cast, Sleeping Dogs has a great soundtrack. Like the Saints Row and Grand Theft Auto franchises, you can scroll through several radio stations ranging from rock to techno to Chinese-influenced music stations. The stations and gameplay feature songs from Killswitch Engage, Duran Duran, Squarepusher, and even Beethoven. The selected music is appropriate for the scenes in which they appear. Scenes that signify depression or loss, for example, feature a strong classical track that sets the mood.
With all the little things you can do around Hong Kong, Sleeping Dogs is really hard to put down. You have the option of even continuing your adventures after you finish the story; the game tells you how close you are, percentage-wise, to completing everything. It even lets you know that you are free to roam about and complete any missions that you may have skipped over.
As you walk around Hong Kong, there are many little things like health shrines. There are roughly 100 health shrines across the map that you can interact with. When found, Wei Shen lights incense, performs a small ritual, and gains health bonuses. For every ten you find, you level up your health. You can also level up two additional areas: The Triad skill tree and the Police skill tree. The Triad skill tree levels up your weapon and wealth attributes, while leveling up your police skills benefit your combat and driving attributes.
I’m not a fan of Grand Theft Auto IV, but loved Saints Row 2 and Saints Row the Third due to their comedic factor. Sleeping Dogs takes elements from both franchises, amplifies them, and makes them work within the scope of its universe. If you’re a fan of deep storylines, and open world gameplay, Sleeping Dogs is a title that shouldn’t be missed.