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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was my gateway into the open world genre. I fell in love with the action, the freedom, and, of course, the world itself. Open world games were around before the Grand Theft Auto franchise, Elder Scrolls is a good example, but GTA III popularized open world games set in urban environments. For a while there, any open world games set in an urban environment were often considered GTA clones. These include Scarface: The World is Yours, The Simpsons: Hit & Run, and even the True Crime games. I actually enjoyed True Crime: Streets of LA and I remember True Crime: New York City just being broken so I never beat it. Regardless, a sequel was developed and titled True Crime: Hong Kong and there’s actually quite a bit of history with this title but long story short, it was eventually renamed Sleeping Dogs. Developed by United Front Games and published by Square Enix, Sleeping Dogs was released in August, 2012 for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. I beat it back when it released but for this review, I played the Definitive Edition for PC which is a remastered version of the original, contains all previously released DLC, and was released in October, 2014 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Due to DLC, there’s three major storylines to play through – the main story, Nightmare in North Point, and Year of the Snake. All three stories are set in Hong Kong, China, and you play as undercover officer, Wei Shen. In the main story, Wei’s objective is to infiltrate the Sun On Yee Triad gang to eventually bring them down. Obviously it’s not that simple. The gang Wei is a part of ends up in a power struggle, there’s violence and bloodshed, and Wei has to deal with his own conflict of being a police officer and not blowing his cover. Nightmare in North Point was the first expansion for the game and focuses on the supernatural. Wei’s girlfriend is kidnapped by a ghost named Smiley Cat and he must also deal with Chinese vampires known as Jiang Shi, some kind of demons, and possessed gangsters. The storyline here is very short and you can probably complete everything in less than two hours. Year of the Snake’s campaign is a little longer but still disappointingly short. In this campaign, Wei has to investigate a terrorist cult planting bombs throughout Hong Kong in preparation for the end of the world. Compared to the main story, the DLC campaigns are not that exciting, they’re not engaging, but if you really like the gameplay, then there’s still some fun to be had with these. Also, the completion of these campaigns unlocks content in the main story. Now the voice acting is quite good and there’s ensemble cast of Hollywood talent here. The cast includes Will Yun Lee, who voices Wei and does an excellent job, Emma Stone, Robin Shou, Lucy Liu, James Hong, and even Tom Wilkinson. Most of the characters speak English but many of the native Chinese characters will throw in some Cantonese here and there. I really enjoyed the main storyline. It’s about an undercover cop getting into ridiculous action packed situations, resulting in a ton of property damage, doing whatever it takes to take down the bad guys. The game gives off plenty of Rush Hour and Lethal Weapon 4 vibes, and that’s a good thing.
Like most open world games, the storylines play out through a series of missions. The main storyline includes story missions and cop missions. The story missions advance the storyline and the cop missions are more like multi-layered side missions. These involve you solving cases like stopping a racing syndicate, stopping a serial killer, and even finding a kidnapped woman. The Year of the Snake storyline feels more like one giant cop case that should have been implemented into the main story. Completing missions usually rewards you with money, vehicles, clothing, and sometimes stuff for your various apartments scattered throughout the city. Mission objectives usually involve you killing enemies, chasing people, following people, planting bugs, hacking things, rescuing people, getting into gunfights, and other typical urban open world stuff. All three campaigns include side missions. In the main storyline you can complete Cop Jobs like stopping armed robberies, stopping drug runners, and even rescuing hostages. Throughout the city are drug bust side missions which involve you going to a location, fighting a bunch of thugs, hacking the camera, and then heading back to your apartment to view the drug deal. You must watch the deal through the hacked camera, identify the dealer, and then send in the police to make the arrest. In both the main storyline and Year of the Snake you can do favors for NPC’s. In the main story you’ll be doing things like driving a vehicle into the harbor so the NPC can collect on the insurance money, sometimes you’re asked to be a getaway driver, one NPC asks you to free run through the environment for a video he’s filming, and sometimes you’re setup to get robbed and you need to chase down the thief. In the Year of the Snake DLC, you’ll be asked to stop thugs from disturbing a dance party and one guy wants you to deliver money to a vendor. During the main story, you’ll eventually unlock the ability to compete in street races. If you enjoy racing, you may be disappointed to learn that most of these races are ridiculously easy to win. You are rewarded with vehicles for winning some of these races so that’s pretty cool. In the Nightmare in North Point campaign, the little blips on the map that would normally represent favors in the other campaigns are more like rescue missions here. You go to these locations and have to rescue a civilian from the supernatural enemies. This entire campaign is probably the most repetitive since you’re essentially doing the same thing all the time whether it’s a story or side mission. There are energy sources scattered around that need to be destroyed by throwing enemies into them. Demons are also scattered around but no matter what the mission is, most of them involve you doing the same thing every time. Go here, defeat all of the enemies, mission complete. Rinse and repeat. Most of the game is like this but there’s at least more variety to the missions and combat in the other campaigns. Nightmare in North Point just feels rushed, repetitive, and completely unnecessary.
In the main storyline, completing missions and favors rewards you with XP for three different things. You’ll acquire Triad experience, Cop experience, and Face experience. Upon the completion of main story missions, you’ll be rewarded with Triad and Cop XP, and how much is determined by your performance. For example, violent actions like killing enemies reward you with Triad XP. If you kill an innocent civilian, cause property damage, or basically commit any crimes, that will subtract from your Cop XP. However, you can acquire Cop XP by completing Cop missions and Cop Jobs. Earn enough Triad and Cop experience and you’ll level up, both of which level up independently. When you level these up you acquire points that can be applied into their respective skill trees to unlock upgrades. The Police tree upgrades include things like a fast disarm, recoil compensator, using a slim jim to quickly break into cars without setting off the alarm, and the final upgrade is the police trunk key which allows Wei to obtain firearms from the trunks of police cars. Triad upgrades are more melee focused and include increased melee weapon damage, better melee weapon resistance, recovering faster from failed counter attempts, and stuff like that. Face experience is earned by doing favor’s for NPC’s, winning races, fighting in the martial arts clubs, and even defeating the thugs in the drug bust side missions. Each time your Face levels up, you automatically unlock an upgrade. These include things like taking reduced damage from attacks, Wei’s attacks can no longer be interrupted, better benefits from food items and massages, and even a permanent discount when buying things like food, clothes, and vehicles. But my favorite upgrade is the Car Valet. You can call the valet whenever you need a vehicle and he’ll deliver one to you which is helpful because this game suffers from the same issue many urban open world games suffer from, including the Grand Theft Auto series – you complete a mission, you’re now on the street or highway somewhere without a vehicle, and there’s no vehicles nearby or driving around. That gets annoying. Although, even without the Car Valet upgrade, you can hire a taxi to take you to specific spots around the city, like a fast-travel system. Unfortunately, in both the Nightmare in North Point and Year of the Snake campaigns, you don’t earn experience or level up anything.
Wei is capable of doing what most twenty first century third-person protagonists can do. He can run, jump, swim, drive, shoot, vault over things, climb over walls, and take cover behind objects. Like the Batman: Arkham or Assassin’s Creed games, Wei is kind of magnetized to objects he can jump or vault over and, in this case, it works well more often than not but sometimes I did end up jumping or vaulting over something not in the direction I wanted to go. A big focus of the game is melee combat. Guns aren’t actually introduced until about a third of the way into the story. The melee combat is definitely reminiscent of the freeflow combat system of the Batman: Arkham games. So if you don’t like that combat system, you may not enjoy the game. Regardless, I do and I found it very enjoyable here. You mash the attack button to punch and kick, when enemies are about to attack they are highlighted in red and that’s your queue to press the counter button to perform a counter-attack. Most of the time you’re going to encounter multiple enemies at once, some wield melee weapons, but mastering the combat really isn’t that difficult. You can stun enemies which opens them up to a variety of devastating melee attacks and you can even grapple enemies which will allow you throw them into things, and you’ll want to use the environment to your advantage. You can shove enemies into phone booths, shove an enemy’s head into a speaker, maybe you want to give him a swirlie, and you can even throw enemies into a furnace and watch them burn to death. Most of the enemies are made up of thugs and even bigger thugs that can’t be grappled easily. The big fuckers usually try and grab you in which case you’ll be prompted with a quick-time event to break free. The enemies in the Nightmare in North Point campaign are the Jiang Shi which hop around and will drain your health if they manage to grab you. There’s also demons which are these big creatures that can pounce on you before smacking you around. There’s also possessed gangsters that act just like thugs from the main storyline. You can acquire melee weapons like a meat cleaver, crowbar, nightstick, tire iron, knives, and even a fish. You can even beat enemies with a purse if you’re so inclined and Nightmare in North Point includes a peachwood sword. Melee weapons do break rather quickly but they do make taking down enemies easier so it’s best to use them on the tougher enemy types. You can actually learn new melee moves at the Martial Arts School in the main storyline. But in order to learn anything, you need to acquire a Jade Statue and bring it to Sifu at the school and then he’ll teach you a new move. There’s a bunch of statues and all of them are hidden throughout the city but luckily, there usually placed in spots that you visit during missions so they’re kind of hard to miss. Learning these new moves will actually make taking down enemies easier. You can learn how to tackle and disarm enemies, how to break their arms and legs, and you’ll even learn more powerful variants of basic moves like the double jump kick and roundhouse kick. You can perform combo moves but they’re not really hard to master. Most of them involve pressing or holding one or two buttons, or the same button repeatedly. While the story in the Year of the Snake is disappointing, the DLC did add some cool new stuff including the ability to tase and arrest NPC’s. Tasing enemies incapacitates them for a limited time and you’ll need to drain their health before you can arrest them. During combat you’ll build up your Face Meter, and when it’s completely full you will slowly regenerate health and you can even intimidate enemies. These special abilities only last until the meter is drained. In Nightmare in North Point you can kill stunned Jiang Shi enemies at the press of a button and you need to to fill the face meter to defeat specific enemies like the demons. This DLC also includes a bunch of Hell Shrines scattered around. The more you find and interact with, the higher the chance you’ll set enemies on fire when your face meter is full.
I would say guns are a secondary focus of the gameplay and are more prevalent towards the end of the game. In the main story you learn that guns are somewhat of a rarity in Hong Kong. I have no idea if that’s accurate information but, regardless, be prepared to use your fists more than firearms. You’re always provided guns if the mission or situation calls for it but there’s no real weapon storage system and they become almost useless when the situation is over. For example, if you approach a garage to acquire one of your vehicles, the guard will be scared of you so you can’t interact with him unless you holster or drop your weapon. Wei can holster small weapons like pistols but not the bigger ones like assault rifles. You have to either carry them or drop them. There’s actually quite an arsenal of firearms including several types of pistols, submachine guns, shotguns, and even assault rifles. Some of the weapons include attachments like tactical flashlights that can be toggled on and off and some of DLC includes additional weapons, several of which come with outfits. Now the gunplay, itself, looks more exciting than it actually feels. I won’t say the gunplay is bad but it does feel a bit stale. The weapons sound great, they look awesome, the muzzle flashes look cool, sparks will fly, but something still doesn’t feel right. I think it has to do with the way enemies react to being shot. But even still, there is some great stuff here when it comes to the ranged combat. When you vault over obstacles during a gunfight, Wei will enter slow motion enabling you to pick off enemies easier for a brief time. If you vault over an obstacle and into an enemy holding a gun, you’ll automatically disarm the enemy. While driving, or even if you’re the passenger, you can shoot back at enemy vehicles, and the easiest way to stop them is by shooting their tires. For some reason, shooting a tire causes the vehicle to going flying into the air before exploding. It actually makes these car chase sequences extremely easy but there is something addictive about it.
What would an open world game set in an urban environment be without vehicles? Sleeping Dogs includes plenty of vehicles to drive which include, cars, trucks, motorcycles, and even boats. You can steal pedestrian vehicles and I noticed that if you’re wearing a police outfit, Wei will identify himself as a cop first in which case the driver will get out allowing you to commandeer the vehicle. Completing missions will sometimes reward you with vehicles among other things which you can retrieve from any of the garages scattered around the city. You can also buy vehicles which will also be stored in your garage. Sleeping Dogs doesn’t try to simulate real-world driving, leaning more towards an arcade style and it’s definitely a better game for it. You can perform action hijacks which involve you driving close behind another a vehicle and then pressing a button at the right time so that Wei leaps from his vehicle and onto the one your chasing and then he hijacks it. It’s pretty cool. While driving you can press a button to perform a ram attack in any direction and usually after a few slams, the enemy vehicle is destroyed. Vehicles come in four different classes with Class A vehicles being the fastest and Class D vehicles being the slowest. When it comes to the racing side missions, luckily, you don’t have to bring the vehicle you want to race with to the event. Races usually require you to have a specific class of vehicle and before starting the race you can choose from any of the vehicles of that class that you have stored in your garage. Whenever you commit a crime in the vicinity of the police, you gain a heat level. The police start chasing you and you need to escape the police radius which is visible on the minimap. Outrunning them can be a challenge if you don’t have a super fast vehicle but ram into them a few times and the chase will end quickly. There’s a series of side missions that have you driving a custom designed vehicle called the DZS-90. It’s super fast, equipped with an EMP blast that can stop surrounding vehicles, and even it comes equipped with turrets. It’s like the Batmobile or some kind of crazy James Bond vehicle. And, yes, you get to keep it after completing these side missions. It’s awesome.
Now I’ve never been to Hong Kong but from what I understand, the city is well represented here. The world, itself, isn’t very large compared to other open world games and the city is broken up into four sections, or areas – North Point, Central, Kennedy Town, and Aberdeen. The game is full of little details like NPC’s holding umbrellas when it rains and when you activate a police vehicle’s siren, traffic vehicles will pull over, and it’s little like these that make the world feel like a somewhat realistic place. The city is also filled with plenty of collectibles. Besides the Jade Statues, you can pray at Health Shrines and after praying at a certain amount, you receive a permanent health upgrade. Lockboxes are also scattered around and usually reward you with money and sometimes clothing. You can even find envelopes full of money just randomly lying around and destroying parking meters also grants you money. The Year of the Snake DLC campaign includes evidence bags that you can find. You can buy food from vendors on the street and the food provides temporary bonuses like increased melee damage and even health regeneration. If you get a massage, you’re face meter will fill twice as fast for a limited time. You can also buy clothing from various vendors and shops throughout the city. All clothing items are stored in your wardrobe at your apartments. If you like the set of clothes you’re wearing, you can save it as a custom outfit. Wearing all of the clothing items that make up a specific set will grant you bonuses. Besides the DLC campaigns, there was a ton of DLC packs that included all kinds of new outfits. In the original game, I remember the DLC outfits being automatically added to your wardrobe upon purchase. Unfortunately, in the Definitive Edition, you have to buy the DLC outfits from the legendary clothing vendor. Money never really becomes a problem so it’s not that big of a deal but if you played the original game, it does kind of suck. Regardless, the outfits, whether they’re from DLC or the vanilla game, are pretty awesome, and some even provide you with unique weapons and reference other Square Enix IP’s. The Agent 47 outfit comes with a silenced pistol. The Sarif Industries armor grants you the bonus of reduced damage from gunfire and the Rico Rodriguez outfit allows you to hijack vehicles from a greater distance. There’s SWAT and Tactical Outfits, and I find it funny that you can wear these as an undercover cop and still complete story missions. The game definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously.
In addition to side missions, there are activities you can participate in and these include singing Karaoke which really isn’t that exciting, you can bet on cockfighting, and you can even play Poker Mahjong at the gambling den. There is a second story-based DLC expansion called the Zodiac Tournament and it’s actually implemented into the main storyline. Before you start it, the game recommends you fully upgrade Wei but you don’t really need to. The Tournament is presented in this old-school movie style and involves Wei competing in a dangerous fighting tournament. There’s not really much story here and it’s also extremely short. Wei defeats a bunch of opponents, gets poisoned, still manages to defeat opponents, people end up dying, and Wei eventually takes down the corrupt master of the tournament, and that’s it. You can definitely beat it in under an hour. The tournament takes place on Zodiac Island and as you progress to each event, you’ll sometimes have to avoid environmental traps. There’s even twelve Fire Opal statues to collect and when you’ve collected them all, you unlock new melee moves and a damage bonus for the Muay Thai and MMA outfits, both of which are unlocked upon completion of the tournament. The Zodiac Tournament DLC only seems to serve the purpose of emphasizing the melee combat because it’s really not that exciting and feels more like a series of side missions or an activity. But if you enjoy the melee combat system, I don’t see any reason as to why you wouldn’t enjoy this.
Now I’ve played the original Sleeping Dogs and the Definitive Edition on PS4, and now PC, and I have to say, I don’t think I would call this an HD remaster. I didn’t really notice much of a visual difference compared to the original game but that’s not actually a bad thing since the original game does look pretty good. There’s plenty of visual details that look great. When it rains, everything has this sheen look and you can see the environment reflecting off of wet surfaces. When characters get into combat, you’ll see blood appear on their clothes. When you drive through the city in the Nightmare in North Point campaign, you can hear people getting attacked by the supernatural enemies and sometimes vehicles will just randomly explode nearby. I did notice some pop-in here and there and the animations during gameplay sometimes look a bit stiff which I think is one of the reasons the gunplay never feels that satisfying. On the audio side, I love the way the gunfire sounds, the ambient music is okay, and I remember the vehicle radio stations not being that great. I disabled the radio music for most of my playthrough since I don’t listen to most of the music that’s offered here but I do know there’s a classical music station and even some classic rock tracks like Eminence Front by The Who. I do like some of the Karaoke songs even though the songs are butchered in-game. These include I Ran (So Far Away) by A Flock of Seagulls and Reelin’ In the Years by Steely Dan. As for the performance, the game ran super smooth throughout my entire experience with no frame rate dips. At least not that I noticed. I did experience a few glitches like weapons getting stuck in mid-air, cars getting stuck in the environment, and at one point I exited a boat and somehow spawned up high in the sky only to fall to my death. I should mention that if you have a multi-monitor setup like I do, the game will run in fullscreen on one display but part of it bleeds over onto a second display for some reason and without disabling the second display entirely, I have not found a way to stop it. And no, I wasn’t running the game in windowed mode. I found out this is a common thing with the Definitive Edition and I can’t even say it’s an issue, but it is annoying.
Out of all of the open world games I’ve played, Sleeping Dogs is definitely one of my favorites. In my opinion, it doesn’t come anywhere near the Grand Theft Auto series but it does offer plenty of stuff to do, it’s action packed, the melee combat is fun, and there’s a great sense of progression with all of the experience and upgrades. The progression and upgrades really makes the game addictive and the DLC campaigns prove that without the progression, the game would be significantly less fun and more repetitive. The DLC campaigns basically suck and I feel like Year of the Snake should have been implemented into the main storyline but for some reason, it wasn’t. Nightmare in North Point just feels rushed and if it didn’t come packaged with the Definitive Edition, I would never recommend it on its own. The gunplay feels a bit stale but the game makes up for it with everything else it has to offer. And even with the stale gunplay, the firefights still look cool so there’s that. I can’t say the world really felt like a living, breathing place but it also didn’t feel like a playground without any life whatsoever. There’s plenty of little details that make the world feel somewhat realistic and the game gives you plenty of options to have a fun and play around with. The collectibles give you an incentive to explore but I think once you’ve completed and found everything, there’s not much to revisit other than replaying missions for a better score on the leaderboards. Because you’re playing as a cop, I think that limits the amount of freedom you have in a game like this, where in a series like Grand Theft Auto, you play as a criminal so you don’t really have to worry about obeying the law and following rules. Here, you’re penalized for committing crimes and it can also halt character progression. I’m not saying this is a downside because it’s not, it’s just a different type of game, and the difference revolves around the type of character and storyline. With all of that said, I had a lot of fun with Sleeping Dogs and it has this whole action movie feel which I love.
If you’ve played the original Sleeping Dogs, and you’re not one to double-dip, I don’t think I can recommend the Definitive Edition. If you’ve never played this at all then I would definitely recommend it. It’s basically the main game and all of the DLC in one complete package with minor improvements. Even though the DLC campaigns are a let down, they shouldn’t stop you from checking the game out if you think any of this looks interesting because the main story makes up for any faults the DLC campaigns may have. If you don’t like open world games or the freeflow combat system, then you probably won’t enjoy this but if you enjoy action packed games with at least a decent story, definitely give this a shot.