Sleeping Dogs for me, was a game that really came out of nowhere. If I remember correctly, I only became aware of the game a week or so before it was release. After watching and reading a handful of good reviews, I decided to do something I rarely do, and make a day one purchase.
The reviews I read suggested Burnout style driving, Batman Arkham City style fighting, Max Payne style gunplay all sprinkled with a little Grand Theft Auto….and you know what, they weren’t far off the mark.
First of all the driving, like with most open world sandbox games, each vehicles has it’s own unique driving style, whether you’re in a milk float or some Lamborghini style sports car, the driving differs greatly and each take a little getting used to. In the same way the bikes feel totally different, one minute you can be on a tiny little moped screaming through the street, then next on some ridiculously over powered super bike that you struggle to keep the front wheel on the floor. The only additional vehicle I found was the boats, however I rarely used this as they were on the outskirts of the map and apart from the odd mission that used them, I never really felt a need to jump in one. The driving overall is a solid experience, the vehicles feel realistic and the slight tap of the handbrake can have you power sliding around a corners nicely.
While driving you will get the occasional pop up with ‘Clean Driving’, this is essentially how long you can drive without crashing. This is tied into the ‘Social Hub’ which tells you how far your friends got, and in what position you’re in. I remember spending an evening attempting to get up the leader board only to be slapped back down the following day.
In addition to the clean driving you have the likes of ‘Longest Wheelie’, ‘Longest Jump in Car’, ‘Longest Jump on Bike’ etc, which added a nice level of competitiveness. One minor criticism is that there’s not fast travel (or non that I found). On occasions I had a 5 minute drive to the mission and back…although the driving was enjoyable, it would have been nice to fast travel to a different area of the map.
Next the combat, I agree, it is of a Batman style, however nowhere near as smooth in my opinion, and can be quite frustrating at times. When you first start the game, you have limited moves, and have to get by with the default kicks, punches and throws. In addition there are environment kills, so if you’ve got somebody in a hold, and you can get them to the environment item in time, you can kill them off in an easy and gruesome way.
As the game progresses you do unlock various moves and combos which assist in not getting your arse handed to you, and only towards the end of the game did I feel I could hold my own against a large group of thugs. If I was to give a tip on the combat, I’d say, simple stand, wait for somebody to turn red (about to attack you), counter then, and give them a good kicking. This tactic seemed to work well, as long as you’re not being swarmed by a mass group of thugs.
On occasions you will be carrying a weapon, this can be anything from a machine gun to a fish (nope that’s not a typo). The gunplay is solid and felt very much like Uncharted 3 (strangely enough, the hand to hand combat used a very similar system to Uncharted 3 as well), with the addition of a bit of Max Payne bullet time.
The story was great, believable characters, good voice acting and even though the main story is linear, it was action packed, and quite varied. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say you’re an undercover cop on an operation to infiltrate the Triads, as this is revealed in the first 5 minutes of the game, but I found myself having morality issues while doing some of the missions.
In addition to the main storyline, there are side ‘cop’ missions which work in parallel with the main story, and see things from the other side of the fence (so to speak), as you need to have your cop head on. As you get deeper into the story, you really have to try hard not to blow your cover and it becomes more and more likely you may be recognised.
As well as the main story and Cop missions, there are also Face missions which you can totally skip, or do these to unlock main story mission or level up. Personally I didn’t really bother with them, however this meant that later in the game I was unable to wear certain items of clothing as they required a Face rating of 4. These mission would be anything from ‘Somebody just stole my *something*, can you get it back for me’ to, ‘Can you distract the cops for me while I do *something*.
This is probably a good time to mention the levelling system. As you do Triad/Cop or Face Missions you get a score on how well you’ve done. The score starts at 3 shields, and point are deducted for the likes of ‘Property Damage’ or running over a pedestrian. Once you increase a level, you’ll have to option to pick a perk from a skill tree, these can be anything from being able to break into a car undetected to recoil reduction. These missions can be replayed at anytime to help boost your score on the leader board.
There are many other things to distract you in the game, weather it be searching for collectables, health totems to increase you’re overall health, Martial Arts clubs to test your skills against waves of thugs, or simply shopping for cars and clothes, you’ll have a blast doing it. All of which I’m more than happy to delve back into at a later date to get these finished off. Good thing is, once the main story is complete and the credits have rolled, you can go back to clean up.
Overall the game is visually stunning, with amazing sound and a great overall experience, and I’ll be very interested to see what they do with future DLC.
Approx Time taken to beat – 20 hours
Difficulty setting – Normal
Score – [Rating:5/5]
In addition, I recorded some footage while I was playing, first is the High Speed Mission, and secondly is simply me spending around half an hour doing some side missions. Don’t worry, both are spoiler free.
Tags: Arkham, Batman, Bikes, Boats, Burnout, City Style, Competitiveness, Full Throttle, Grand Theft Auto, Gunplay, Handbrake, Handful, Lamborghini, Leader Board, Max Payne, Milk Float, Outskirts, Sleeping Dogs, Social Hub, Solid Experience, Sports Car