Next month, Square Enix and United Front Games will unleash Sleeping Dogs, the action-packed sandbox adventure, onto the world. Having got our hands on a couple of sections of the game, we can safely say that Sleeping Dogs is on its way to becoming the sleeper hit of the year. With fast-paced action that beautifully flows between gunplay and chase sequences, Sleeping Dogs has everything you’ve come to expect from a high-octane action flick.
Players take the role of Wei Shen, an undercover cop whose job is to infiltrate a triad organization and bring it down from the inside. While it’s a relatively traditional setup for a crime-drama, it creates a tense atmosphere where you could be discovered at anytime. The closest we’ve got to a true Hong Kong action game was Midway’s Stranglehold, but even that was just more of the same: shoot, cover, cutscene and repeat. United Front Games is looking to mix things up by creating an experience that will have you enthralled within the world’s many choices.
The flow of Sleeping Dogs is unlike anything we’ve seen before. In one case, we entered an area in which a brawl was initiated with a number of opponents. Afterwards, someone pulled out a gun so we vaulted over some cover, punched him in the face and disarmed him. Using that weapon, we ran through the location putting a few rounds into anyone who peppered us with bullets. Finding the scared yet disgruntled target, we were taken through a short on-foot chase that involved explosions around every corner. After subduing him, we were lead through an exciting and finalizing car chase sequence. It may not be the exact same formula through every mission, but the diversity and mixture of all the genres stands out and is incorporated fluidly. It’s the best of all worlds: gunplay, brawling, racing and parkour.
While there are many different ways to play, what stood out the most was the hand-to-hand combat, something that companies have struggled with putting in their shooters. Assassin’s Creed’s hand-to-hand fighting system was partially inspired by mixed-martial arts moves, but Sleeping Dogs is the real deal. Assisted by legendary MMA practitioner and superstar, Georges St. Pierre, the game has a high level of combatant skill, offering a wide variety of moves to pull off. Tackle a man into full-guard and lay-down some ground ‘n pound or get into the clinch position and land some devastating knees. On occasion an enemy will bring a weapon to the fight, such as a knife, in which you can promptly secure for yourself and unleash some devastating blows. You can also use the environment around you to perfect some absolutely brutal kills, such as burning someone alive in an incinerator or slicing off their face with spinning blades.
While many open-world action games seem to struggle with RPG elements, Sleeping Dogs integrates them in a couple different ways. After leveling up your character through certain factions, you’re able to unlock some new moves and abilities. This is handled through an upgrade tree, allowing you to spec Wei how you actually use him. Another emphasis is through food and beverages, which temporarily increase your capabilities during a fight. It’s a nice way to tactically prepare for a mission, especially situations you are going blind into.
A vibrant setting combined with a tense and intriguing plot line, Sleeping Dogs is Grand Theft Auto on steroids. With its fluid open-world gameplay, the game has the elements to stick around months after release. Square Enix was right in picking Sleeping Dogs up, as it’s an incredibly ambitious adventure that has come a long way from the days of True Crime.