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Sleeping Dogs 360 Review - -
Sleeping Dogs
Reviewed by
Edwin Millheim
Sleeping Dogs 360 Review. Sleeping Dogs is a tough adventure into the dark side of life. It stares into the darkness and finds something staring back.

Gameplay 7.5
Graphics 7.5
Sound 8.0
Value 8.0
Developer: United Front Games / Square Enix London Studios
: Namco Bandai
Review Date:
August 2012
Edwin Millheim


Sleeping Dogs
(Available on XBox 360, PS3 and PC)
Reviewed on XBox 360

The folks at Square Enix sent over Sleeping Dogs for us to take a look at, so this review is for the Xbox 360 version of the game. So ok, the game has come a long way from what it was going to be. Title Changes and concepts and tweaks…Back when it was dropped from one publisher, to when it was picked up and dusted off by Square Enix. It looks like Square Enix continues to show some vision when it took on this game from United Front Games and now published, Sleeping Dogs.

While it does have some minor game play glitches (See my note on countering) none of this detracts so much from the game that it is not an enjoyable ride. It may be a one ride pony, with the allure of replaying and moving up the leader boards giving it some minor replay ability. It’s still impressive in its shining moments.

My first thought of the game as I played the interesting opening mission was “So this is what happens when True Crime and Grand Theft Auto have a prodigy love child.”

To say it’s a Grand theft Auto in china is simplification at its worst. The game of course cannot help but be compared in many ways to Grand theft Auto, but Sleeping Dogs stands on its own two feet in the gaming world and offers up some interesting things and some amusing side treks.

First off the game is brimming with atmosphere and the culture of Hong Kong. It’s not just set in Hong Kong, the developers show the love with all of the nuances that come with the setting and better yet, they get it right.

The game is set in Hong Kong a shining jewel of neon hiding the seedy underworld of the Triads, an organization with a long history in crime some say as far back as the 1700’s and founded as The Heaven and Earth Society and rumor has it had been part of the Boxer rebellion and even White lotus Society.

In the game we take on the part of Wei Shen, who has one foot in the underworld and one foot in law Enforcement. As Wei Shen the lines are constantly blurred as you take on the Triads from the inside.

You have to worry at almost every turn, who to trust, how much to trust them, and if you are one step away from blowing your cover.

Sometimes the things the character has to do to survive May cross the line. It leaves you wondering just how far Wei Shen will go. His motivations are not just for law and order either, though unlike some writers I will not ruin it for you. There are some deep motivations here, and some story twists …while some of the events are predictable it does not make it any less enjoyable.

This is the good stuff that an interactive movie adventure is all about United Front Games brings the action packed tradition of Hong Kong new wave action films to the gaming world, and punches us in the face with this high impact adventure.

The game play balances through adventure with Police missions and Triad missions. After a mission Triad or Cop experience levels rise and rewards are gained as well. Advancing also gives the player a chance to unlock skill upgrades. The balance here is that say for instance you are in a shootout during a Triad mission. Just like a Police Officer, you have to be concerned with what is down range of your gunfire. Hitting city property or worse, civilians, this will result in few if any Cop points for the mission.

Since the game is dealing with Hong Kong and introduces the culture pretty well, it also includes Face and the Face meter. Face in Chinese culture can be compared to what some may call reputation. The game handles face in a simplified way. When in reality much like reputation, Face can be rather complex at time. It works hand in hand with guanxi (relations). They just don’t work separately. As noted face can be a very complex thing. You can have good Face, Lose face, Lend face and even Save Face. Though again the game handles it straight forward and more simplified. I applaud the designers for delving deep into the culture to bring something more to the table in a deeper way than just in a generic throw away. There is an older article here by John Melendez about Face and is a good read for those interested in the concept further.

The Face Meter fills up from doing favors for instance, and can give the character temporary abilities to focus and do extra damage in combat. The Face Abilities upgrade like other skills, giving Wei a chance to upgrade Face Advantages. So you gain more face for Favors, Street Race or other event, The higher the experience and Face gained the more new moves and skills open up to the character. Including perks like discounts in stores to higher quality goods.

The atmosphere and culture and the subtle nuances show the great lengths the designers went to, in order to bring Sleeping Dogs to a level that a gamer should be dammed proud to play in this gaming world.

Action in the game crams in everything we love about Hong Kong New Wave action films. From the fast crazy almost arcade car chases and foot chases, to the bone crunching kicks and punches of close and personal combat. It even throws in the slow motion gun battles and car crashes that John Woo brought to the film world and so many have emulated. Sleeping Dogs delivers it all with panache.

The vehicles take some getting used to and can be hard to control if you over compensate you will find yourself bashing into buildings a lot.

When you get down to hand to hand combat, the controls can be deceptively simple. A few button mashes and your own your way, to really master it though take a bit of timing and a certain rhythm to pull of some of the more satisfying and brutal moves. There are some combos that range from basic to more advanced moves. Fighting Includes counters, grabs and environmental assisted finishers that are just down right over the top at times. Grabbing someone and throwing them over a banister or off the side of a building roof top is just some of the less elaborate take downs. Add some pretty cool head slamming with refrigerator doors among other things and you are in for some over the top fist and foot flying fun. Again, I won’t spoil the story nor some of the eye popping take downs you can do with the environment. Just explore away in combat and get close to things in the scene. They turn red, indicating your ability to implement it in some way. Then have at it and have some fun with your enemy.

I found timing your counters just right is paramount, because if you try a counter and there is nothing to counter, the character you are controlling pauses for a couple of seconds. This leaves the character vulnerable to an attack. So watch your timing.

For some reason the varied choices and the missions tend to not offer much in regards to rewarding the player for their efforts. The game hand holds a lot and points the way more often than not on what to do next.

Now the nerve biting story and action packed adventure is not the only offering here. Side missions lend some whimsical comic relief to the game. Including illegal street racing, gambling on cock fights, or and here is the comical part, some Karaoke. Yes, our hero can try his hand at a kind of mini game of Karaoke. Trying your best to match pitch, want some real fun and hear what a beer induced Karaoke night is like? Mismatch the pitch and listen to the fun.

Sound and music provide enough punch to deliver the game to an enjoyable level. Sound not only in the expected things but also the basic environmental sounds most people may not even think of in a game. Like the city life going on around you, all well done.

Voice acting is exceptionally good here from all of the actors. From the well-known to the supporting crew, all give spectacular performances.

The game is true to the source material it brings to the table. It’s not a game about kindergarten. It’s a game about Cops and Criminals. So there is violence. Is it as they say gratuitous? I don’t feel that anything happens in the game that is not part of the story. It deals with characters that at times are in deep dark places. Bad things happen in deep dark places weather someone that does not butter their own bread wants to admit it or not. Sleeping Dogs is a tough adventure into the dark side of life. It stares into the darkness and finds something staring back.

Have fun, play games
Edwin Millheim



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