Sleeping Dogs review

alex9234’s Sunday Review

Ah yes, I’s been quite some time since I did one of these. Time for yet another game review, and today we’re looking at one of the most underrated sleeper hits of the 7th generation of gaming. This is considered to be the spiritual successor to the True Crime series, and is Square Enix/Eidos’ answer to Grand Theft Auto. Have you ever wondered what Shenmue, Yakuza, Assassin’s Creed, and Grand Theft Auto would look like if they got thrown together in a blender? Well, that would be Sleeping Dogs, which came out on the PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2012.

The Plot

NOTE: There are some spoilers, but nothing major. Only a brief summary of the first quarter of the game. If you want to play the game yourself, read the first paragraph and then skip down to the Gameplay Section.

Sleeping Dogs is set in Hong Kong, and follows the story of Wei Shen, a Chinese-American police officer who has been sent undercover by the Hong Kong Police Department to infiltrate and bring down the Sun On Yee, a powerful Triad (aka Hong Kong/Chinese Mafia) organization based in the city.

The game starts in Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong, where Wei is arrested after a drug deal goes bad. While in prison, Wei meets his old friend Jackie Ma, who offers Wei to join the Sun On Yee once he is freed from prison. In a meeting with Wei’s superiors – Handler Raymond Mak and Superintendent Thomas Pendrew – Wei begins his assignment. Wei is then introduced to Winston Chu, a Sun On Yee Red Pole and leader of the “Water Street Gang.” Wei proves his loyalty to Winston by going on various assignments to seize territory back from Winston’s rival Dogeyes, the leader of the “Jade Gang.” Wei is eventually arrested by Inspector Jane Teng, but is bailed out by Pendrew who reveals to Teng that Wei is an undercover cop. Afterwards, Inspector Teng has Wei take on other cases to go along with his undercover assignment.

After learning of Dogeyes’ attack on the Golden Koi, a restaurant owned by Winston’s mother, Winston goes out for revenge and attacks one of Dogeyes’ warehouses. However, it displeases the Chairman and Dragon Head of the Sun On Yee, Uncle Po. Wei manages to convince Winston to spare Dogeyes’ supplier Siu Wah and give Uncle Po profits that are much bigger than the offers from the Jade Gang. Wei succeeds and earns full trust from the Water Street Gang. Uncle Po then contacts Winston again, and states that he wants to meet with Wei again. Wei then relays this information to Raymond, who then becomes worried that Wei is becoming “one of them”, and threatens to pull the plug on the whole operation. But Raymond does let up as Wei has deeply infiltrated the Sun On Yee. And then, on the day that Winston and his fiancee Peggy Li are about to get married, Wei, Winston and the rest of the gang are attacked by another rival Hong Kong Triad group, known as the 18K…

The Gameplay

As I said in the beginning of the review, Sleeping Dogs is part-Yakuza, part-Grand Theft Auto, part-Assassin’s Creed, and part-Shenmue. Like GTA, Sleeping Dogs is open world. There are many things to do within Hong Kong, such as going on missions, helping random civilians with minor tasks, buying clothes, going to restaurants to order food, stop by your safehouse to rest and/or save, and what have you. You can upgrade your health bar by tracking down Health Shrines, which are scattered throughout the four different regions of the city that you can visit. Every time you discover 5 shrines, your max health increases.

Also, regarding the Assassin’s Creed gameplay elements, Wei has parkour abilities, as he is able to climb up and scale buildings. You’ll experience plenty of that as you play through the game.

Though you do have to complete missions in order to beat the game, Wei can partake in other activities, such as going to Karaoke bars, street racing, and more. There are also multiple potential girlfriends for Wei as well, and successfully dating them unlocks awards and other bonus content. Completing missions and side quests unlocks new outfits for Wei, as well as new cars and safehouses.

Though the game has autosave, you can save the game whenever you want by going into the pause menu.

Now onto the Shenmue part of the game. Like Shenmue, you can take time to practice your fighting abilities and learn new moves. You can do this by joining a fight club, and you unlock new combat moves by tracking down the missing “Jade Statues” to hand to the master.

Here’s a gameplay element stolen from Yakuza. As you complete missions, you are awarded EXP or experience points for both your Triad abilities and Cop abilities. Every time you level up, you are awarded one point to unlock a new ability, like new combat skills, and the ability to jack cars without raising any racket.

Since Wei is a police officer, he can take on certain side missions known as Cop Jobs, where you can help the police with various tasks like drug busts, raids, rescuing hostages, you name it. Every time you complete one, you earn money and Cop experience. Also added to your regular missions are assignments from Inspector Teng. There are 4 cases that you are required to take on for Inspector Teng, which are necessary for advancing the plot and beating the game.

You noticed that you can carry firearms in this game, yes? Well, it’s only for certain sections, but you will be using guns quite a bit. Though your ammo is limited and can only carry two weapons at a time. You’ll be using guns while being driven by someone as well, so you can defend them from enemy attacks.

Wei has the ability to purchase and steal cars, and partake in events involving cars, such as street races. However, you cannot store stolen cars. Only ones you’ve purchased. And like GTA, there are in-game radio stations. Though most radio stations in the game are Chinese, there are a few English-language stations – three of them being rock music stations, a classical station, and a rap station.

There is music from multiple notable artists in the game’s soundtrack, like The Who, Tears for Fears, Queen, Machine Head, Killswitch Engage, Trivium, Opeth, Black Stone Cherry, Deep Purple, Duran Duran, The Allman Brothers Band, Robert Palmer, Steely Dan, Pat Benetar, The Clash, Flock of Seagulls, A-ha, Thin Lizzy, and more.

There are multiple safehouses that Wei has access to, and they’ll become avaliable as you progress more in the main story.

You’ll encounter plenty of hand-to-hand combat missions in this game, and like Yakuza, you can use certain items and other objects (such as A/C units and cars) to beat up enemies with. The combat is also similar to Assassin’s Creed in a way, as the best way to take down enemies is to counter them once they turn “red”, which indicates that they are about to attack you.

The Characters

Wei Shen – Age: 28 – Wei is the main protagonist of Sleeping Dogs. He is an undercover police officer for the Hong Kong Police Department, and is assigned to infiltrate and bring down the Sun On Yee Triad organization. Before joining the HKPD, Wei worked as an undercover cop for the San Francisco Police Department and infiltrated Triad organizations based in San Francisco. He is a skilled driver, marksman, and martial artist, and those abilities made him highly sought after by both the SFPD and HKPD.

Jackie Ma – Age: late 20s – Jackie is Wei’s childhood friend and his partner throughout the game. He is a member of the Sun On Yee’s “Water Street Gang”, and when meeting Wei in prison, he offers him a position within the gang. He isn’t included in confidential planning or operations, and is often used as an errand boy for the Sun On Yee. He always claims that he’s more important to the organization than he actually is.

Winston Chu – Age: late 20s – Winston is the leader of the Water Street Gang, and a Sun On Yee Red Pole. He operates his faction within his mother’s restaurant, the Golden Koi, and has Wei take on extortion missions to prove his loyalty to him.

Uncle Po – Age: 77 – Uncle Po is the Chairman of the Sun On Yee Triad organization, and has stayed in that position since 1981. He oversees all operations within the organization. He also has lots of respect for Wei because to his loyalty to Winston.

Jane Teng – Age: early 30s – Inspector Jane Teng is a police officer who works for the Hong Kong Police Department. She is one of the few people who knows Wei’s true identity and also has a vendetta against the triads. During the game, Inspector Teng has Wei take on 4 different cases, two of which involve hurting the Sun On Yee, and completing all four cases are required for beating the game.

My Thoughts

I had wanted to check out Sleeping Dogs for at least 5 years. I heard good things about the game from YouTubers like AlphaOmegaSin, but I would eventually forget to check it out. And so this year, I got the game for a friend of mine, and he let me start my own file. And I was blown away. Once I started playing, I did not want to stop. It’s that good. The controls and gameplay are both excellent, the soundtrack is great, the story is superb (though it is a quite a bit on the violent side, so it’s not for everyone), the characters are great, and everything else is very well detailed. Also, whether you consider this a good or bad thing, this game is LONG. And by long, I mean VERY LONG. Though I’m almost done with the main story, there are lots of things to do in the game, and I haven’t even COME CLOSE to finishing all the side quests. This is a HUGE game, and it’ll take you a while to complete this 100% of the way through. It’s easily twice as long as GTAV. Though I do have my gripes. The game can be overly difficult at times, some of the weapons suck, like the sub-machine guns, and the cheap deaths. Plus, it’s easy to get lost and don’t expect to get around town fast.

Overall, Sleeping Dogs is one of the most underrated and greatest games of the 7th generation. And it’s quickly becoming my favorite open world game of all time. If there’s any game that deserves a sequel, it’s this game. You should play this game at least once, because you won’t regret it. Especially since if you’re someone who’s looking for a good open world title that isn’t Grand Theft Auto, Yakuza or Assassin’s Creed. Get it.

My score: 9.5/10


Published by alex9234

A skeptical game writer who doesn't believe the gaming press.

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