Sleeping Dogs is an open world, third person, crime/action game developed by United Front Games. I had heard it described as a surprisingly good GTA clone set in Hong Kong which sounded good to me! It regularly goes on sale for less than £5 on the PS Store and that includes all DLC. It’s a steal. We play as Wei Shen, an undercover cop, infiltrating a faction of the Triads, the Sun on Yee. Between gaining their trust, the increasing rivalry both internally and externally, and keeping his true motives secret, Wei has to find the balance between keeping his cover and keeping his humanity.
Getting to play a cop instantly differentiates this game from the GTA series and that drew me to it straight away. It is an interesting dilemma and it also allows us to play both sides of the fence, creating an area of gameplay that you can’t explore in most other crime games. The game is played like most other open world games. There are the main ‘Triad’ missions, then there are the side ‘cases’, jobs, random events and favours. All of these missions raise your XP in each area to unlock new perks. Finally, there are races and loads of collectables.. because would it really be an open world game without them?
The whole style of play also sets this game apart from GTA. Where GTA has a lot of gunplay, Sleeping Dogs is more focused on hand to hand combat. With combo based moves and limited weapons, whether you prefer this will totally depend on whether you prefer melee or range. As much as the game receives a lot of praise for the combat, I prefer to keep my distance in these types of games, therefore that mechanic is slightly lost on me. Having said that, it is very satisfying to be completely surrounded and managed to kick the asses of every one of them single-handedly. I found the chase scenes and parkour a little odd at first but it is very easy to get used to. You can only really go where the game allows you to which is a shame when you try to explore something you can’t, but at the same time at least it stops you wasting your time.
Hong Kong is a great setting for the game and I enjoyed the atmosphere, from the hectic market, to the long alleys, to the oriental parks, to the peaceful temple, to the more upmarket areas. I have never been to China but I have been to Chinatowns.. and after playing this game I am still not sure whether I want to go or not! The different districts each have their own feel, and I feel that the map is the perfect size. The graphics are nice, especially when it is raining. They are nothing ground breaking but they are definitely modern enough to keep you engaged.
The controls were good most of the time but I did have some issues. First was the responsiveness. Sometimes when I would try to counter an attack it just would not work. Sometimes when I tried to enter a car I had to find exactly the right angle. I had heard the driving was bad, but I didn’t actually find the driving too bad. It was the camera angles that were a nightmare. It isn’t unplayable by any means but it can be annoying sometimes. That and the motorbikes. As soon as I finished the motorbike races I promised myself that I wasn’t driving one again.
There were some features in this game that were just simple things that made the world of difference, especially when you compare to GTA. There are garages dotted all over the map, so when you need a car you don’t always have to steal them. This was huge for me, it’s so much more convenient. Another thing I loved is the fact that everything didn’t constantly reset itself. If I left my car somewhere and went to do something on foot, nine times out of ten my car would still be there, where as in GTA they always seem to vanish. I liked the GPS system too, or at least when it worked. Sometimes it didn’t differentiate whether I needed to be on a road above or below where I was, but it was very handy on the highways because it shows you a big arrow pointing at which lane you need to be in. The police system was SO much better in this. When police are nearby they show up on you map, and they don’t just chase you for any little thing. Even when they do, they are a lot easier to escape than in GTA. This was the most welcome change ever for me, I always use the cheats in GTA simply because the police are constantly everywhere and so bloody annoying. The collectables map is a huge help in this game. You have to unlock them, but once you do, it is an absolute life saver if you are going for 100% or want the perks that come with them. Finally, the last improvement over GTA for me is that you can save from anywhere. When you load your game you will be at your nearest apartment, but when you save you don’t have to travel all the way too it. This saves so much time if you are like me and like to constantly save in case you eff something up.
One of the things that I think GTA wins the battle on is weapons. In Sleeping Dogs, melee weapons aren’t very durable and break after a few hits, and if you get a gun in a mission you generally don’t get to keep it. It makes sense that you can’t walk around carrying all your weapons, and I got used to it eventually, but I still prefer being able to switch when I want. But, to counter this, it does make for some exciting missions. Bringing fresh air to a gunfight then coming out on top is always fun! The other thing that I find quite funny in Sleeping Dogs is the AI. If you are driving a car and you hit something, they never stop, they just keep on driving. Every time. If you nearly run someone over they will just stand there in front of you and stare at your car. Thankfully it’s usually ok to run them over because you can see on your map that there is no cops around. Lastly is the spawning. When I call my valet my car always spawns in the weirdest of places. The last notable one I had was under a truck.
Technically, I didn’t have any problems with the game for most of my playthrough. I took my PS4 to my neighbours one day because I was house sitting and as I was playing, I noticed the game was feeling a bit laggy. Then at one point, it completely froze up on me, I had to force it off. This would have been really annoying if I didn’t save so often. I have no idea what caused it because using a different TV shouldn’t affect it at all, but I just think it is worth bearing in mind. Other than that I had one other glitch. If you have your gun out, everyone around you cowers, even the ones you can usually talk to. So if you have your gun out, even if it gives you the option, don’t talk to them. I made this mistake. I got a pop up saying to you want to buy this, Yes or No. No matter what I pressed on it wouldn’t work because the person was now cowering. I had to quit the game to get out of the situation.
To sum up, I really do recommend this game to anyone who enjoys open world games. It has a good story, a great main character, fun gameplay and a nice unique atmosphere. I am aiming for the Platinum which is getting a bit grindy, but I have yet to play the two DLCs (accessible from the main menu) so I can’t comment on them yet. I can, however, say that I’ve got my money’s worth. It’s bloody, it’s violent and it’s satisfying, so please, pick it up and enjoy it!
What did you think? Did you enjoy it? Was it better than GTA?