I’ve been tracking True Crime: Hong Kong from its earliest days of development and was truly saddened that Activision dropped the title in early 2011 when they could no longer forsee a significant profit from their investment. Even though the game was reportedly 90% complete, looking great in preview videos and only months from release.
Thankfully publisher Square-Enix was prepared to take on the project, perhaps encouraged by the success of Just Cause 2 in 2010, and after a further year of tweaking and refining, we finally have the game now known as Sleeping Dogs.
Open-world third-person is my favourite gaming genre, as I have spent countless hours experiencing everything on offer in games of the Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row franchises. However, my experience of True Crime:LA back on the PS2 was somewhat average, as it failed to compare to what GTA3, Vice City and San Andreas was doing on that console at that time.
Wei Shun is an undercover cop returning from the USA to his native land of Hong Kong. Attempting to infiltrate the Triad organisation, Wei is soon juggling his duties as an officer of the law and that of his emerging career in organised crime. Wei has to evaluate the moral and psychological damage of his actions and constantly questions where his true loyalties lay?
Will Yun Lee, as Wei Shun, headlines a superb voice cast of actors, that include performances from Tom Wilkinson, Kelly Hu, James Hong, Lucy Lui and Emma Stone. There is no denying the cinematic presentation of the game, packed with real style, stunning visuals and an entertaining story.
The gameplay itself includes the traditional setup of missions, from car-racing to shoot-outs to spy-work and social contacts. The player is continually ranking up his Police status, Triad reputation and his overall coolness (Face), which all unlock increased abilities and items such as clothing and vehicles.
However, it is the fantastic hand-to-hand combat that sets Sleeping Dogs apart from most in the genre. Never before does has the player walked into a fight surrounded by a dozen enemies and feel completely confident that he was to completely kick their ass! The attention to detail in the martial arts and variety of moves are truly stunning.
With almost everything done perfectly, I only have a couple minor negatives. The lack of online play potentially cripples the future of the game and the gameplay itself is perhaps on the easy side, especially when all the combat moves are quickly learnt well before the conclusion of the game’s story. Hopefully forthcoming DLC and updates can extend the game’s life beyond the main story.
Sleeping Dogs was one of my most anticipated releases for 2012 and it did not disappoint. A terrific story, lively environment and exciting gameplay combine to provide a thrilling and memorable experience.
score: 9 out of 10.