Sleeping Dogs is the best new IP this year so far, hands down.
United Front’s newest game, Sleeping Dogs, is a crime drama focused on the duality of being an undercover cop. Not just any undercover cop, but one tasked with infiltrating the infamous and extremely dangerous Sun On Yee Triads in Hong Kong. I’ll get it out of the way- Sleeping Dogs is a masterpiece in its genre and can easily stand tall next to its brethren Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto 4. But the best thing about Sleeping Dogs, not unlike RDR, is its story. Playing alternating missions doing favors for the Hong Kong Police Department and the Triads makes for an incredibly interesting tale, as undercover officer Wei gets deeper entangled in the city’s seedy underworld, building the trust of his enemies and rising quickly among their ranks.
The characters in Sleeping Dogs are so well-developed, that once the Triads count you as a brother, you’ll find it hard to betray them. You’ll see shades of grey on both sides of the law, as the police start to push the envelope to nail the Triads, leaving Wei uncomfortably in between a rock and a hard place. It doesn’t take long for the Sun On Yee to realize that whenever Wei’s around, the cops aren’t far behind. You’ll have to do some dastardly things in the game to prove that you’re not a cop, and your loyalty will be rewarded with riches, acceptance and friendship. The game’s story can at times feel close to The Departed, which itself was based off of the Japanese crime film Infernal Affairs.
Sleeping Dogs is a third person action game that ties together elements from different games. The free-flow combat system is very reminiscent of the Batman: Arkham City style that’s all the rage these days, for good reason- it’s fun. Sleeping Dogs switches things up a bit with an upgradeable system where you can learn new takedowns, leg breaks, etc., and take advantage of brutal environmental kills and weapons ranging from kitchen knives to semi-automatics and even fish. Yes, you can beat a Triad with a fish in this game. Sleeping Dogs’ melee combat is so exciting that I didn’t even notice that there were no guns for about 5 hours, and when they finally showed up it just added a new dimension to the already fantastic gameplay. The vehicle action works great, and shooting from cars and “action hijacking” them while speeding down a freeway never gets old. The graphics are sharp for a sandbox game, and the animation system will remind many of the Uncharted series when running and jumping through chase sequences. It’s all quite an accomplishment for a studio whose only previous title is ModNation Racers, not to take anything away from that title.
There is a ton of stuff to do in Sleeping Dogs. A huge amount of side missions can level up your Face meter, which can affect everything from the amount you’ll pay for new cars, to giving you boosts on XP from Face missions. There’s a ton of different bonuses given to different matches of clothing pieces and accessories, and it gives a bit of an RPG feel to the game. Some missions, you might want the Thug bonus that grants you +10 melee, or you might want the Red Pole bonus that nets you +10 XP from Triad missions. You can also buy Dragon Kick drinks around town to temporarily boost your melee, you can get massages to increase your Face, etc. There’s entire flea markets in the game where you can even buy knockoff clothing and watches, or you can go across town to the high end suit dealers for a flashier look. You can do race missions, you can date women, you can even do some photography missions. There’s so much to do in Sleeping Dogs that it’s a good thing there’s a Replay Mission option.
Overall, Sleeping Dogs is one of the best and most addictive video games I’ve ever played, and I would even venture to say the new king of its genre. I for one would love to see a sequel that expands even further upon the gameplay and story,considering what United Front has managed to accomplish in this first entry of a new IP.