PS3 (Review Copy) Xbox 360, PC
What a strange and winding road Sleeping Dogs has taken. Originally starting out as a new open world action title named Black Lotus, Activision scooped up the title, deciding to rebrand it as a reboot it in the True Crime series as True Crime: Hong Kong. Production of the game was delayed, and eventually outright cancelled, as Activision felt "it just wasn't going to be good enough." Square Enix thought otherwise, and eventually picked up the game, dropped the True Crime moniker and unleashed it on the public. Good thing too, because when it comes to open world games, Sleeping Dogs is pretty damn impressive.
San Francisco cop Wei Shen has returned to his homeland of Hong Kong and sent deep undercover to infiltrate The Sun On Yee triad. While undercover, Wei encounters several people from his past, while the strain of placing his life on the line as an undercover cop comes face-to-face with his loyalties to his Sun On Yee brothers. Sleeping Dogs' narrative is a gripping tale, not often seen in open world games of this scale.
As you go deeper and deeper into Triad culture, you, as the player, are acutely aware of Wei's personal struggle, pressing on to see what happens next. With solid voice acting propelling the story, the only real snafu with the narrative is the inclusion of the various girlfriend missions. Not feeling natural to the storyline, they seem to exist solely as a gameplay mechanism to unlock bonuses. In the big picture that is Sleeping Dogs, however, it really is only a minor issue.
Open world games usually sacrifice a little polish in certain gameplay elements for the sake of scale. While there are indeed some rough graphical spots and strange gameplay bugs that randomly pop up, Sleeping Dogs takes cues from many other open world games in order to minimize those sacrifices. The melee system, for instance, is reminiscent of Arkham City – tight and well executed. Gunplay, while not as prevalent as hand-to-hand combat, still plays out as a competent third-person cover shooter. The driving sequences, including the action hijacks, are particularly satisfying. While the storyline missions are taught, many of the side missions and the aforementioned girlfriend missions feel added for their own sake. This also spans into the generally solid character leveling aspect. As abilities unlock at a natural pace, the 'face' meter, which allows you to purchase the best outfits and cars, is tied to superfluous missions, making the desire to outfit Wei with the coolest shit to be an exercise in tedium.
For a game that at one time was cancelled due to it not being "good enough," Sleeping Dogs flies past good and lands somewhere between really fucking good and great. There are a few gameplay bugs and issues with some filler missions, which keep it short of classic status, but taken in as a whole, driving through the twisted roads of Hong Kong is a fantastic treat – rewarding as the actual journey Sleeping Dogs took to come out in the first place. | RDW