For a game that has a chequered development history, United Front Game's Sleeping Dogs (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, August 16) is actually looking like it might be a damn good game, if you're a fan of GTA-inspired open-world action games.
Originally planned to be a new game in the True Crime series, it was cancelled by publisher Activision in 2011, despite the developer having met all the production deadlines, but was picked up by SquareEnix a few months later and renamed Sleeping Dogs. I played some of a preview build yesterday and went away pretty contented with what I saw.
Sleeping Dogs doesn't reinvent the wheel when it comes to open-world action games: In fact, it has all the elements you'd expect to find in an open-world action game should have. Driving: check. Melee combat: check. Weapons combat: check. Temporary power boosts: check. But it was the Hong Kong action movie inspired story that seems to really lift it above all the other games in its field.
Players control Wei Shen, a police officer who grew up in Hong Kong but moved to America as a child, and must infiltrate the infamous Sun On Yee triad and bring it down, any way he can. I played some of the early missions and then jumped to about the mid-way point of the game (about 40 per cent through) and while you could easily say that at its most basic it's GTA with a Hong Kong-inspired skin, it's actually much improved on what GTA started. Actually, it reminded me a lot of the Yakuza games that I played on the PlayStation 2, as Shen will be able to do things like enter illegal street races, go to massage parlours, bet on cock fights and partake in karaoke.
The combat is more refined, with martial arts to the fore, and Shen can counter enemy moves (you tap a button when an enemy glows red) then deliver some rough justice - some of the finishing moves are quite brutal. During one street brawl where Shen had to defeat 10 guys during his hunt for a triad underling, he was able to grab a hapless foe then smash him, face first, into the blades of an air conditioning unit (objects that you can interact with also glow red). Because of the nature of the violence, Sleeping Dogs is not a game for kids, but, remarkably, I've been told it was passed by Australia's classification board without needing any cuts or changes.
Shen can replenish his health and can temporary abilities by shopping at local markets and the game also has very minor role playing game elements to it in that depending on whether he helps or hinders the police in his mission to defeat the triad he earns XP points, which can be spent on upgraded fighting moves and abilities.
I'm pleasantly optimistic that Sleeping Dogs could be a good entrant into the open-world action game that could freshen things up, but, of course, I've only played about three hours of the game so won't pass judgement until I've played the final version. Who knows: in the latter parts of the game it could sink into the formulaic stuff we've seen before.
So, what games have you started playing that you thought were a bit "meh" but after a bit suddenly realised that you had a great game on your hands?
Stuff you might also find interesting: Game Junkie is on Twitter and you can email him here. He'll even answer your emails, not get some smart robot to do it. He also has another gaming blog here. It's updated at least once a week.
Post a comment