Sleeping Dogs was playable at PAX East this year, and as we were playing, we got a chance to talk with Dan Sochan, a Producer at developer United Front Games. Sochan was friendly and informative, and gave us tidbits about the game as we took protagonist Wei Shen out and smashed some enemies into anything we could on the streets of Hong Kong. Read on for more about this amazing upcoming game.
Nicole Kline, Warp Zoned Senior Editor: What has it been like to work on a game that was already… I mean, how far were you along in development before [Square Enix] picked it up?
Sochan: We were past alpha, so a lot of the game was sort of there and in place, and I’ve got to say, we’ve been passionate about this game from the get-go. We brought together a really senior and experienced group of guys who have worked on a variety of different titles and several open world games as well to kind of bring it all together, and then also a lot of action games, and that’s where you get the sort of detailed combat, guys who worked on a lot of racing titles, like Need For Speed, and so we got that sort of strong racing mechanics in there
WZ – Nicole: Yeah, it’s got that feel, definitely.
Sochan: So we knew that there’s a lot of games in that genre, in that space, and so we said OK, well, if we’re going to go in there and be competitive, then we need to focus on a few areas and make them best in class. And so that’s where you get that sort of hand-to-hand combat, running, driving, and then we wanted to make a really immersive story as well.
WZ – Nicole: The hand-to-hand combat is like, I almost busted out laughing, it’s just fun, it’s really fun.
Sochan: it is, because it’s got this sort of intuitive, just sort of pick-up-and-play directional attacks, like someone’s behind you, we don’t just kind of snap and spin you around, you do a cool, like, back punch, and things like that.
WZ – Nicole: But I like that you can sort of deflect them, like it’s cool because you’re fighting, fighting, fighting, and then if they’re blocking, you’re like OK well I can just stand here, block them, and then I can hit them, and then I can grab them, and then I can slam them into something! So at first it’s like, that’s a lot of buttons to hit! But then within two or three, you’re like yeah, I got this. What else can I slam them into?
Sochan: Exactly! And you know, in demos like this, we kind of jump you around. The first one is actually about the fourth mission in the game, and then the last mission you play, “Elections,” is actually near the end of the game, and that’s why it’s super intense, fighting, gunplay action, because it’s right near the very end, so for demo purposes, we kind of jump you around a bit. But in the main version of the game, we really, it’s a term that one of the guys brought up, we really “tutorialize” you.
WZ – Nicole: Ha!
Sochan: We just love the term, but it’s like, we help guide and teach the player, you know, all of the different mechanics. We have a lot of new mechanics in the game, like you said, the kind of deep combat system but also the free-running parkour. So instead of throwing it all at once, we’re like oh, this mission’s going to be all about free running, so you’re going to learn that aspect of it.
Anthony Amato, Warp Zoned Contributor: Hey, this character looks like… what’s-his-name… from Eastern Promises! Yeah, because he’s covered in tattoos.
Sochan: You know, and that’s actually one of the movies that definitely influenced us. You know, the undercover cop, who’s in almost too deep, and has to endure terrible things, but on the side, that’s why I love Eastern Promises, you know the uncle that you think he killed, he actually just gives him some money and sent him away. And so, you know, we have those sort of same moments in our game, where Wei, the main character, is at odds with himself, and he’s trying to do the right thing but sometimes has to do the wrong thing.
WZ – Nicole: What other plots from movies and games influenced you guys?
Sochan: In terms of plots, definitely the big one for us was Infernal Affairs.
WZ – Nicole: I haven’t seen that.
Sochan: So, OK, that was a Hong Kong film. It was the influence for The Departed. So if you’ve never seen Infernal Affairs, there’s actually three parts to it. It is condensed down and North Americanized and then basically sort of The Departed. So very similar for us, where undercover cop, in over his head, befriends some of the guys that he’s supposed to be infiltrating their gang, and then also some of the people he thought he could sort of count on or trust on the police side, some of them are betraying him as well. So he ends up –
WZ – Nicole: The Departed was kind of intense. It was like, pulling heartstrings, left and right.
Sochan: Yeah, so was Infernal Affairs, very, very similar feel, and great bit of Hong Kong cinema, and the action sequences, again, we really tried to capture that HK cinema feel of the John Woo films, old Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and also films like The Protector, and kind of combining those. Like I said, we really spent time and emphasis on building an elaborate and deep story that makes you care about Wei and what he’s going through, you know, sort of the struggles he has mentally. And then the other characters, you know, some on the good side and some on the bad side, the police side or the gang side, and your relationships with them and as they develop throughout the game as well.
WZ – Nicole: What about Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days? Did you guys play that?
WZ – Nicole: There’s a very similar feel to it… like in that game, you do run a guy down, and you kill a guy you’re not supposed to kill… well, you know that part…
WZ – Nicole: So this, I love this, this is awesome.
Wei is in an intense chase through the streets of Hong Kong, dodging people in the crowd and jumping over different obstacles in the environment. You can jump up on and climb over walls and, when you fight enemies, you can interact with much that is around you – for example, you could knock a guy down, then grab him and throw him into a vent, or a dumpster. This crowded, thriving city becomes your playground.
Sochan: Yeah, so you know, we were trying to incorporate the environment, and Hong Kong naturally lends itself to free running and parkour. It’s very multi-layered architecture, so that you’ve got sort of low-rise buildings, lots of alleyways and kind of clutter everywhere that kind of, you know, in this case the player is able to use and navigate to kind of make a really cool experience sliding over a table, doing a flip over something else.
Flip on over to the next page where we continue our interview with Dan Sochan of United Front Games and play more Sleeping Dogs.