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Sleeping Dogs Review: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Wei
But wait! There’s more. The “warp” system in the game is by taxicabs – and nothing says “I’m a badass” more than going to a drug bust in a taxi. Your melee fighting gets more and more intense, going from punching and kicking, to using melee weapons, to the typical gun battles. But what’s not typical here is that you can grab enemies while melee fighting and slam their heads into exhaust fans or electrical boards. You can pick up a fish off the ground and beat a guy to death with it. You can check out commotions as you’re walking around. (You can handle these like I did – a store owner asked me to get rid of a loitering drunk. I dragged him away and, forgetting I was carrying a gun, went to punch him and instead shot him in the leg. I don’t think he’ll be loitering again anytime soon.) You can shoot a gun in slow motion out of a moving car, taking out tires and blowing cars up, Michael Bay-style.
Then there are the collectibles and minigames. The collectibles are simple: lockboxes strewn across the map, some with money, some with clothing. You can also purchase clothing, and having full sets can give you bonuses – some for melee damage, some to get discounts on cars, etc. There are also health shrines you can pray at, which build up your health meter. The minigames, though… I would buy a game that was just the minigames of Sleeping Dogs. There’s hacking cameras, opening locked lockboxes, bugging apartments, and picking locks, each of which creates a fun little minigame – though hacking cameras has to be my favorite: you only get a certain number of tries to figure out four numbers, which can’t be repeated in the sequence. The game tells you when you have a number correct but in the wrong place, or correct in the right place. Mash all these together, sometimes in situations where you’ve got someone about to walk in on you, and you’ve got a great mix of fun and tension.
This is a game where you can get a massage, eat some roast duck, take a cab to a street race, race your motorcycle, hack a security system, buy a hot tub and have it installed, hijack an armored car and go on a crazy race with the cops, sing some karaoke, and go on a date. And that’s all before the sun comes up.
Sleeping Dogs is not perfectly done, despite my belief that it is a perfect game. There are some glitches in it – for example, when ending a race, my finger was still holding the trigger down completely. The victory screen came up and gave me my winnings, and then suddenly, I saw where Shen had ended up: the car was completely vertical on a wall of the highway. I tried to move it, but other than Wei giving some action figure-jerks of his arms, that car was going nowhere. Traffic piled up behind me hilariously. I jumped out of the car and ran across the street, unable to stop laughing.
So what I’m saying is: yes, there are glitches. But the glitches are just as entertaining as everything else in the game.
My complaints are minor. I would like for the game to be a bit more free form in movement. You can only do your crazy climbing and parkour in allotted areas – and there are many of them. But sometimes, there’s a fence you want to jump over, or a wall you want to climb, and you simply can’t do it. Wei Shen, who just ran a crazy marathon across a rooftop, can’t jump a four-foot fence? That hardly seems reasonable. Sometimes I wish the game let me do whatever I want, but, in the end, the game lets me do so much that I hardly noticed the times I was constrained.
Visually, Sleeping Dogs isn’t going to win any awards, but it’s beautiful for what it is. The city is alive, teeming with a vibrant population, Cantonese chattering on in the background of nearly every scene you’re in. And the soundtrack to this game is amazing. More than once, when not playing the game, I had songs from a certain car ride stuck in my head. They would be crazy not to release the soundtrack, if it’s not already in the works.
One thing that wasn’t as interesting as I’d hoped was the Social Club. It basically allows other players on your friends list to see what you’ve accomplished, and ranks everyone. The main thing it does for me? It lets my dude friends see that I’ve crushed their clean driving records. Into oblivion. Oh, and that I’ve got 183 more headshots than they do.
What is it about Sleeping Dogs that keeps me coming back for more? United Front Games has nailed what it is to be fun in a video game. There’s so much that’s great here: great characters, great storyline, great mission progression. You want to see it, to hear it, to play it. It’s what all games with an asking price of $60 should be: something you don’t want to put down, that you play through meals and forget to sleep, that pulls on your heartstrings while hurting your stomach from laughter. It’s not a perfect game, not by a long shot: but it’s a perfect experience, and one that’s worth your time and money.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Sleeping Dogs was provided by Square Enix for the purposes of this review.
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