Dog will hunt!
Much like your average wisecracking protagonist, Square Enix’s Sleeping Dogs is a game with a troubled past. After nearly falling into the ether after an Activision IP assassination, this promising entry into the True Crime series got a shot at redemption—but does it manage to justify its flight from the firing squad? EGM’s Brandon Justice and Ray Carsillo are on the case!
Brandon Justice, executive editor: I’ve seen more than a few demos of Sleeping Dogs at this point, but after our extended playthrough, the one thought that kept leaping into my brain was: “Man, I cannot believe Activision just gave up on this.” Simply put, folks, the game looks amazing. Only a few studios in the business have the sack to tackle this kind of open-world action, and it’s pretty clear that Square Enix managed to land a game that should give the GTAs and Saints Rows of the world a real run for their laundered money. Am I nuts here, Ray?
Ray Carsillo, reviews editor: Not at all, Brandon. Sleeping Dogs is looking like an amalgamation of key elements from some top triple-A titles, as it’s got things like Max Payne’s gunplay, Need for Speed’s racing, Assassin’s Creed’s free-running, and Batman: Arkham City’s combat. It has something for everyone, and the fact that it all seamlessly ties together in a conspiracy-driven crime drama blew my mind to point where I don’t think it’s coming back anytime soon. It’s dark and gritty, and it’s also probably the closest thing we’re going to get to a Hong Kong action film in gaming form. Although I do admit that the first thing that popped into my mind was Carl Douglas’ “Kung Fu Fighting.”
Brandon: I’ll save the wisecracks about your mind ever being present, but I have to agree. In a lot of ways, this game reminds me of what Sega’s Shenmue could have been—if, you know, it had solid controls, competent voice actors, great visuals, and things to do that actually interested modern gamers. I love the gritty feel of Dogs, and it’s nice to see a lead character that isn’t cut from the same dudebro cloth we’ve seen over and over. Our boy Wei Shen has some moxie!
Ray: Yeah, well, it’s a good thing Wei’s so tough, considering he’s going to be a double agent in the criminal underworld of Hong Kong. And it’s an even better thing that he’s got some sick maneuvers to back his attitude up. Aside from your standard array of kung-fu punches and kicks, Wei also has expert timing that allows him to counter most any move. And when you’re fighting for your life, it’s no holds barred—so Wei’s more than accustomed to breaking some faces with objects in the environment. Not much in gaming satisfies more than throwing a foe through a window, off a rooftop, or headfirst into an air-conditioning vent.
Brandon: Yeah, I was a huge fan of all the integrated-environment kills. They add a real sense of badassery to the combat, and I loved the fact that Dogs seems entirely disinterested in pulling punches—and not just in combat. The story seems like it’s going to be as dark as they come, which should open doors for developer United Front to really sell the idea of infiltrating the Triads. We’ve seen the whole “I’m in too deep, and I’m losing my sense of loyalty” bit in Hollywood blockbusters before, but this is the first time I’ve seen it sold so well in videogame form—and I hope there’s a good deal of moral choice in there to help keep the game’s open feel intact. I was also pumped to see the variety of side missions: Whether it’s girlfriends, gambling, or the occasional underground cockfight, there’s no shortage of things to do when you’re not kicking faces in or exploring the mean streets of Hong Kong.
Ray: And, speaking of the streets, the game does an awesome job of conveying the urban metropolis that is modern Hong Kong: the narrow alleyways that crisscross between derelict apartment complexes or the hustle and bustle of the more ritzy part of town. It’s a good thing there are so many hot cars in this game for you to get around in, because the world’s looking massive. But, going back to the story, we saw torture, betrayal, heroes acting like villains, and villains acting like heroes—and we only got a small snippet of what supposedly lies beneath the surface of this game. Sleeping Dogs is primed to redefine the action genre in terms of storytelling.
Brandon: Yeah, I was pretty surprised at how polished the racing sequences looked. I’ve always hated the feel of vehicles in the Grand Theft Auto series, but Sleeping Dogs seems to be on the right track. It’s not exactly on par with Need for Speed or anything, but it’s definitely a cut above other open-world games in that department, which plays nicely off the combat system’s considerable depth. When you put it all together, Dogs looks like a surprising win for action fans. There’s just so much to see and do, and the storytelling’s right up there with the big dogs—no pun intended—which definitely put this one on my radar despite its relatively low profile to date.
Ray: Yeah dude, never mind the racing—the whole game seemed really polished, and I agree that I can’t wait for this one to drop come August. Sleeping Dogs is going to eat up a ton of my personal gaming time, and if you’re a fan of action, suspense, tremendous storytelling, and basically everything awesome, it’s definitely a title you should not sleep on.