Sleeping Dogs Preview

April 1, 2012

Sleeping Dogs – it’s the True Crime game that wasn’t. Back in 2011, Activision decided to cancel the third game of the crime series for a variety of reasons. But that wasn’t the end of the development cycle however, as it was picked up by Square Enix, who renamed it Sleeping Dogs. Taking liberal but entertaining doses of Hong-Kong action cinema, Rocket Chainsaw recently went undercover for a first-hand look and playthrough of Sleeping Dogs: here’s what we extracted.

At our preview, we were able to play around with three different segments, as well as watch some of the intro sequence and accompanying cinematics. And Sleeping Dogs is well-steeped in cutscenes – though they didn’t seem to breach the sheer density and length of those you might find in a Metal Gear game, they were nonetheless substantial and did a lot to establish the story. We discover that our man is Detective Wei Shen, an undercover cop, who is tasked with infiltrating one of the most infamous criminal organisations on the planet – the Hong Kong Triads.

The first point of interest we discovered while playing Sleeping Dogs was the impact our choice of clothes had – different get-ups grant you different abilities and effect the way you interact with other characters on the streets of Hong Kong. For example, wearing business attire will grant you better negotiating skills when the moment calls for it, whilst normal street gear improves your sociability. For our segment, we decided to don a tattooed triad get-up, which improved our fighting and toughness. In any case, it certainly left us at least filling like a tough-as-nails gangster.

Stomping around the streets of Hong Kong, we were able to interact with both friendly and not-so friendly locals. When it came to dealing with the rougher types, we mostly negotiated with our fists. The combat was pretty satisfying – we were told that some of those behind the Just Cause and recent Batman games had a hand in the hand-to-hand design. We were able to throw some nice, meaty punches that had a real sense of flow and roughness about them. Our opponents never simply just stood there and took it either – spamming the same attack over and over would make them block, and they would also occasionally unleash an attack so devastating that it would send us flying. However, these more powerful attacks are telegraphed with an icon lighting up above an opponent’s head, which opened the way for us to unleash a devastating counter-attack. On top of hand-to-hand, you can also use the environment to your advantage. When indicated onscreen, you can press a button to interact with some objects and dish out damage. Of note in our playthrough were the vending machine which electrocuted a gangster to death and one poor mook who experienced death by crushing from an engine block.

Though hand-to-hand was the bulk of the combat we experienced, we also got to try our hand with a few weapons. During our time with the game, we were able to get to grips with a few bladed weapons, such as butcher cleavers and knives. The cleavers proved especially interesting, as we were able to throw them – and, in turn, the enemies threw them at us in the midst of combat. By contrast, knife-fights were much more close quarters, and seemed on the whole a lot more nasty and dangerous. We were struck down many times by opposing gangsters many times, but not so much so that we died from our injuries. Our playthrough also gave us access to guns, which played out mostly as you expect they would, but with one important exception: when jumping over an obstacle whilst aiming and firing, gameplay enters  slow-motion, enabling you to pick off enemies in a very HK-cinema manner.

And getting around as a whole can be a mix of simply walking through the streets and fast-paced action. One sequence saw us chasing down someone for vital information parkhour-style –  jumping over many obstacles and climbing over walls and gates littered through the landscape. In order to successfully pull off manoeuvers, we had to time our button presses just right, or else we would stumble and lag behind and potentially fail the mission. In addition to the parkhour action, vehicles can also play a part in the action. Our chase sequence also involved us tracking down our perp on a motorbike, while they were in a car. We were also able to use our gun, stand on the bike and eventually leap from our bike onto our suspect’s car. All of these elements together could have been a real mess, but in our experience they all tied together naturally and seamlessly, and really furthered the feel that were were inside a Hong-Kong crime action movie rather than just playing a game.

Even though were were informed that it was not the final build, we had a lot of fun in our taste of the action. From our glimpse, Sleeping Dogs nails the tropes of Hong-Kong action cinema. Its ultra creative ways of dealing death and serious injury to all in our way were a guilty pleasure, but pulled off with style and skill in equal measure. If the build only improves from here when Sleeping Dogs will be one game to definitely look forward to later in the year for fans of the genre.