written by Justin Prince (@Prince_Justin)
Originally dubbed True Crime: Hong Kong when the game was first announced back in 2009. This game was originally going to be the third installment and an overall reboot of the True Crime series that boasted two previous titles during the sixth generation of home consoles (PS2, XBox, Game Cube). The series itself garnered fairly favorable reviews but the second game True Crime: New York City was more harshly criticized than the previous installment, being seen as nothing more than a GTA rip-off. Fast forward to 2009, True Crime: Hong Kong is announced to a fairly lackluster reception, remembering what the previous installment was like, many gamers weren't giving it a fair chance, even Activision believed that this wouldn't be the blockbuster they expected, the game was inevitably scrapped. By 2011, Square Enix bought the publishing rights but not the True Crime name, thus... welcome to the world of Sleeping Dogs.
"the two gangs prominently featured throughout the game, the Sun On Yee and 18k, are based on real life Triads the Sun Yee On and 14k respectively"
I originally played a beta build of the game at San Diego Comic Con 2012, personally I wasn't impressed so I let it slip by, but when the game was added to the list of PlayStation Plus free content, I figured "what the hell, it was a fun enough to play for free".
You play as Wei Shen, an undercover cop coming back home to Hong Kong after spending a considerable amount of time in America. Your goal is to infiltrate the Sun On Yee, a triad family with ties to the life you left behind and the sister you lost to her own devices. Initially you are a foot soldier reporting to Red Pole (a rank of Triad Boss) Winston Chu, first starting with smaller more localized scuffles with a rival Red Pole and fellow Sun On Yee member Sammy "Dog Eyes" Lin and eventually escalating to full on Triad warfare. The setting is a fictionalized modern day Hong Kong, and even the two gangs prominently featured throughout the game, the Sun On Yee and 18k, are based on real life Triads the Sun Yee On and 14k respectively. The world is large but not overly grand, I never found myself getting "lost" in Hong Kong. Guns aren't common place in this world so fights are generally hand to hand, sometimes you'll have a tire iron or butcher knifte, but most of the time you'll be relying on your kung-fu.
What I Thought: The fighting is fairly simple, very reminicent of the Batman Arkham series of games, you have a button to attack, a button to grab, and a button to counter. Eventually you will meet your former Sifu (Kung-fu master) and upon returning his stolen jade statues, he teaches you a new technique to use in battle. Combos are simple to perform and I never found myself too troubled, honestly I wish the battles were a bit harder, but all in all I was satisfied. I wish I could say the same for the gun play, unlike GTA there is no snap/lock when aiming, rather many times you'd have to pop out and manually aim, while this never was too much of an issue because I swear for Triads these guys were bad shots, during later parts of the game when gunplay became more fierce, I found myself getting a bit overpowered. Driving is simple, very much like GTA you can drift around corners and shoot while driving, since there is no snap/lock on, while driving you go into this slow motion mode that lasts for a brief time when aiming, this really helps when you are aiming for an enemy's tires. While driving the cars were fun, the motorcycles felt overly sensitive, I found myself getting thrown from my bike more often than when I was riding it.
Like any sandbox game, you have collectibles to find, these can be clothes or the jade statues you need to upgrade your fighting ability. Various side quests arise throughout the game, from racing to going out on dates with the possible girlfriends you come across. Mini games that range from fun (cracking safes) to tedious (hacking cameras) all the way to "WTF?" (like singing karaoke... yes... karaoke...). Overall, it was a fun package with a few hiccups.
My Two Cents:
I had fun, while I found issue with the choices they made with the gunplay and the driving, I did have fun. The story played out like a great Hong Kong Cop flick. The voice acting was amazing! Featured are some fairly familiar names like Will Yun Lee (The Wolverine, Red Dawn ), Edison Chen (Initial D, The Grudge 2), Parry Shen (Better Luck Tomorrow, Best Buy Commercials LULZ ), and even James Hong who seems to be in every Chinese movie or Rush Hour . Emma Stone, Lucy Liu, and Kelly Hu also briefly voice tertiary characters.
While I did have fun, I believe that the hope for a sequel will fall on deaf ears, aside from the fact that Square Enix is notorious for NOT giving the fans what they want, they also considered Sleeping Dogs a financial failure. But from the eyes of a gamer, this was a success... makes me wonder about why Square Enix saw it as a failure.