Format reviewed: PC
Other formats available: Xbox 360, PS3
Developer: United Front Games/ Square Enix London Studios
Publisher: Square Enix
Price: £20.00 (PC)
Website: http://www.sleepingdogs.net/
Rating: 18

Take to the streets of Hong Kong as an undercover cop who doesn’t seem to care about the law as long as he can bring criminals to justice.

In Sleeping Dogs you take on the role of Wei Shen, a Chinese American cop as you go after the Son on Yee triad organisation. The game is a free roaming one and after a few seconds you can’t help but think that you are in a south east Asian version of GTA.

Movement, shooting, jumping in and out of cars are very much the same as the most famous open world game. Of course when you’re in a car you have radio stations, that you can change, and the now ubiquitous sat nav.

What is different is the combat. Being set in Hong Kong you have the plenty of time to practice martial arts. In fact in the early stages of the game, until you get weapons, you will find yourself doing a lot of hand-to-hand fighting. This is quite slick and relies on you doing a lot of counter-attacking. Fortunately the game prompts you so that you know when someone is going to try and hit you as they develop a sort Ready Brek glow around them.

You also have the option to use objects such as dumpsters as well for slightly interesting finishing moves. Although we found the combat fun to start with, it did soon turn in to an endless sequence of button bashes.

Unlike GTA, Sleeping Dogs also features a basic RPG levelling up feature. You gain points for this depending on how well you perform in the various missions. In the tradition of undercover cop films, which the game borrows from heavily, you are expected to ride the line between law and disorder and are allowed to stray a little.

At the end of each mission you are scored on three criteria and can gain Triad XP, Police XP and Face XP. The first two refer to how well you have performed in the eyes of the police and the triads, whereas Face is a gauge of your overall reputation.

Although the story line is nothing new really, it does remind us of all the Hong Kong police films we’ve seen, the voice acting is top Hong Kong dollar with some great performances in there including the always excellent Tom Wilkinson of The Full Monty, Batman Begins and In the Bedroom fame. How the producers got him, we will never know.

To look at, overall, Sleeping Dogs is excellent. We reviewed the PC version on a not very recent graphics card and it ran beautifully with all the glowing neon you would expect from a game set in Hong Kong.

The trouble with video games based on something like being an undercover cop is how you convey the split loyalties that this brings. In reality the police officer would find it very hard to commit even the most minor misdemeanour.

However, in the game it is all too easy to smash down bus shelters, lamp posts and to hijack cars when you need to get away in a hurry. When performing the later you feel like you need to be able to press an extra button to make your character say ‘sorry, I’m a cop. I’ll get your car back to you soon when I’ve caught the bad guys.’ In fact when playing Sleeping Dogs it’s all too easy to forget you are supposed to be good and slip into the GTA mindset and cause mayhem with gay abandon.

Whenever a free-roaming game comes along it will always be compared to GTA unless its developers make the effort to differentiate it. Unfortunately, although there are many things to like about Sleeping Dogs, the whole time we were playing it we were constantly reminded of Rockstar’s oeuvre and comparing it as we went along.

That said if you like your action with a south east Asian twist, Sleeping Dogs has a lot going for it and is a long, long way from being a bad game in any way.

Review by Tuckski for BCS

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