Sleeping Dogs - Review

Get Sleeping Dogs on xbox 360, ps3 or PC at game Best of both worlds

Most open world games see you playing as either a cop or a criminal, but refreshingly Sleeping Dogs lets you do both. You take on the role of Wei Shen, a hardboiled cop who grew up in Hong Kong, trained to become a police officer in the US, and has now returned to his birthplace to rid the bustling, neon-lit streets of crime.

To do so you must infiltrate the Triads, China's biggest organised crime syndicate, earning your stripes with the criminals while maintaining your cover and making busts for the police. It's a great set up that offers two different flavours of gameplay and a dramatic story in which Wei's allegiances are increasingly tested as events unfold.

Red or blue

The contrast between police work and criminal activities adds plenty of variety to proceedings as the story progresses. As a cop you wear disguises, bug hideouts, arrest drug dealers and smash human trafficking rings; as a Triad you steal cars, beat people up, deal drugs and enter illegal street races.

You have police (blue) and criminal (red) meters to balance as you play: chasing leads and arresting crooks earns you blue points, while criminal acts earn you red ones. The more you have of either, the more abilities you unlock, from combat upgrades to the power to quickly disarm enemies or steal vehicles without setting off alarms.

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Chinatown wars

In another refreshing spin on the open-world action genre, gunfights play second fiddle to hand-to-hand (and foot-to-foot) combat. Mixing light and heavy attacks with counters that cancel enemy attacks and allow you to grapple or launch a combo, the game's martial arts fights are as slick as they are brutal.

You can also use the environment to your advantage by sliding foes across bars, smashing them into tables, or impaling them on spiked objects. And when the guns do come out to play, they combine well with a decent cover system that lets you pop out and take pot-shots at targets or vault over objects and pick them off in slow-mo.

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Easily distracted

As in many open world games, light relief can be found exploring the city and its numerous attractions. You can cruise around making a general nuisance of yourself, buy new outfits, go on dates, play karaoke mini-games, watch cockfights, visit dodgy casino barges and stop off at noodle stands when you need to replenish health. The game took us a relatively short 14 hours to complete, but with all the distractions on offer your time in the world can be greatly extended.

On the slightly negative side, the driving feels a bit underdeveloped compared to the combat, and the huge, at times stunning city's four districts could also be a bit more distinct. But while Sleeping Dogs may lack a little of the polish of a Grand Theft Auto, it's easily one of the best open world games of the last few years, and one that brings plenty of new ideas to the party rather than simply aping those of the aforementioned genre king.

GAME's verdict:

The Good:

  • Play as a cop and a criminal.
  • Engaging, dramatic story.
  • Stylish, well executed combat system.

The Bad:

  • Driving sections could be stronger.
  • Different areas could be a bit more distinct.
  • Relatively short by open-world standards.

Published: 16/08/2012

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