Let's start with a terrible analogy that I am going to cling onto throughout the duration of this article. Sleeping Dogs is like a ‘Greatest Hits’ album. Stick with this. There isn’t much in the way of original ideas on display in Sleeping Dogs - It’s a grab bag of all of the choice cuts from games in and around the ‘Open World’ genre from the past few years.
All of the ‘big singles’ are here - the combat from Batman: Arkham Asylum/City and the car-jacking and car-melee from The Wheelman - the standout parts of their respective games. The hits. Admittedly, The Wheelman itself was more akin to a difficult concept album about Vin Diesel, but you can’t deny those awesome features. There are some excellent finishing moves, achieved by grabbing your enemy and shoving them, usually head first, into varying bits of scenery. This was from underrated PS2 action game The Punisher. There’s gunplay featuring slow motion leaps from cover lifted from Max Payne 3 and Stranglehold. The map itself is full of stat-boosting food stalls, clothing shops and even a karaoke bar, all of which owes a fair bit to Sega’s Yakuza games.
All of these features have been given a fair bit of polish and, in most cases, have been slightly modified to fit together in this game. A ‘remastering’, if we’re to prolong this analogy.
In a genre notoriously light on narrative when the game isn’t labelled ‘By Rockstar’, the voice acting and story are of a really high standard. Tonally, the game is a bit strange, ranging from moments where Wei, the protagonist, is struggling with the morale politics of being a deep cover cop, to achievements for beating men to death with a fish and singing ‘I Ran’ at the karaoke. It’s like a more light-hearted GTA IV, or a far more straight-laced Saints Row.
Much like all ‘Greatest Hits’ albums, there has to be a couple of glaring omissions and dumb inclusions. There’s no aerial vehicles, no interesting weaponry, limited character customization options to name a few. There’s nothing in the way of destructible scenery and, despite the detail, there’s quite a lot of asset re-use. It also suffers from the usual mission issues that plague the open-world genre, with far too many fetch, follow and racing quests padding out the main storyline. Perhaps the most glaring omission is the lack of any kind of morality system throughout the game. You’re a deep-cover cop trying to bring down the Triads, but find that a lot of the cops you work for are pretty nasty bits of work themselves. It would’ve added another dimension to the gameplay and story if you had to play one off against another - risking blowing your cover or being drawn in by the criminal underworld.
To finally bring this stretched analogy to an end, ‘Greatest Hits’ albums are rarely the fans absolute favourite piece of work. Individual albums, with their singular focus and even with their own strange quirks tend to be held in much higher regard, with games like GTA IV and Just Cause 2 offering more unique and richer experiences. If you’re a fan of these games, however, you’ll find it almost impossible to dislike Sleeping Dogs. It is a game packed with GOOD THINGS. Good things from other games, but good things nonetheless.
I give it an arbitrary score of 8.758