Wasn’t planning on back to back gaming posts, but this warrants it.
And the ‘this’ in question is Sleeping Dogs.
Think Grand Theft Auto style open world sandbox crime game meets old school John Woo Hong Kong movie and you’re on the right track.
You’re an undercover cop with conflicted loyalties out the ass, sent in to infiltrate the Hong Kong Triads. And as the storyline progresses (I’m guessing that I’m about halfway through) things get royally fucked up and confused to the point that I don’t have a damn clue what is going to happen next, and that’s a very good thing.
It isn’t that the basic idea of the game is overly original, it’s that the idea is done very well from top to bottom. They brought in the guys who made the fluid and easy melee combat system from the past couple of Batman games to work on the same thing here. Counter enemy attacks and mix in grapples and light and heavy strikes to hit back. Only here, you can use the environment to help out. Impale some poor bastard on a meat hook, or perhaps hurl him in to a phone booth and then kick his jaw through his face. And as you play, you’ll recover jade statues belonging to a local Kung Fu instructor. Each time you do, he’ll teach you a new combo move to add to your repertoire. Soon you’re mixing in spinning heel kicks, flying tackles and brutal looking leg breaks that make everyone around the poor unfortunate whose femur just exploded wince and back off.
Then there’s the gunplay. It isn’t frequent, this being the Hong Kong of chop socky flicks and all, but it’s done well. Fly over an obstacle and disarm one guy, then vault over some cover and use his gun when you enter slo-mo to head shot three different guys in three different corners of the room. It’s all about ludicrously impossible shots from bizarre angles, and it fits the theme. Or be a bit more tactical…why empty a clip in to some dude with body armour on when you can blow out his knee and then kick him in the teeth?
Other shooting bits run like a rail shooter, with you riding shotgun in a moving car and opening up on bad guys. Sure, you could take out all 4 guys in a vehicle, but it’s much faster to splatter the driver all over the windshield and watch them careen in to a bus. Or take out the front tire of a racing car…
But the thing is, causing too much destruction is bad. You ARE a cop after all, conflicted loyalties or not. And throughout the game, your Cop Score is affected by pesky things like running over old women crossing the street and T-boning mini vans. And you want that score to rise, because it gives you new abilities. Then again, tossing those rival bangers off of freeway overpasses and the like tends to make your Triad Score go up, and that also leads to benefits. What to do?
And the things that I’ve seen! We’ve got a British born cop running this operation, but he just framed a scumbag for a murder he didn’t commit. I helped my Triad boss’s fiancé finish her wedding shopping, complete with chasing down a cake that was being driven off in a van by a rival trying to fuck things up. There was a high speed boat chase. Uh, there was the karaoke mini game that let me pick up a bar hostess. I improved my face score (basically renown) by helping a dude flee the cops after he machine gunned another dude who owed him money, then by hooking up with a few…errr…’massage therapists’ in seedy alleyways. But hey, it levelled that face score high enough to let me buy a sweet Class C car and enter a bunch of new street races (which tend to be hard as balls, what with the civilian traffic all over the makeshift tracks)! Oh, and I just took one evil son of a bitch to visit a vengeful mom at her restaurant…she nicely fed him some soup, the main ingredient of which was one of his buddies. That was before her cleaver came out again…
In the meantime, I’m caught in the middle of a gang war and I’ve taken down half the dope suppliers in Hong Kong drug through side missions for the cops. Those (and the favours, races and everything else) are alongside the primary missions you’ll do for the Cops and the Triads.
Hell, they’ve even figured out how to make the secondary stuff useful! Sure, other games of this type have let you play virtual dress up with your character, but here it actually benefits you in a tangible way. Put together outfits, and maybe your melee strikes do more damage. Or your Triad score goes up more quickly. Or you’re simply perceived as more respectable by pretty much everyone. So you have to bang a few skeezy cocktail waitresses to get your face score high enough to buy that suit…the likely case of virtual scabies is worth it when you’re raking in an extra 20% from all the money caches you’re finding around town! Right?
Great game. Play it.