Big Trouble in Little China: A Sleeping Dogs Review

Sleeping Dogs follows undercover police detective, Wei Shan, as he bids to infiltrates the infamous Sun on Yee splinter group of the Triad organisation.

Set in the seedier parts of Hong Kong, the open-world game begins with a cutscene showing ‘Dogeyes’, a Sun on Yee Red Pole – high-ranking Triad member – in the middle of a drug deal with our protagonist. Part way through you are challenged by a site security guard who duly gets his arm near-separated from his body by Dog Eyes using a meat cleaver. It is at this point things start to get a little crazy when the police (who have been watching from a nearby surveillance van) storm the area, sending a helicopter overhead to warn Mr. Eyes to stop what he’s doing.

This is our cue to escape the scene, and escape fast. Following your partner in crime, Naz, and with the Hong Kong Police Department hot on your heels, you are chased through the docks.

Traversing fish troughs and side-stepping nets full of fish you can almost smell, you follow your friend through a busy restaurant kitchen and after climbing and smashing some fish tanks to cool effect, out to the other side of the building. Here, you come face-to-face with an armed policeman whom, with a quick tap of a button, you leap at, sit astride, and punch square in the face. This happens in one, fluid motion as you are treated to your first taste of the slow-motion feature that the game often utilizes, and to great effect.

It is in these beginning stages that a real love for the game begins to form. You find yourself already safe in the knowledge that this game is going to be played within an inch of its life. Already a certain excitement has begun to manifest itself and you are compelled to unearth the game’s hidden brilliance hereafter.

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting

Guns play no part in the early stages of the game. Whilst this sounds like a recipe for disaster in a GTA-style action game, it actually goes a long way to better the gameplay. In the absence of bullets and grenades, you are forced to use your hands and your feet as you execute some Kung Fu moves that would bring a tear to even Bruce Lee’s eye. Enemies adopt a red glow when a counterstrike opportunity presents itself and your surroundings become a deadly weapon as your slam shop shutters down on your foes, bash their heads in car doors, stuff them into ventilation units and, later in the game, hang them from suspended meat hooks. These are just a few of the environmental attacks made available to you and they really add an extra element of both fun and diversity to the many fights you have throughout. In a way, I was actually a little disappointed when I eventually got my hands on a gun. I had grown pretty accustomed to the ‘kick ‘em in the face’ approach and was glad to see the game did still call for it from time-to-time.

Vehicle Jacking

Another cool, and unique edition to Sleeping Dogs is the ability to hijack vehicles on-the-move. By simply driving closely to your target vehicle and holding the ‘A’ button (or ‘X’ on PlayStation) Wei Shen hangs out of his car or stands aloft his motorcycle ready to take a leap of faith. The whole process is simple to pull off and inspires a deep satisfaction as he climbs around the vehicle, pulls out the driver, enters and drives away in full control. And without missing a heartbeat.

The Story

The story is deep and presents twists and turns at every opportunity without confusing the player or taking away from the fast-paced action Sleeping Dogs does so beautifully. Moral decisions come to play as the lines between cop and crook begin to blur and new branches open as new characters are introduced to the dark world of an undercover detective. The way the team at Square Enix handles the storytelling is an absolute joy to behold and a true credit to the team.

In a Nutshell

Sleeping Dogs is a shining example of how a game of this genre should be carried off. The subtleties, in abundance, make this game a true classic. The numerous characters you meet in the world range greatly and offer everything from comedy to deep-seated suspense leaving you never really knowing what is going to happen next. If you were unlucky enough to miss this when it was on Xbox’s Games With Gold promotion or just don’t own an Xbox then you should hunt a copy down post-haste. Kinguin savings can be extremely generous and help save a substantial amount of money on the already low price.