United Front’s 2012 sleeper-hit has surprisingly been re-awoken for a new generation début with Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition. We determine if this re-release is worthy of its ‘Definitive Edition moniker’, with its new graphical bells, whistles and all the previously released DLC in one package. Perhaps more importantly, is there enough on offer for those to kick and punch their way through the Hong Kong underbelly one more time?
Sleeping Dogs sees you playing as HKPD Detective Wei Shen, who is tasked with going deep undercover to infiltrate Hong Kong’s notorious Triad gang, the Sun On Yee. Shen has different types of objectives – Triad, Cop and Face, each of which have their own unique and familiar missions alongside the main-story quests.
The game has you managing these roles as and when you see fit, ranking each of them up separately, in turn rewarding you with new combat and defensive abilities. Play the rising bad guy, switch it up and don the Police uniform, or just free-roam doing side-missions such as favours for the public, clearing martial arts clubs, or engage in a spot of gambling on cock fights – the karaoke though, that really is something else.
Sleeping Dogs features the same fundamental core elements of a traditional open-world game, such as Grand Theft Auto, but it also has its own quirks and broadens what we have come to expect from the genre. There’s the cars, boats, the familiar mobile phone, and of course, fire-arms. The gun-play is quite different in that you’re not armed to the teeth, you can only ever carry one weapon at a time, and it can be discarded completely. A slow motion effect can also be triggered, though it can only be utilised in an aggressive manner, such as sliding over cover while armed, or immediately after disarming an enemy.
The big differentiating factor is the melee combat, it’s bloody, and very gratifying. The basic fighting mechanics work uncannily similar to the Batman Arkham series – except it’s much more brutal, with a further emphasis on environmental grapples, such as kicking a guy into a phone booth and beating him to death with the receiver, or pulling someone over to a car and slamming the door on his head, again and again, to name just a few.
There’s also a couple of unique quirks on the the more traditional aspects. Lock boxes, Shrines and Security Cameras are scattered across the map and act as the game’s collectibles. They’re not just simple pick up items either, there’s typically thugs near-by that need to be despatched of, and in the case of Security Cameras in particular, there’s a bit more work required, though nothing too strenuous. Once the area is clear the camera can be hacked with a little mini-game, and then back at Shen’s home away from home, you can walk up to the TV and view these cameras to spot dealers and target them for instant arrest.
The Definitive Edition contains a slew of DLC, most notably the single-player add-on Year of the Snake, which picks up after the conclusion of the main-story. Then there’s the rather unique horror-themed Nightmare in North Point, where Shen’s antics from the main-story come back to haunt him. Furthermore, there’s The Zodiac Tournament which adds an additional island and highlights Sleeping Dogs best trait, the melee combat, in a Bruce Lee inspired Enter the Dragon style tournament.
Sleeping Dogs was visually appealing last-generation with its unique Hong Kong, neon-filled setting, and post-GTA V it was the most detailed open-world game of its time. Fast forward to 2014 and to this Definitive Edition on the now current-generation, as you would expect it certainly impresses. The Hong Kong streets feel more lived-in with more pedestrians, but it’s the attention to detail and lighting effects that really impress. The game looks all the more impressive during the night, and (you guessed it) more so when it’s raining, thus causing the neon lights and car headlight reflections to scatter along the wet roads.
The game does take a slight performance hit to achieve its exceptionally impressive presentation, with some occasional dips in frame-rate that appear somewhat obtrusive during driving sections. A slight annoyance, but given the visual flair on offer perhaps a worthy trade-off, more irritating is the game’s occasional wonky camera during some close-quarters combat encounters.
For the most part, Sleeping Dogs is simply fun to play, it’s a rare-breed with its solid foul-mouthed cast delivering an exceptional undercover story, with its glorified gore complimenting its punching and kicking combat that leaves Shen gleefully dripping in blood.
If you’ve played Sleeping Dogs previously then there’s no real incentive to re-visit Hong Kong, unless of course if you missed out on the DLC first time round then it’s certainly worth playing, but aside from the hilariously unique Nightmare in North Point, it’s otherwise more of the same and rather a steep price to pay for what is inexpensive DLC.
Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition is ideally for those who missed out the first time round. The sleeper hit of 2012 is a game that must be played regardless of platform. If you pinned your hopes on Watch Dogs being the next big open-world game and you left Chicago relatively underwhelmed, go pop over to Hong Kong as you won’t regret it.
Score 8/10 – Review by Wayne Julian
Review code supplied by Team Xbox UK.