Have you ever played a game that's perhaps a little flawed, but you just don't care. Maybe its storyline is predictable, or there are plot holes, but it doesn't matter. You're just enjoying it anyway, and perhaps even having a blast.
That's me with Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition.
Part of my affinity with the game is the fact that I just love Hong Kong action movies – especially ones involving cops. I grew up on the Jackie Chan Supercop series, and of John Woo classics such as The Killer and Hard Boiled. The latter pair are up there amongst my all-time favorite movies, while newer flicks like Internal Affairs and Firestorm have ensured my love affair with this genre has endured to the present day.
I wanted to make all that clear so you'd know exactly why I'm thoroughly enjoying Sleeping Dogs' clichéd story of a Chinese-American cop going undercover to infiltrate the Hong Kong Triad. Yes, it's a little contrived, but to me Sleeping Dogs is spot-on. It's playing out like a 90's Hong Kong cop movie, and it's ticking all the right boxes.
What I'm particularly enjoying is the dialog, whose half-Cantonese, half gangster banter is really entertaining to listen to. I'm learning all sorts of top-drawer Cantonese swears too, which is the icing on the cake. The voice acting is excellent, particularly the protagonist Wei Shen, who's played perfectly by True Blood's Kazuo Ryuichi. His sarcasm-laced, tough guy rhetoric, and bone-dry delivery works perfectly here, and adds humor in the right places.
The supporting cast is similarly effective, and there are some really interesting characters to meet and talk to. I found myself enjoying the game's overall storyline and repartee more than I did Grand Theft Auto V.
Being an open world game, there are obvious parallels to Rockstar's series, but there are more than enough original aspects imbued into the game to make it stand on its own two feet. Firstly, it plays like an odd cross between Shenmue, Final Fight, and GTA V. Guns and ammo don't figure particularly strongly in the game, and it's so much the better for it. Instead you constantly find yourself fighting groups of people – something that's frankly a lot more challenging than shooting people in the head.
Wei starts out as a fairly capable brawler, and learns new skills as he levels up. It's an effective way of keeping the fighting interesting, and the deeper you get into the game, the more canny you have to be with your bag of tricks. Especially in some of the showpiece fights, where you have a seemingly endless parade of bad guys to punch, kick, throw off buildings, slam into telephone boxes, or electric junction boxes, or even air conditioning units. Yep. In Sleeping Dogs, there are many ways to dispatch enemies, and much of the fun involves dynamically figuring out what landscape assets you can use - and when you should use them.
Sleeping Dogs is very well designed. Its version of Hong Kong is a bright and colorful place to spend time, and offers a host of activities to keep you entertained, and hides a ton of different things to collect. While I did run into a few glitches, such as hitting a K-car head on in my minibus, and watching, amazed as zoomed back down the road as if it were a football, and there are some questionable animations on the ambient population, generally speaking, Sleeping Dogs is solid. Missions are well put together, the storyline offers a great platform for a variety of different gameplay styles and challenges, and the characters and their situations are very engaging.
Since this is the Definitive Edition of Sleeping Dogs, there's a load of content to keep you busy. "Year of the Snake" and "Nightmare in North Point" both extend the game significantly, and there are 22 other pieces of bonus content to further flesh out the package.
Which, at $60, it most certainly needs. To be blunt, I think Sleeping Dogs is rather overpriced. I get that work has gone into overhauling the graphics and tech, and the end result is highly impressive, but even so. This is an older game, and I feel it's hard to justify that price when the PC version – basically the same game – costs half as much.
Cost aside, Sleeping Dogs offers a living, breathing Hong Kong that is a vibrant sandbox filled with fun and games. My advice is to wait until after the holidays, and pick this up in the post-Xmas sales. At half the price, I think it's a great buy.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started this game, and playing through it has been a real joy for me. Like I said at the beginning, even though it might not be as polished as GTA, Sleeping Dogs is nevertheless compelling and filled with interesting things to see and do. Try it. You might find yourself as surprised as I am.
The cast looks great, and the city of Hong Kong is bright, colorful and beautifully detailed.
The musical selection is all over the place, and most of it is a real surprise - in a good way. The voice acting is top-tier.
Thoughtfully presented, and gets the player up to speed very nicely.
The main game offers a smorgasbord of things to do, and there's also a ton of additional content to go with it.
Although it's slightly rough around the edges, and packs the occasional bug, Sleeping Dogs is nevertheless a gripping and thoroughly entertaining Hong Kong action movie in game form.