For those of you who don’t know (both of you), Sleeping Dogs used to be True Crime: Hong Kong. After it was dropped by Activision it was picked up by Square Enix and developers United Front Games and became Sleeping Dogs, the title that we were allowed a little hands-on time with late last week.
It is relatively easy to describe Sleeping Dogs in terms of other games out on the market at the moment. Whether cherry-picking elements from other titles was intention is uncertain but what is known is that, based on the Alpha code that was available at last Friday’s media event (held at Megarom’s offices), the combination is a positive thing. We saw hints of Assassin’s Creed in the chase sequence that was demonstrated though the crowded streets of Hong Kong, shades of Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham City in the hand-to-hand combat and bits of The Wheelman from the now-defunct Midway in the vehicular combat, all stuffed into a GTA open-world sandbox. With RPG elements.
While we got a decent overview of the story the details for that will be left out here. The bare bones of Sleeping Dogs is that players will become an undercover cop out to infiltrate the Triads. From what we’ve seen of the story, the experience as a whole will be as cinematic as the devs can make it, with more than a few nods in the direction of Hong Kong action films going into the presentation. Players will take the fight to enemies unarmed, with melee weapons and guns, the latter of which has an interesting cover mechanic.
Like most recent third-person action titles, players are able to take cover from enemy fire. What is unusual is an automatic slow motion sequence that triggers when players exit cover. This seems to be geared at keeping the player, and the action, moving forward constantly rather than adopting a defensive posture. This is also seen during vehicle combat, which sets the player’s current car to autopilot while they take pot-shots at enemies or their tyres.
Unarmed and melee weapon-based combat is set up to reward precision using a similar control scheme to the Arkham series of Batman games. This was unforgiving during the hands-on and repeatedly pressing buttons before a counter-attack indicator popped up over an enemy’s head almost always resulting the the flow of combat being interrupted. Keeping up the enemy damage while remaining untouched permits some interesting context-sensitive insta-kills, like shoving an enemy’s face though a circular saw.
Driving, movement and combat were all surprisingly complete for Alpha code, though the in-game textures for the inhabitants of the crowded Hong Kong setting definitely showed how far the code was from complete. The high crowd density makes for challenging chases but the devs have so far captured the look and feel of Hong Kong extremely well. The one impression that we left with was that there was going to be a fight in the office to review Sleeping Dogs when it releases on 17 August this year. It isn’t quite what we’d expect from something with True Crime roots. If anything, it is even better.
We’ve included a video of the gameplay that will give you an idea of what we saw (and played) last week.