LTTP Sleeping Dogs Xbox 360 Review

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I recently purchased Sleeping Dogs for Xbox 360 on sale at Amazon.com.  It had been quite a while since I’d played an open world game, and with talk of Grand Theft Auto V heating up, I figured this would be a good choice to bridge the gap and get me back into the genre.

Sleeping Dogs starts with the main character, Wei Chen, getting caught up in a drug deal gone wrong.  But when the police arrive on scene and you’re given control of the main character for the first time, your objective isn’t to predictably shoot your way out of the situation.  Instead, your character follows a friend as you hop fences, climb up walls, jump across ledges, and run though homes and shops, in a futile effort to get away.  I have to admit that I thought that this was pretty cool.  Right off the bat, the game’s developers were trying to tell the player that they were in for something that was probably a little different than their expectations.

The best way to describe Sleeping Dogs is that it’s a mash up of concepts that were, to be blunt, ripped off from some of the most popular games of this console generation.  The storyline, open world game play, driving controls, and rampant car thefts, take their queue from GTA.  The hand to hand combat situations are reminiscent of the recent Batman Arkham games.  The shootouts, which are a little less common than one would think, are similar to GTA while also using slow motion elements that remind the player of the bullet time feature from Max Payne.  And the illegal street racing makes you feel like it’s 2009 and you’re playing Midnight Club: Los Angeles.  I’m sure this seems like a lot of different concepts to bring to a single game.  And it is.  But despite the fact that Sleeping Dogs is the video game equivalent of the jock that copies the nerd’s homework in high school, the finished product is pretty unique and fun.

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THE GOOD

  • The Environment:  This game does a good job at giving you a feel for Hong Kong.  There is a highly detailed outdoor market your character visits during one of the earliest missions.  The music in the cars consists of Hong Kong versions of oldies, pop, and gangsta rap.  The people on the streets cuss you out in a foreign language when you bump into them.  You have to drive on the opposite side of the street.  And there are vendors along the streets trying to sell you hot tea, pork buns, and noodle bowls.
  • The Hand to Hand Combat: First, I’m glad the creators got this part right because it’s possibly the most important feature of the game.  The fighting starts off a little cumbersome but becomes more fun as the game goes on and your character is given access to more complex fight combinations.  Over the course of the game, it feels like your character goes from being Mac from It’s Always Sunny to being a Jackie Chan kung fu fighting badass.  There are also some interactive environmental items that can be taken advantage of during fights, such as dumpsters, electrical boxes, and phone booths, in addition to the weapons that become available.
  • The Side Missions:  To me, the side missions and distractions from the main story line can go a long way toward making or breaking an open world game.  The side missions on Sleeping Dogs are not only varied and entertaining, but many serve a greater purpose by helping increase your character’s combat skills and health.
  • The Humor:  There’s a mission in which your objective is to push a Heroin addicted mob boss over the edge by breaking into their house and messing up their feng shui.  In another mission, you’re tasked with taking a bride to be and her friend around town to run wedding errands.  The street vendors and massage therapists try to lure you in with comical one liners.  Your character is forced to sing karaoke.  In general, Sleeping Dogs does a good job at not taking itself too seriously.
  • The Last 25% of Missions:  Early in the game, the missions are usually pretty short and to the point.  There isn’t a lot of extra storytelling or twists, and your task is usually pretty simple and involves only 1 aspect of game play.  Starting with the wedding mission, the intensity of the game ratchets up a notch and you’re tasked with completing tasks that are more complex and combine different aspects of the game.  It took me about 2-3 weeks to finish this game, but I did the last 8 or so missions in 2 sittings, just because I didn’t want to put the controller down.  That’s saying a lot considering I’m a pretty casual gamer.

THE BAD

  • The Story:  This critique, admittedly, is a little nitpicky.  I mean, what can one really expect, story wise, out of a pulp noir open world game?  History says not much.  But my thought is this.  If a team of developers is going to get together and put a bunch of money into a game with the intention of competing directly with the GTA series, that team of developers should place a lot of focus on attacking GTA where it’s weak.  One of those weaknesses is usually the simplicity of the story line.  Instead of taking advantage of this opening, Sleeping Dogs takes the easy way out.  The story, though passable, was more of an afterthought than a focus, which is disappointing.
  • The Ending:  I’m not going to spoil anything, but the creators of Sleeping Dogs ended this game under the assumption that there would be a sequel.  That’s a bold move, to say the least, especially considering this game had the advertising budget of Children of the Corn 6.
  • The Run Time:  I almost finished this game to 100% completion, including side missions, in about 20 hours.  I definitely got my money’s worth, but it was a little short for an open world game.
  • Flawed Missions:  This is tough to explain and I’m going to try to keep it simple. The Drug Bust missions involve going to a known drug dealer hangout (alleyways, under bridges, etc) to beat up thugs, plant cameras, and bust the major dealer by IDing them.  Late in the game, the number of thugs goes up to 12+, but there are only 7 or 10 at the hangout at any given time.  As you defeat thugs, more come in from outside of the fight area, usually from behind you.  This poses a problem when the thugs have guns because you can’t see them coming and can’t use cover because you’re being shot from both directions.  It’s very frustrating and was the only side mission group that I didn’t finish to 100% completion.
  • Freezing/Glitches:  Like any open world game, Sleeping Dogs has its share of glitches.  I was able to walk through a couple of walls.  There were a few times when objects would flicker and disappear.  And over the course of the game, it froze and forced me to restart my system 4 times in about 20 hours of gameplay.

CONCLUSION

Overall, Sleeping Dogs was an entertaining game that kept my interest the whole way through.  The variety of missions and gameplay promoted a diverse gaming experience.     That said, the lack of a compelling storyline/ending and technical flaws prevented this game from standing out from the pack.  As long as your expectations aren’t too high, you should thoroughly enjoy this game.

Review Score: 7.25/10