You probably don’t remember what the last True Crime game looked like, but the quality of Sleeping Dogs, a game built with some of the scraps of True Crime, made me feel like Developer United Front’s latest project came out of nowhere.
Sleeping Dogs follows the story of an undercover cop as he tries to destroy a Hong Kong Yakuza gang from the inside. From the looks of the trailer and gameplay that we saw before we got our hands on the game, it looks like the cop is having doubts about where his allegiances lie.
I started my playthrough by walking around the game’s open world and bumping into annoyed pedestrians while I was figuring out how to walk, run, climb, and beat people up. Well, that last bit happened by accident. The controls felt a little clunky at first, but I never felt like I was outright being hindered by the way the movement felt, and that’s probably because of how good the game feels during combat.
Melee combat was introduced after a long parkour sequence where I was vaulting over walls and jumping off roofs into scaffolding with a few taps of the X button. Dealing with a crowd of enemies was easy with a bit of concentration and some similarities to Batman: Arkham Asylum. One button wails away on enemies with punches and, when the enemy glows red, you can counter punches and kicks with some sickening bone crunching counters and flips. I soon learned that I could also work grabs into my counters, which then highlights parts of the environment so you can slam people’s faces into tables and ventilation fans. The last enemy of the first group I fought was thrown into a dumpster as the lid closed on him; it was pretty slick when that closed dumpster opened up a new path for me to clamber up to chase after the gangster I was trying to take down.
I didn’t get to try out the shooting or the driving sections, but the former definitely showed it’s John Woo and Stranglehold influences. The developer playing the demo slid down bannisters and across tables as he fired an assault rifle one handed in slow motion, all to the tune of the muffle cracks of gunfire and the shattering glass of the bottles in the bar.
Come to think of it, not even the developers showed much of what they called a fantastic driving engine. What I did see was the player leaning out of the passenger window of a car to shoot motorbike and sport car-toting gangsters, all while the driver was arguing with the main character and emphatically waving his arms around. It seemed like it was easier to aim at the tires of pursuing cars than the drivers themselves, as a few bullets to the tire sent cars flipping over in slow motion, drivers flying out of windows like ragdolls.
Sleeping Dogs wears its Saints Row and Stranglehold influences on its sleeve, and what I’ve seen of the game so far is such an impressive surprise that I definitely want to see more. For all I know, the driving could be terrible and the open world could be full of NPCs and devoid of meaningful content, but everything I played delivered on the promises of its advertisements as a brutal open world action game. We’ll have more info closer to the launch of Sleeping Dogs on August 14, 2012.