by Nataniel Hohl
previewed on PC
Can’t Keep A Good Dog Down
It’s been a long and bumpy road for fans of Activision’s True Crime series. After several delays, cancellations, and publisher swaps, many were left wondering if the series’ third entry, once known simply as True Crime and a bit later on as True Crime: Hong Kong, would ever actually see the light of day. Fortunately, thanks to the joint efforts of new publisher Square Enix and developer United Front Games, the newly dubbed Sleeping Dogs will be making its way to consoles and PC this August.
The Holy Trinity Redefined
Past True Crime games were best known for their open-world environments and gameplay that featured a blend of driving, shooting, and hand to hand combat sequences, and Sleeping Dogs is not going to be straying from that formula. Players will step into the shoes of undercover detective Wei Shen of the Hong Kong police as he works to infiltrate a branch of the infamous Triad organization known as Sun On Yee. Shen will have to walk a perilous line between proving himself to his new criminal friends and remaining true to his mission as he delves deeper and deeper into the Triad underworld.
Players will be able to explore the entirety of Hong Kong both on-foot and in a multitude of vehicles, including cars and motorcycles, as they progress through the game’s story and participate in a variety of side activities such as street races. While Sleeping Dogs will feature tense shooting sequences, the majority of the game’s combat will focus on brutal hand to hand fights that often pit Shen against multiple opponents at once.
Much like the “freeflow” combat system of Rocksteady’s Arkham Asylum/City games, hand to hand combat in Sleeping Dogs will allow Shen to utilize a flowing strike/counter system to punish his adversaries with powerful martial arts attacks. Shen will also be able to use the environment to his advantage; early demo videos of the game featured Shen throwing opponents off of rooftops, slamming them into dumpsters, and even shoving their faces into air conditioners.
United Front Games also stressed early on that they wanted the action to feel more seamless not only in the hand to hand fighting but in every aspect of gameplay. They highlighted some early demo missions, one in which Shen would transition quickly yet smoothly from chasing an adversary on foot through winding streets to a cramped hand to hand showdown with his target and a couple of his buddies up on a rooftop. Another sequence had Shen engaging several rival Triad members in a gunfight in the middle of a crowded restaurant before pursuing them outside and hopping into a car for a thrilling car-chase.
Moving Up The Ladder
Progress in Sleeping Dogs consist of far more than just completing missions and advancing the plot. As players guide Shen through the streets of Hong Kong and complete missions and side-tasks, they’ll earn three different kinds of XP, each corresponding to different elements of the game’s story. Triad XP will unlock new Triad-based equipment and hand to hand abilities while Police XP will allow Shen to learn advanced driving techniques and use police-based weaponry. And lastly, Face XP will increase Shen’s street cred, allowing him to meet increasingly important figures within the Sun On Yee organization and gain access to new missions and tasks. Players will also be able to purchase new outfits for Shen, some giving bonuses to certain types of XP earned.
United Front Games has also promised that Sleeping Dogs will feature online leaderboards and stat-tracking so players can compare their best mission scores and combat performances against those of their friends. Sadly the game will not feature any sort of multiplayer component but United Front Games is hoping that the inclusion of leaderboards and stat-tracking will still allow the game to feel social despite its single-player focus as they are still aiming to deliver an epic, action-packed, and non-linear open-world experience that old fans and newcomers alike can enjoy.
True To Its Word
Despite the rocky journey it took to get here, Sleeping Dogs is already shaping up to be a groundbreaking return for the True Crime series. With movement and chase sequences that have already been compared to those of Assassin’s Creed, cinematic slow-mo gunfights that bear the hallmarks of the Max Payne series, Need For Speed-inspired driving, and simple yet brutally satisfying hand to hand combat that takes a page right out of the Arkham City handbook, United Front Games and Square Enix have met the tall order of the True Crime namesake head on and I for one could not be more excited for the final product come August.