Up Up Down Down: Sleeping Dogs
Sleeping Dogs is very easily one of the most underrated games to come along in recent memory. While not exactly a failure, there's no denying that the game could've and should've fared much better in terms of sales. Critically, Sleeping Dogs has been heralded as a great open world action-adventure game that, while not exactly delivering much new, is just a ton of fun to play.
On this edition of Up Up Down Down, we're going to take a look at everything that's awesome about this title from developer United Front Games and publisher Square Enix, as well a few things that stand out as particularly underwhelming.
Up Up: A protagonist you can care about
Niko Bellic from Grand Theft Auto 4. Your created character in Saints Row: The Third. The silent dude from Grand Theft Auto 3. Sometimes it's hard to really connect with main characters in open world crime games. Aside from the fact that they're doing a bunch of bad sh*t, they're not exactly relatable or interesting. That's not the case in Sleeping Dogs, which stars a protagonist that forms several bonds and legitimately has a conscience. Wei Shen is more than just an undercover cop posing as a Triad — he's a guy with a back story, and the decisions he makes along the way help shape who he is and how we see him.
Down Down: Killing innocent people creates a disconnect
Of course, it's hard to believe that a character who's supposed to be a good guy can just run down an innocent pedestrian with no repercussions. It's understandable that Sleeping Dogs gives you the freedom to run rampant if you so choose, and I seriously can't think of a workaround, but come on, if you're mercilessly killing people in cold blood, it's hard to see this dude as anything more than a crooked cop. When I played Sleeping Dogs, I did my best to avoid killing anyone who wasn't an enemy, and when I ran over those two or three innocent people while speeding on the mean streets of Hong Kong in a stolen vehicle, I felt absolutely terrible about it.
Up Up: Melee combat is a blast
One of the best gameplay mechanics in Sleeping Dogs is undoubtedly the melee combat. Every punch, kick, and grapple is so fluid and precise that you feel like an absolute badass as you take on gangs of enemies. The counters are equally satisfying and never feel cheap due to their timing-based nature. Later in the game you can unlock new abilities, and seeing Wei pull off a number of truly cringe-worthy moves is just really damn cool.
Down Down: Sometimes you have to use guns
It's not all fists, boots, clubs, and knives, though. Sleeping Dogs puts you in multiple situations where you need to equip some heavy firepower. Let me get one thing straight: The guns in this game all work really well, and this form of combat has its perks, too. That said, I can't help but feel that the sheer dominance and utter brutality that the hand-to-hand brawling entails makes shooting at bad guys a bit less desirable. Hell, taking the fight to a guy who's trying to shoot you with your bare hands far outshines hiding behind a crate and popping one in his head.
Up Up: Damn good gameplay
If you take apart all of the gameplay elements in Sleeping Dogs, you definitely see that this game is worthy of praise. Everything about it — from the brawling to the driving (and yes, even the shooting) — is refreshingly solid. While melee combat stands out the most, you'd be hard-pressed to really find something to gripe about as far as the rest of the gameplay mechanics are concerned.
Down Down: Nothing really new for the genre
Despite the fact that the entire package is absolutely delightful, Sleeping Dogs is hardly progressive. Maybe that's why it didn't do so well in terms of sales. Simply put, there's nothing all that original here. Yes, the characters and story are good. Sure, the combat is ridiculously satisfying. And yeah, this is just a really great game. Ultimately, however, it doesn't take the open world action-adventure genre in any new directions. That's not exactly a bad thing, but it's clearly enough to make people overlook the product.
Up Up: Fun side missions
A lot of the side missions in Sleeping Dogs require you to engage in combat, drive getaway vehicles, and hop from your car to another to hijack a highly desired ride. Engaging in these extracurricular activities never gets old because most of the extra things to do in Sleeping Dogs focus on some of the best aspects of the game. Of course, if you're into illegal street racing, you can do that too, and, as we've already established, the driving mechanics are really good.
Down Down: Girlfriend missions aren't all that special
You can date girls in Sleeping Dogs, but unfortunately, these side missions are merely neat ideas that aren't executed all that well. Sure, the actual dates feature some cool little side activities, and seeing Wei put the moves on a bunch of different ladies is pretty interesting. Still, when you realize that these optional objectives aren't fully realized, you can't help but think that there could've been a much more robust dating mechanic. Granted, I'm not one for dating sims, but it would certainly be awesome seeing Wei take these women out on multiple dates all the while juggling his life as an undercover cop and Triad member.
Left Right Left Right: Sleeping Dogs is undeniably a game you should play
If you've never played Sleeping Dogs before, you really need to fix that. Simply put, this is one of those games that's just a hell of a lot of fun to play, and the story and characters are pretty cool, too. You could make the argument that this title doesn't introduce anything novel to a long-running genre, but then again, it's such a well-crafted game that it doesn't need to. Even despite a small number of flaws, Sleeping Dogs is one of those games that's just begging to be played.
Oh, and if you're an indie rock fan, you'll be glad to know that this game has some of the more obscure bands like Mount Washington and Ladyhawke, which is just too rad. About damn time some of these bands made it into a video game radio station!
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