Sleeping Dogs hands-on impressions

When you look at it from a certain perspective, Square Enix’s upcoming Sleeping Dogs seems to offer something for everyone.  If you’re into shooting, that’s here.  If you’re into combat, that’s also here.  Even if you’ve got a thing for chases, whether on foot or with cars, that’s also present and accounted for.  In fact, it’s all so overloaded that you have to wonder why Activision dumped United Front Games’ project to begin with, back when it was known as a True Crime game.  But never mind that — you’ll soon be able to experience it for yourself when it comes out this August.  The publisher recently gave us a chance to go hands-on with it this past weekend at PAX East.

The game opens with a foot chase, where you chase after a conspirator with the help of an undercover cop, posing as a thug working his way up in the ranks for the mob.  This foot chase is quite inspiring, showing you the seedy underbelly of Hong Kong, with plenty of street vendors and startled folks that you run past as you keep your target in sight, even while you jump over rails and climb up to an additional level.  From that point, we found ourselves facing off against several of his conspirators, which is where the free-form combat comes into play.

Here, we’re introduced to a fighting system similar to the one Batman used in Arkham City last year, in which we can take on several thugs at once by facing in their direction, then fighting someone in another direction.  Furthermore, the defensive technique allows us to catch an enemy on an incoming attack and quickly counterstrike, leaving them on the ground.  You can also use the environment to your advantage, flinging an enemy over a railing or slamming their head — viciously, mind you — into a nearby air conditioning unit.  By the time we got to the final battle with the main thug, we had to block his incoming attacks and then go on the offensive, eventually leaving him a bloody mess by the time the cops come in.

New to this demo are the shooting segments, which make you feel like Chow Yun Fat from the John Woo classic Hard Boiled.  Here, you’ve got a smooth shooting engine, where several enemies come at you with guns.  You’ll have to maintain some cover to avoid taking too much damage, then do dives and other stylish moves similar to Max Payne — shooting at enemies with your weapons and eventually bringing them down.  There’s a lot of gusto in these sequences, as well as perfectly fitted controls that will have you hitting your targets with ease.  Considering the high amount of gangsters that stand in your way, you won’t have a shortage of stuff to shoot at.

Finally, there’s the racing sequence, where you’ll get in a souped up car and, with prosperity and your car on the line, you’ll need to make every turn count.  The driving feels great in this game, as you drive through checkpoints, ram into opponents’ cars and dodge objects in the environment.  This is an exciting part of the game, and hopefully there are more than enough driving missions to keep you satisfied, should that be your forte.

Thanks to Square Enix for giving us some updated time with Sleeping Dogs.  It’s looking more and more like an action epic each time we play it, and it should be a fun romp once the final release arrives this August.  Be sure to check back for the full review!