Article first published as Xbox 360 Review: Sleeping Dogs on Blogcritics.
Released two years after Grand Theft Auto III, True Crime: Streets of L.A. was a hit. The sandbox action game borrowed much from GTA but let players play on the other side of the law as an undercover police officer. Where Grand Theft Auto seems to favor the east coast of the U.S., Streets of L.A. recreated 240 square miles of the City of Angels. For the sequel, Activision took the franchise east to the Big Apple where much of the sheen wore off the franchise. A True Crime reboot was planned with Hong Kong as the setting until Activision shelved the idea. Luckily, the ambitious publisher, Square Enix bought the game but without the name and has now delivered Sleeping Dogs.
Still a Grand Theft Auto type game, Sleeping Dogs lets players take control of Wei Shen, an officer of the San Francisco Police Department, loaned to the Hong Kong Police Department. Because of his successes in San Francisco and personal history, the Hong Kong P.D. wants to use Wei to infiltrate the Triad gang, the Sun On Yee and help take them down. In the game, Hong Kong is divided into four fictional districts which are named after real areas and Wei must live a double life as a gangster and cop. Luckily each mission mostly requires Wei to be one or the other.
The high point of Sleeping Dogs is the hand to hand combat. Somewhere between the Assassin’s Creed and Batman games, the combat is dynamic and requires timed counters to be able to succeed. Good luck with just trying to punch everyone in the face. On the Xbox controller, the X button is both a light and heavy strike depending on the length of the button press. B is used to grapple foes which can then be run into environmental attacks like table saws, electric panels and air conditioning units. The Y button is used to counter an attacking enemy. Pressing it when you see an enemy light up will save you from getting punched or stabbed in the back of the head.
Sleeping Dogs does offer some gunplay a little further down the road, both on foot and while driving. The left trigger will allow Wei to aim and the right trigger shoots. The shooting portions of the game are pretty sparse though and though offering nothing new, I wished there was more. Speaking of driving, for a sandbox game, driving in Sleeping Dogs is a lot of fun. Of course you would expect that from the developer of Mod Nation Racers and the upcoming Little Big Planet Karting. If you’ve played Grand Theft Auto or the like, you can jack a car or bike and drive in Sleeping Dogs. The D-pad even lets you take your pick of local Hong Kong radio offerings.
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