Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition is a breath of fresh air. The original version of the game was great, but the Definitive Edition’s improvements make it even better. Sleeping Dogs uses the Grand Theft Auto open world formula but manages to introduce a host of novel story and gameplay concepts that secure its position as an outstanding game.
From the outset, Sleeping Dogs brings you into the world of Hong Kong crime syndicates. You play as Wei Shen, an undercover police officer who attempts to gain status in the Triads. The game tasks you with building your relationships by engaging in various missions in order to increase your rank for each respective side. You also have a “Face” rank which essentially boils down to street cred. The interplay between working for both sides is accented by strong combat mechanics, interesting characters, a gripping story, and well-executed structure.
The little touches often help make this game special. The game interjects native tongue expressions in just the right places to add a feel of authenticity to the story. You are often presented with devices that need to be hacked, and the hacking mini-games are reasonable and enjoyable, though it seems like a missed opportunity that they don’t evolve much through the campaign. The interface works extremely well, as choosing your mission and waypoint is a breeze. Combat mechanics are unique and rewarding.
Combat deserves extra attention, as this is one area of many that distinguishes this game from being yet another GTA clone. You learn martial arts moves as you progress through the story, and the combat system is similar to the Batman standard that now permeates so much of this genre. However, something about the fluidity and the setting make Sleeping Dog’s combat stay fresh throughout the game. You can also grapple with opponents and use environmental cues to finish them off, something which balances just the right level of serious and silly.
Driving around the streets of Hong Kong constitutes a large portion of the game, and thankfully the mechanics work beautifully. This is arcade-style driving to say the least, but what really counts is that it’s fun overall. There is a reasonable selection of fast cars, though it’s worth mentioning that it can be beneficial to pick the slow ride in order to take in the beauty of your surroundings. Driving also features a slamming feature where you can essentially ram a car on your side to damage it; this is ridiculous, but again it passes the fun test. Drifting works effortlessly as well.
While you’re driving, you’ll have the opportunity to listen to music, and wow does Sleeping Dogs feature some outstanding tunes. You’ll have lots of metal selections like tracks from Opeth, Dream Theater, and Devil Driver, and having these classic high quality scores makes a world of difference in making this feel like a real world experience as opposed to listening to some generic soundtrack of songs that feel like they were cooked up just for the purpose of the game. Of course, customized tracks makes sense for parts of the game, but not for driving around in your car; for that, the real deal makes all the difference.
The Definitive Edition of the game includes updates to visuals, not just in textures but also in an increased number of people, cars, and activities taking place around the city. This makes a big difference in adding to the element of immersion, which is one of the game’s key strengths. This edition also features all of the game’s DLC missions which help extend the experience.
All things considered, there are some issues with the game. Like many modern games, it features small text in many situations that is almost impossible to read without an especially large television. Many of the side quests devolve into boring fetch quests, or a chase that results from Wei Shen being unbelievably duped yet again by someone who asked for help. Occasionally your immersion is broken by wonky controls that become completely unresponsive, along with occasional glitches that trap you in a particular area. Some cutscenes contained no audio whatsoever despite characters clearly talking to one another. In some ways, this game feels like GTA in Hong Kong with a smaller budget; it’s simply not that polished in many regards, and it would have been reasonable to expect that these areas would have been improved upon in the definitive edition.
The most major reservation with Sleeping Dogs is that there isn’t enough of it. That’s not a complaint as much as it is a testament to the quality of the experience; the game featured plenty of content, but the main campaign was completed before the world had been completely explored. It’s amazing how much life the environments have even early in the game, as everything feels very authentic and cultural. Still, it’s easy to want even more: more streets to explore, more vendors to talk to, more stories to unfold. It was frustrating at times that the game only lets the main character slow to a jog, when the world deserves an option to walk slowly to be able to take in the beauty of your surroundings. Sleeping Dogs is a fantastic experience, and all fans of open world setting should give it a chance.