Sleeping Dogs takes a rare gamble for a mainstream game – it displaces its action from America (or at least a quasi-American intergalactic set-up) to Asia.
This, it turns out, is pretty much its only gamble. It sees you take the role of an undercover cop called Wei Shen as he infiltrates the grimy criminal underworld of Hong Kong. In both presentation and gameplay, it never strays far from the template laid down by Grand Theft Auto, right down to the idiosyncratic details that make Rockstar’s franchise so endlessly playable (push past people in the street and they will respond with lines like: “I hope my dead grandmother comes back to haunt you!”). All the familiar gameplay mechanics are present and correct, from the mini-map displaying your missions to the ability to march up to a parked car, elbow your way in and tear off.
Where it differs slightly is the combat, which relies more on martial arts than uzis and rocket-launchers. The free-flowing fights take a leaf out of Batman: Arkham City and include John Woo-style slo-mo scenes that allow you to take down several enemies before they see you coming.
In a world without GTA IV and its various imitators, five stars wouldn’t be enough for Sleeping Dogs. As it is, it’s a solid, well built sandbox crime thriller, albeit one that feels far too familiar.
First published in City A.M.