In our first TPG Examinations piece, Armaan talks about his time with Sleeping Dogs using an interview style Q&A.
What is Sleeping Dogs?
Sleeping Dogs is an open-world action game similar to Grand Theft Auto and Saint’s Row. You play as Wei Shen, a Chinese-American cop who moves to Hong Kong in order to infiltrate and eliminate a triad gang called the Sun On Ye. The story is typical undercover cop stuff: there’s lots of talk about criminal fraternity, criminal regret, going “too deep,” and “becoming attached.” Basically, if you watch a lot of police/crime drama, you’ll know what to expect.
How does Sleeping Dogs compare to other open world games?
Unlike GTA or Saint’s Row, Sleeping Dogs is set in a real city, and to me, feels much more immersive as a result. Also, the exotic nature of Hong Kong creates a feeling of otherness that I found very appealing compared to the typical American-style cities featured in the aforementioned titles. While playing, there’s a distinct feeling of being an outsider in a strange land. That goes away over time, however, which nicely mirrors the emotional curve that moving to a foreign city entails in real life.
What is a typical mission like?
Every mission starts with a briefing. Story missions will have a full cutscene that lays out what’s happening. Once you’ve been briefed, you’ll travel to a waypoint, do something, and then you’ll get a reward of some sort to close it out. Some missions require going to multiple waypoints, and most of the time the “something” that you need to do is punch Asian dudes in the face.
Does that mean the action centers around melee-based combat?
The majority of gameplay is focused around movie style fist fights against multiple opponents. Picture the combat in Batman: Arkham City or Assassin’s Creed to get an idea of how it works. Combat is generally a matter of mashing X (or the left mouse button) over and over again, while occasionally pressing Y (or the right mouse button) to counter an enemy attack. You can also grab some enemies and perform environmental attacks—throwing them into phone-booths and dumpsters, for example—to earn bonus experience points.
How hard is Sleeping Dogs?
There’s no difficulty setting, and is pretty easy overall. I died a few times early on, but once I got a hang of the combat system, I sailed through the game with ease. Melee combat is very much a “press X to win” situation, which may turn off some gamers, but I personally love winning.
You mentioned experience points. How does that work?
There are three types of experience points: police, triad, and face. You gain police XP by performing police-oriented missions like drug busts and special investigations that pop up during the story. Triad XP is achieved by completing the main story missions. Finally, Face XP is acquired by performing side-quests. These points are used to unlock various perks and abilities. Police abilities center around gunplay, letting you do things like slow down time while shooting, get weapons from police cars, and increase gun damage. Triad abilities focus on improving your performance in melee. Face abilities confer various random perks, such as the ability to have a vehicle delivered to you, wherever you are.
Is it possible to finish the game without getting all the points/abilities?
Yes. I had no problem maxing out the Face and Police abilities long before the game ended, but I only got part-way past triad level 9 (10 is the highest level you can reach). Since you can only get Triad XP by completing story missions, there’s no way for me to max out my triad rating. Not that I need it. I’m pretty certain you can complete the game beginning to end without leveling up at all.
Are there any guns in the game?
Not in the first few hours. The beginning of the game is gloriously gun-free, and much better because of it. As the game progresses, guns become more and more prominent with the last few missions being composed of protracted firefights. The gunplay is the weakest part of the game. It’s hard to aim accurately and enemies are pretty much bullet sponges. It takes over a half-dozen bullets to put one guy down, and that was after I unlocked the extra bullet damage perk. There was one point where I shot an enemy right in the eye—I could tell because blood appeared on his face right where I hit him—and he remained standing.
So headshots don’t count?
Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. That was another frustrating aspect of the gunplay.
Most open-world games feature a ton of hidden collectibles to find. Is that the case in Sleeping Dogs as well?
Yes. There are lock boxes, health shrines, and jade statues hidden about the world. Lock boxes contain either money, clothing items, or weapons. Health shrines will permanently increase your maximum health. Jade statues can be traded in to unlock new combat moves. Oh, and there are security cameras to hack as well, but those don’t provide any benefit.
These items are relatively well hidden, but there are side quests that, once completed, will cause them all to be displayed on the map. Compared to GTA, where the hidden items stay hidden for the entire game, 100-percenting Sleeping Dogs is much easier.
Speaking of side quests, that’s another staple of the genre. What kinds of missions are there?
I’ve already mentioned the drug busts, but you can also participate in street races, gamble, bet on cock fights, perform favors for people, and engage in martial-arts tournaments.
Races are what you’d expect. You pick one of the cars you own (you can only race with specific vehicles) and try to get from A to B before everyone else does. What’s interesting here is that you can actually knock other cars out of the race by ramming them, which is a great tactic for winning. The cars are quite easy to control as well. They stick to the road and take corners much better than the ones in GTA. It doesn’t feel realistic, but it’s much more fun. My only problem with the racing is that there are too few of them to play.
Gambling sees you playing “Poker Mahjongg,” which is actually video poker. I have always enjoyed video poker, so I loved this minigame a lot.
Cock fights are the weakest diversion. You pick which of the two animals you think is going to win and place a bet. Then you watch them stumble around until one collapses out of what appears to be boredom. If you chose right, you get money; if not, you don’t.
The martial arts tournaments are fight-club-style battles that put you through six rounds of combat against ever-increasing numbers of foes. They aren’t particularly hard since, as I’ve said before, combat is very easy, but is a good way to practice and gain face XP if you need it.
Favors are my favorite part of the game because they feature some of the most creative mission premises. Basically, you help random characters out of jams, and get rewarded with face XP for it. Those jams could be anything from simple delivery jobs, to evading police officers, to teaching bad guys a lesson. I can’t really explain why I love doing Favors the most, but it’s probably because they’re light-hearted and interesting.
Finally, there are “open world events,” which are Favors that randomly appear on your minimap from time to time. Of these, I’ve only encountered two types: one where you have to drag a drunk away from a shop, and the other where you need to chase down a thief. Neither were particularly interesting, but I supposed they provide something to do if you’re bored. Oh, and you can also steal cars and hijack trucks for extra cash as well. I think that covers all the extra-curriculars in the game.
Let’s talk about some technical details. How is game performance?
Surprisingly, the game was very playable at 2560×1440 resolution, with an average framerate of 26 FPS at Medium graphics setting. I dropped the resolution to 1280×720 and got more or less 60 frames throughout, with the occasional dip to 50 depending on the situation. I played the majority of the game with the default textures, but I did download the free high-resolution texture pack to check it out. The game it ran with no performance hit, but I didn’t notice a difference in visual quality, That could be because I was playing at a relatively low resolution, however.
How are the controls?
I played primarily with the Xbox Controller and, as is the case with most cross-platform games, that feels like the ideal control method. Playing with the keyboard/mouse presented some issues with the default bindings. Sprinting, for example, is bound to the spacebar instead of the standard left-shift, but that makes sense since there is a free-running aspect to the game where you have to release and press the sprint key to jump over obstacles without losing momentum. Getting into a vehicle requires a right-click, which is weird and unintuitive, and there’s no on-screen prompt to show this (every other command has an on-screen prompt to remind you). Finally, the key to ram vehicles is bound to left control, which I found hard to hit, especially since you need to press it simultaneously with a direction key (i.e. WASD) to perform a ram.
All of these can be rebound to your liking but, strangely, some commands cannot. Holstering your weapon is permabound to the down cursor arrow, and bringing up your cell-phone is permabound to the up arrow. This isn’t a big deal, but a strange oversight nonetheless.
In conclusion, is Sleeping Dogs worth the money?
Sleeping Dogs is priced at $40, and I do feel that it is worth the money. The real-world setting of Hong Kong is unique and interesting. You are given feelings of otherness that make the game appealing to explore as opposed to other fictional open world cities. The story is interesting, if predictable. Most importantly, it was fun to play. I had a hard time walking away from it at the end of the night.