Sleeping Dogs (Xbox360)

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I have always wondered at the effect that undercover police work has on a person. The person is essentially a good person who is trying to achieve the end result of putting the bad guys behind bars. And, of course, the bad guys that he or she is after are the senior members of the organisation. Due to this hunt for the senior members, the agent is expected to live, work and socialise with some downright nasty people.

Additionally, the agent is also expected to prove themselves to their criminal colleagues by doing some pretty questionable deeds. These deeds, however, are often in total contrast to their nature, and yet they do it to allay suspicion and also to progress in the organisation to a point where they can associate with the more senior personnel within that organisation. The agent is supposed to act without hesitation and commit acts of extortion, assault, violence, and even murder.

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The psychological impact that this must have on a person must be truly incredible. At which point is something just simply too much? Where do you draw the line? What prevents you from going just too far and becoming one with the dark side (as our little green friend puts it)? There is also the danger of the agent starting to like (or to sympathise with) the very same people they are supposed to bring to justice. These are all questions that confront Wei Shen, the main character in Sleeping Dogs.

Wei Shen is a Chinese-American police officer that works for the San Francisco Police Department. Originally from the rougher parts of Hong Kong, he is sent to the Hong Kong Police Department to go deep undercover to bring justice to some of the most violent Triad members in the city. Due to his past and his past associations, Wei Shen earns an introduction to the Sun On Yee Triad and begins his work with them.

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The development and production of Sleeping Dogs is quite a long story. It was originally supposed to be the third instalment of the True Crime franchise but, due to several factors, it was canned by Activision and then eventually picked up by Square Enix, got a name change and was released as Sleeping Dogs. I for one am extremely grateful that it was picked up again because I think it is a truly fantastic game that deserves a lot of attention.

Due to the game changing hands, however, there were a lot of different developers involved. These developers have all worked on other games and this is evident in the game. The open world and gameplay feels a lot like Grand Theft Auto, the driving sequences feel a lot like Need for Speed and, I am told, the fighting sequences resemble the style of Batman: Arkam City. This doesn’t bother me at all, but I do think that some people will have something to say about this being a copy of other games. Fortunately, I am generally not swayed by the negative opinions of others so I am able to sit down and REALLY enjoy my interaction with some Sleeping Dogs.

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Sleeping Dogs is essentially an open world adventure game that allows Wei Shen to explore a fictional version of the city of Hong Kong. The open world environment means that Wei Shen can drive around the city on a motorbike, in a car or using various other means of transport and explore the four islands that make up the playing world. The vehicles Wei Shen uses can either be ones that he owns or he can cross the line and steal or hijack any vehicle he comes across.

There are quite a few things that Wei Shen can do whilst in the open world that does not affect the progress of the game. These include participating in street races, singing karaoke, entering fight clubs and betting on cock fights. These are all illegal events (even the karaoke – just wait until Wei Shen sings) but something that can earn cash and Face Experience (street cred).

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Speaking of experience, this is where the role-playing aspect of Sleeping Dogs comes into force. During the game Wei Shen earns three different kinds of experience. The first two are Triad and Police XP, which are earned while doing various things for either the Triad or the Police, and effectively measure the way Wei Shen’s loyalties are drifting. The third experience is called Face XP and measures how non-playable characters react to you on the street. There is also the opportunity to buy clothing and accessories for yourself and your apartment, and you can only buy certain items at a high Face value.

Whilst Sleeping Dogs is open world, you have to complete various tasks and assignments throughout the game to progress. The assignments given to you by the Triad (your first introduction is to Winston Chu – a Red Pole in the Sun On Yee) are generally criminals activities that Wei Shen has to complete. These tasks may include killing various nefarious bad guys, which obviously goes against the true nature of Wei Shen but it is something that needs to be done if Wei Shen is to bring down the Triad organisation.

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The police assignments include bringing various bad guys to justice. In these tasks Wei Shen works with Inspector Jane Teng and completes tasks that are not associated with the activities of the Triad. These are mostly drug related criminals that need to be brought to justice.

In addition to the police missions and the Triad missions, there are quite a few side missions such as the street races, karaoke and fight clubs that I mentioned earlier. There are also ways to earn money – at various points in the game you meet individuals who offer other side missions. Once you have met them you are able to contact them using your cell phone, and they give you missions such as stealing a car or hunting someone down that owes them money. These missions (whilst not critical to the game) are quite fun and they can earn you quite a bit of money. Money is important if you want to buy things like food and drink (which improve your abilities to inflict damage, regenerate and so forth). You can also buy some pretty cool clothing and some nice new items for your apartment.

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Throughout the game you have access to your personal vehicles. You start off with a small motorcycle but, as the game progresses, you can buy some very nice vehicles to add to your collection. Also, as your face value increases, you earn an auto valet that will bring you a vehicle wherever you are in the city.

So, all in all, you are a good guy in a bad world, just trying to survive.

I thoroughly enjoyed playing Sleeping Dogs and I found the movement and controls of the characters very natural. The movements, including walking, running, jumping and sprinting, are all easy to master and the fighting style is also exceptional. The fighting is proper Kung Fu (purists may disagree but I call it Kung Fu). There are simple moves like punching, kicking, blocking and countering, and your moves develop as the game progresses. I stick to the basics of fighting because I find the controls get a bit complex.

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The more serious moves involve things like X, X, hold X, B, A which are just too complex for me. This is, however, a personal view and I know many people that like the fighting complexity. There are some moves which are fun and I made a point of learning. These include grappling a character and then ‘breaking’ their leg, sweeping the leg of the opponent and using the environment to help you bring him down.

Whilst I really enjoyed Sleeping Dogs, I am really hoping that the game doesn’t join the ranks of those games that are supposed to cause teenagers to become mindless killing machines in real life (like Counter Strike, Modern Warfare, Grand Theft Auto etc.). Please note the sarcasm! However, there is a simple way to avoid this – don’t let teenagers or children play age inappropriate games!

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The game is rated 18 for a reason and it is up to responsible gamers like us to ensure that no one under the age of 18 plays the game. This is starting to become a personal issue for me, especially when I saw a na