Sleeping Dogs First Impressions Review

With Square Enix now at the helm, our hands-on time with Sleeping Dogs was full of pleasant surprises.


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When Square Enix picked up the publishing rights to Activision's True Crime: Hong Kong, the news was met with a mixture of disappointment, fear, skepticism, and hope from fans of the series. Now renamed Sleeping Dogs, Square's take on the series seems to be a loyal spiritual successor with plenty of potential.

During our time with the game, we were able to get our hands on the hand-to-hand combat and parkour-esque chase sequences. We also watched a demo that showed off the bullet-time gunplay and the tried-and-true hanging-out-a-car-window-while-you-shoot-pursuing-vehicles-and-make-them-explode sequence.

While we didn't get to try the latter for ourselves, it seems like the bullet-time gunplay mechanic is handled well; you still have to aim in real time (no sticky aim lock) and the game rewards you with longer slow-down sequences if you perform well, making headshots and killing enemies. The car chase sequences, however, seemed like nothing special, borrowing from GTA, Saint's Row, and a dozen other sandbox crime games. Of course, with any driving sequence, it's all about handling and controls, so we'll have to reserve our judgment until we get our hands on a playable demo of the driving.

In car chases and gunfights alike, the game employs a Bullet Storm-like points system, where you're rewarded for certain feats and unable to unlock extra weapons, armor, and abilities.

What stood out during our hands-on demo was the fluidity of the melee combat, which is traditionally a weak spot of this genre. Sleeping Dogs employs a mixture of reactive and context sensitive fighting mechanics. The freeflow style is very similar to the excellent combat mechanics of Batman: Arkham Asylum and its successor. You can attack, counter, and grab with impressive responsiveness, which allows the player to strategically use parts of the environment or careful timing to activate short animations and finish off enemies. While the combat isn't quite as organic as what we saw in, say, Yakuza, it's more versatile and certainly a huge leap forward from anything we've experienced in Grand Theft Auto or its many clones.

Our experience with the parkour-style platforming was slightly less impressive, though still ahead of its competition. You can run, climb, and leap through the environment, but the effect is slightly less fluid than the Assassin's Creed platforming that has left us completely spoiled.

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All in all, we were pleasantly surprised by what we saw at E3 and look forward to seeing more from Sleeping Dogs. It's an ambitious and lovingly produced game that has us wondering why Activision ever let it go—and perhaps grateful that they did.

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