When I first picked up the controller to try Square Enix’s Sleeping Dogs demo, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew the game had once been known as True Crime: Hong Kong before Activision canceled it, but I've never been a fan of the True Crime games and nothing about the game really called out to my attention. Believe me when I say that this is a game to watch. I only got the smallest of tastes when I played Sleeping Dogs, but the representatives of the game literally had to shoo me away before I stopped playing.
To the best of my knowledge, there were two sections to the demo that players could try. One focused on the shooting and driving mechanics while another, the one I played, demonstrated the hand to hand combat and free running portions. The demo starts out with a short cutscene setting up the mission which I was unable to hear due to the available headphones breaking. The representatives were quick about replacing them, but by the time they were ready the scene had passed. All I knew was that I was supposed to meet some guy in the middle of a market so I set out. While the graphics aren’t the best I’ve ever seen, they certainly weren’t bad. Much more effort was put into the little details to give Hong Kong a personality as well as the movements of the NPCs. This aspect didn’t happen all the time but most would react realistically when I bumped into them. It was a nice effect especially when there were so many people on screen at the same time.
As I was getting close to this guy I was supposed to find, he spotted me and immediately began running away. My character gave chase and while it wasn’t the most thrilling of pursuits, it was more involved than many of the open world crime games I’ve experienced. We weaved through pedestrians, climbed over fruit stands and through apartments, and all the while the controls handled nicely and never held me up. The chase ended with him reaching a bunch of goons who all came at me. I wasn’t expecting much from the combat, but what I got was a system similar to the one in Rocksteady’s Batman games. The freeflow combat felt good with it feeling appropriately like a Hong Kong action movie. A counter system was in place as well where an exclamation point would appear above a bad guy’s head as he was about to strike. If I hit the counter button in time, I would punish him without breaking the flow.
The combat wasn’t exactly like Batman though as I could grapple with enemies as well. When I grabbed hold, objects in the area would begin to glow red. If I was able to bring them over (they struggled the entire time), I could finish them off in quite a few brutal ways. I could throw them down an air chute where they would humorously struggle to get free, toss them off a ledge, shove them into an electrical box where they’d be fried, or, most vicious of all, force their face into a fan unit as blood flew everywhere. The system was immensely satisfying, and I couldn't help but be sad when I finally ran out of goons. It wasn't long before I had taken down their boss as well.
An interrogation cutscene started which looks to use in-game graphics as all the hits I had taken were shown on my character’s face. After that, I was instructed to find someone else so I decided to grab a car. This is where the other demo would have begun and unfortunately I was asked to step aside for the next person in line before I got a taste of what driving was really like. From the little bit I played though, the controls felt very spot-on and not incredibly loose like so many other open world games.
While I didn't have the longest chance to try the game, Sleeping Dogs has the potential to be a sleeper hit. Everything I was able to play felt right and the city of Hong Kong should be an interesting one to explore. It was certainly the biggest surprise I came across at PAX East. With a release in August of this year, I have a feeling that Sleeping Dogs will earn a lot of attention with little else coming out around that time. I know I’ll be keeping an eye on it.
Developer: United Front Games
Genre: Shooter, Brawler, Action
Release: August 14, 2012
Available On: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
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