Okay, first, before I say anything more about this game, go directly to Youtube and watch the announcement trailer. Really, I’ll wait.
See that? Yeah. I’m excited too.
Sleeping Dogs was, once-upon-a-time, the third True Crime game, set it Hong Kong, and was summarily executed by Activision because they didn’t think it was good enough to spend money finishing it. Square Enix got ahold of the rights, gave it to Unified Front to develop, and cut to three years later – holy cripes, this! What I’m hoping, and what all of the hands-on preview reports seem to confirm, is that Sleeping Dogs is the bullet-ridden hero-corpse that rises unexpectedly in the third act, and proceeds to pummel its one-time detractors into a paste suitable for filling dim sum dumplings.
Going by the preview footage, “Sleeping Dogs” is the game to play if you’ve ever felt like being the protagonist in a John Woo movie. Remember Tony in Hard Boiled? The main character, Wei Shen, look cut along the same lines – undercover cop, bad-ass fighter, gaining the trust of the Triads by leaving a trail of bodies thick enough to clog Hong Kong Bay. If you haven’t watched the preview trailer, really go do it now. If you’re not totally pumped to play this game after that, well, why don’t you go diu nei lou mou! Seriously.
Of course, this might be premature, as there (ahem) isn’t actually any game footage in the trailer. As you advance through the game’s plot missions, you’ll unlock cinematic cut-scenes that I hope to god are half as impressive as the one you just watched. You do get a clue, though, about two things that are supposedly central to the play style of Sleeping Dogs. One of these would be the adrenaline-overcharged brutality of the combat. When you target an enemy, the game will conveniently highlight available surfaces – balcony railing, sharp table edge, air-conditioning unit – that you can introduce a vulnerable aspect of your foe’s anatomy to with brutal speed and force. They say in open-world games – and claims are being made this is one of the open-worldiest yet, with the plot missions being one essentially optional facet of a hugely organic environment – that the setting is the real main character, and you will apparently get to know Hong Kong very intimately. Not just for it’s back-alley bars and cluttered foodstalls, but for all the many contrivances of modern construction that can be used to efficiently beat an enemy senseless, should you happen to be a kung-fu expert out for blood.
Square Enix was previously involved in developing the combat system for Batman: Arkham Asylum, and the interface for Sleeping Dogs will apparently take a few queues from this. When Wei Shen is about to be attacked, the game will alert you by popping up a big old warning sign and automatically switching to a defensive fighting posture – because kung-fu badasses never get caught with their pants down. However detailed the hand-to-hand combat ends up being, though, it’s certainly not your only way to rage and ruin in Sleeping Dogs. A fair amount of gunplay and vehicular mayhem is definitely in the offing, both separately and simultaneously (as few things in this world go quite so well together as do firearms and very fast cars). We’ve been assured that there are street racing levels in which the opponents recover from anything short of flipping their vehicles, and one-versus-many gang fights to test any virtual black-belt’s mettle. What’ll be the true test of this game is how well these concepts integrate into the overall sandbox concept. The Grand Theft Auto.series did a good job of making it seem laughably plausible that your life was one repetitious string of carjackings, but Sleeping Dogs seems to be angling for a bit more of a serious feel, and there’ll be a thin line to walk between making virtual Hong Kong a ghost town for action and an absurdly dangerous Asian fight club, where you can’t walk to the laundromat without getting jumped by the mob.
Still, watching that trailer for the twentieth time, it’s kinda hard not to be excited.