Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition Review – Still Great

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Posted November 10, 2014 by SamReeder in Video Games

Developed By: United Front

Published By: Square Enix

Release Date: October 14, 2014

Available On: PC, PS4, Xbox One (reviewed on)

 

What impressed me most about Sleeping Dogs when it first released in 2012, was the depth of both its story and its principle characters. I had grown accustomed to bland open-world games with stories featuring ‘Joe Anybody,’ so taking undercover cop Wei Shen through the dirty Triad underbelly of Hong Kong was not only a blast, but genuinely compelling as well. With a premise that seems to be paying some homage to Infernal Affairs (the film that inspired Scorsese’s The Departed), Sleeping Dogs twists an interesting story that kept me hooked as Wei Shen got more and more deeply embedded in the Sun On Yee.

Shen, who is voiced brilliantly by Will Yun Lee, is a far cry from your typically protagonist, he’s arrogant, reckless and a bit of a prick, but the relationships he forms with fellow gang members feel authentic, and I found myself wondering on more than one occasion whether Shen would cut ties with the police and become a full-fledged Triad when all was said and done. That said, the story, while excellent, is not perfect. It suffers from a small pacing issue, particularly towards the middle section where it starts to feel a little bloated, but fortunately the game quickly trims down to deliver a strong final third and a satisfying conclusion. Backing up Sleeping Dogs’ story is some terrific gameplay, particularly in regards to the driving and melee combat mechanics.

Fighting with your fists in this game is ridiculously fun. It takes some time to get used to, but the game throws numerous encounters at you, and rewards you well for experimenting and taking advantage of the unlockable special moves. Particular highlights include chucking enemies into massive fish tanks, and climbing an opponent to deliver a devastating elbow to the head. In fact, the melee combat is so good that I often found myself ditching my gun (and sense of self-preservation) in order to take on armed opponents mano-a-mano. The gunplay is good, and the bullet-time is cool, but the game does lack in weapon variety. I would have loved to have had a few more guns to play around with in the games few gun-focused firefights.Sleeping-Dogs-Definitive-Edition-Confirmed-with-Screenshots-Video-454247-3

When it comes to driving, Sleeping Dogs absolutely nails it. It is the first open world game that I have really felt the driving hit that perfect sweet spot where each vehicle feels unique, but all are operable and none of them feel like uncontrollable wrecking balls (i.e. Watch Dogs). And, for the most part as the cars get faster and cooler, they become more fun to drive. I actively sought out the racing missions and found myself buying all sorts of vehicles just to give them a spin. Unfortunately, the game lacks a way to save a car that you have found or hijacked, so I often found myself trying desperately to cling to the cars I liked, but could not afford.Sleeping-Dogs-Definitive-Edition-004

As a setting, United Front’s version of Hong Kong is an exciting playground filled with twisty-turny streets, some pretty incredible views, and tons of NPCs. While it lacks the variety and specificity of a GTA world, it’s still a blast to run around, explore, and sniff out the game’s many collectibles. And while we’re on the topic of side content, there are plenty of solid missions (and some not so solid ones, I’m looking at you Karaoke mini game) to give you a break from the main story. Best among these is a massive fighting tournament on a remote island that evokes Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon.

The Definitive Edition boasts new and improved graphics as well as all the previously-released DLC for the game.  The better textures and a higher resolution add some clarity to the game, and are a definite improvement, as that clarity helps to enhance some of the more impactful story moments. However, the Definitive Edition, unfortunately, fails to address some of the complaints I and many others had about the original release. The camera is still occasionally wonky, and would often result in me crashing my car, or getting my ass handed to me by a group of thugs. And I also experienced a few significant instances of frame rate loss, which were particularly disappointing given the increased power and capability of the current gen consoles.sleeping-dogs-DE-main-1060x595

The included DLC packs are fun, but add very little to the overall game experience. They are essentially totally separate games that happen to use the same mechanics and protagonist. None of your upgrades, cars, outfits, relationships or story arcs carry over. It’s cool to play around in the Sleeping Dogs sandbox, but the experience feels hollow, particularly when compared to the main game.

Ultimately, the things that make Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition great are the same things that made Sleeping Dogs great the first time around. So is this game worth a second purchase? Probably not. But, if you didn’t get the opportunity to play it back in 2012, I strongly recommend that you pick up a copy, if for no other reason than to experience Sleeping Dogs‘ unique and compelling story.


About the Author

SamReeder

Someone dropped out of his brother's Halo:CE LAN Party, so, last minute, they invited Sam and his world was never the same again. A lover of all things video games and Manchester United you can follow Sam on twitter @thesamreeder.