It’s surprising that Activision would write off a game like Sleeping Dogs as a loss. The game was originally to be released under the True Crime franchise as True Crime Hong Kong. But after several years of development and millions of dollars Activision abandoned the game. This did create an opportunity for Square Enix to swoop in however; Square has published the game and are reaping the rewards as Sleeping Dogs is selling out across North America. Lets get into why that is.
Sleeping Dogs gives us a realistic and bountiful open world action game for 2012. It hits a sweet spot by creating a realistic and thoughtful world that avoids the silliness of the Saints Row franchise and stays clear of Grand Theft Auto by providing a novel setting and theme.
Many modern sandbox games provide characters that are in one way shape or form breaking the rules; be it Red Dead’s John Marston or Grand Theft Auto’s Niko Bellic, the fun of creating chaos in a realistic sandbox is intrinsically linked to having the world around you react with shock or fear when you perform a hit and run in an SUV or fire an RPG at a billboard. So you can see how it would be difficult to have the player be a cop without losing that element of chaotic fun. Sleeping Dogs allows you to be both the good and bad guy all at once.
Wei Shen the hero of the story is a cop undercover within Hong Kong’s crime syndicate; this particular faction of the triads being the Sun On Yee. The game provides two main mission types over the course of the story; the cop missions have you busting smuggling, extortion and street racing rackets from the inside and the Sun On Yee missions have you performing the same felonies and attempting to get away with it. The beauty of these theme kicks in when Wei begins to question his loyalties as he becomes closer to his criminal persona to satisfying a score from his past. The strongest aspect here is the script; you won’t be asked to make any choices but the dialogue manages to convey the central theme without treating you like an idiot and the characters motives and feeling are subtle and open to interpretation. It’s a near perfect way to leave the notion of good and bad in the players hands while following a linear plot line.