Review: Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition
One of the finest examples of open world gaming has made its way to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 platforms with a dramatic graphical overhaul and a shipping container’s worth of extra content. Not to mention endless Pork Bun!
If you’d have told me back in November 2013 that Square Enix would be re-releasing Sleeping Dogs on the next-gen consoles I would have looked into having you sectioned. Not because Sleeping Dogs was a bad game he first time round (far from it!) but simply because of the amount of time that had passed since it’s original release. However, that said, I was delighted when I heard that the Definitive Edition was actually happening. Over two years on and the thought of replaying through a game so stylish, so fresh and so close to my heart got me pretty excited.
Being an open world action game, there are of course some obvious parallels that can be drawn to the Grand Theft Auto series, but there are so many original ideas in Sleeping Dogs that even after just five minutes of gameplay you get a sense that this a special game that can go toe-to-toe with its sandbox rivals.
It’s key difference is it’s approach to combat. Our protagonist Wei Shen is a master of martial arts meaning that 9 times out of 10, you get to brawl it out with your enemies rather than simply whipping out an assault rifle and shooting them in the face. The fighting mechanics on offer here are surprisingly deep allowing for new moves to learned as you progress as well as the chaotic use of environmental hazards in the battles. This can be slamming an opponents head in the bonnet of a car or throwing them into a tank full of electric eels (shocking). There are so many objects to interact with that it’s a great deal of fun experimenting and working out the best strategy to dispatch a group of thugs.
I’ll be showing my age a bit here but it plays a lot like an odd cross between the Shenmue and True Crime games of the good old days. The storyline is reminiscent of the Hong Kong cinema cop films of the ’90s with a sweet amount of clichés to make it feel familiar whilst keeping you on your toes with a couple of twists. In a nutshell (and without spoiling anything) you are Wei Shen, an undercover cop from America, who’s been sent to infiltrate the notorious Triad gangs of Hong Kong, gain their trust and shut them down. What’s interesting about is the loyalty that Wei starts to build up for his new criminal mates and how the lines begin to blur between good guy and bad.
This is referenced in game by a point system that sees you building up rep for cops or criminals depending on your action. In order to maximize your options for upgrades, purchases etc you need to strike a balance between being a goody goody and an all out bad ass. Easier said than done with the options for mischief through Hong Kong.
But if you’ve played the original, you’ll be saying “I know all of this, but what’s so good about the Definitive Edition?”, so I’ll get on to that now. Firstly, it’s important to say that there hasn’t been any new content created specifically for this edition. However the Definitive Edition has seen a wealth of improvements to the graphics and sound of the original, turning an already vibrant city into an atmospheric metropolis that you’ll want to explore every last inch of.
Tweaked visuals also include more destructible objects, better damage models for cars, new facial animations (particularly noticeable with Wei Shen), more NPCs on the streets, longer draw distances and new weather effects including denser fog and more realistic smoke. Quite minor features, but they all contribute to making the city feel more alive than its previous incarnation.
The biggest claim to fame for the Definitive Edition is that it’s now 1080p, which is a must for our new generation of consoles and TVs. On the downside I did notice a few instances where the frame-rates dipped quite a bit though this seemed to be caused by random events without much consistency. A bit of a shame considering the new hardware available to make things like this run as smooth as silk in other games like Watch Dogs.
The other main sell of the Definitive Edition is the inclusion of all of Sleeping Dogs’ previous downloadable content. A lot of this is alternate costumes for Wei to wear when he’s beating the snot out of Hong Kong’s criminal population (my personal favourite being and Adam Jensen style Deus Ex costume) and new weapons but there’s also three story expansions.
The supernatural-themed Nightmare In North Point and an Enter The Dragon homage called Zodiac Tournament are great additions, but the best of the three has to be Year Of The Snake, where Wei Shen is back working the streets as a simple beat cop, but gets dragged into a series of bombings taking place across the city on the eve of the Chinese New Year. A did a review of this a while ago which you should have a read of if you’re interested in the specifics.
To sum up
Though it has a the odd bug here and there, Sleeping Dogs is game that you won’t regret investing your time and money into. Whether it’s street racing across the hazy Hong Kong cityscape, wailing along to Steely Dan in a Karaoke bar or competing in one of the many martial arts tournaments, Sleeping Dogs has so much fun to throw at you and the Definitive Edition gives you access to every last drop of content ever released. Probably a solid 30 hours of play (if you’re quick).
It’s a game that made Pork Buns the food of champions and spawned hundreds of memes because of its ability to strike perfect balance between serious action and good humour. Not many titles can boast that. Well worth a play.
Version reviewed: Xbox One
Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition is out now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC