The Death and Rebirth of Sleeping Dogs
True Crime: Hong Kong is dead. Long live True Crime: Hong Kong.
Published: February 17, 2012
Phones, Cars and Guns
So now you know that Sleeping Dogs will have you looking and feeling like a bonafide Hong Kong action bad-ass of the very highest order. But hand-to-hand combat is only one of the three pillars the game is built upon. Driving and shooting are the other two and both bring there own distinct brands of violent bravado to the table as well. The sections used to show these mechanics off were a bit more story heavy, so in the interest of remaining spoiler free, I'll just stick to the gameplay details.
Even at this early stage, the gun-play is looking very satisfying. It's all done in third person with a cover system that should be familiar to anyone who's ever played Uncharted. You can vault over cover or transition from one piece of cover to the next with the X button and a tilt of the analog stick just like you would expect. But since it's a rule that everything you do in this game must be action flick worthy, doing so activates a bullet-time slow motion effect.
Now, before you start rolling your eyes let me say that it actually looks quite functional as opposed to being gimmicky. It keeps you on the offensive while remaining evasive which allows the gun-play to stay fluid instead of devolving into the typical “take cover, pop out, shoot, repeat” rhythm of lesser games. You can even transition right from cover movement into a disarming move to take a weapon from an attacker's hand. While we weren't able to go hands on with any of the shooting sections, if they play half as well as they looked and sounded, they'll easily match those of other open-worlders, if not surpass them.
Which brings us to the driving. Of all the gameplay elements, this was the least impressive, I felt. It wasn't bad by any means but after how well everything else had come together it was a tad disappointing. We all got a chance to play an entire dedicated racing section, and while I'm proud to say that I drove circles around the editors from some of the other outlets (snicker snicker), even I felt that the car physics could use some tweaking before launch. While quite controllable, the cars felt a bit too eager to get sideways and screech to a halt under the slightest bit of braking during a turn. It was easy to adapt to by just letting off the gas to decelerate rather than hitting the brakes but that isn't really ideal or elegant – especially in a game that seems to go out of its way to make you feel like an infallible action hero.
Still, the driving had bright spots too. If you have a gun on you when you get behind the wheel you can very easily aim and shoot like you would on foot except you use L1 and R1 instead of L2 and R2. What's more, whenever you hold L1 to aim “down sight”, the bullet time effect kicks in, making it a breeze to pump lead into enemy cars with impunity, even while trying to keep your vehicle on the road. The cherry on top is the ability to perform an “action hijack”, which has Wei leaping from his vehicle to another, assuming immediate control of it without skipping a beat. Like so much else in the game, it's pulled off with a cinematic flair that really sets it apart from other games of its kind. Assuming United Front gets the physics sorted, driving could still end up being as sweet as the rest of the package.
One final detail I picked up on was the presence of a mini-game where you get to use your cell phone to triangulate the position of a man Wei is looking for. It required you to get within a certain range of him, call, and then isolate their exact location while they talk to you. It was a simple, multi step puzzle but it used a nifty cell phone interface in the lower right of the screen. I love stuff like this. In another game, you might have just drove around and listened to a phone conversation until the call was automatically traced, and I can't stand that kind of thing. I'm a firm believer that it's always more fun to make moments like this as active and player driven as possible. I hope to see more little touches like this in the full game.