The open world is something that we see more and more, and all the sauces. To the point that it is easy to overdose, as the recipe struggles to correct faults which, on a personal level, become difficult to digest. Inevitably, I easily dodge this kind of proposals for quite some time now, if not for rare exceptions. As with the projects of Rockstar which always delighted me on this ground.
Holy Row is a bias that does not demerit, however I only took real pleasure with the third opus, when I felt that the license managed to emancipate itself from the master to find its personality. Then, it went too far, the rocket drifted who knows where… To return recently, in a forced landing and devoid of the madness that went so well with The Third. Nevertheless, there remains a work that managed to make me drop out of GTA. The incredible Sleeping Dogs.
A software often forgotten by rankings and discussions but which, still to this day, remains for me the best option in the kind of open world popularized by the Houser brothers. Some will also think of Yakuza, but the similarities are ultimately less, unlike Sleeping Dogs and its direct affiliation with TrueCrime, GTA-Like in pure translation. Ryu Ga Gotoku’s title being clearly closer to Shen Mue by Yu Suzuki.
Before being known as Sleeping Dogs, the game developed by the canadians of United Front Games had to be True Crime: Hong Kong. A new opus of the franchise born in 2003 and whose model was none other than Rockstar. If the American framework did not help to stand out, the principle of playing an undercover cop had the merit of being interesting enough to come and place itself in the shadow of the giant.
By drawing on police and gangster films, it made sense, to relaunch the series after an unconvincing second opus, to find inspiration in a Hong Kong cinema renowned for its muscular thrillers. A city which, at the end of the 90s and its return to China in 1997, marked the world with the violence of its thrillers with breathtaking choreographies, among others, and of which John Woo is the most famous representative.
A relocation of the action which will be the engine of this ambitious project. Unfortunately, Activision will quickly cancel everything, in addition to firing two-thirds of the studio staff. It is only thanks to Square Enix, eager not to let such a promising project sink, that the software will be saved, becoming Sleeping Dogs and breaking free from the franchise TrueCrime. Motivated to produce an extraordinary work, the teams wish to position themselves as an alternative to GTA IV.
Without seeing itself as a competitor. Aware of their position and their means, they will bet on the cultural change of scenery as well as on certain game design priorities. Sleeping Dogs had to exist by itself, not be just a series of good ideas, but a license in its own right. Find his identity. Part Chinese. The game sweats China, just survey the market at the start of the adventure to be convinced.
Men From The Gutter
The change of scenery is total thanks to a relatively faithful and convincing reconstruction of Hong Kong. Admittedly, this is not technical madness, but like a Deus Ex, the artistic direction counterbalances this and does not prevent immersion in any way. We are pleasantly surprised to discover NPCs able to attend to mundane occupations more convincingly than in the streets of Night City.
If the structure and the main mechanics take up the basics of a GTA-Like, it is enough to carry out its first muscular interventions for the triad to understand a truth. You are Wei Shen, and you live in Hong Kong, not New York or LA Martial arts are an integral part of the city’s culture, and the cinematic antics of a John Woo have little in common with the films by Michael Mann and Scorsese that can irrigate Rockstar productions.
In fact, the gameplay of Sleeping Dogs is an important piece of game design and structures the general idea of making software a compendium of the imagination surrounding the city, conveyed by the cinema. The protagonist’s very good maneuverability is coupled with an automated parkour system that makes movement more fluid and offers engaging chases. In addition to rediscovering sensations inherited from films by Jackie Chan or Donnie Yen in particular.
The relentless super cop as devoted to his job as he is to violence. As an infiltrator, you will do missions for both sides, fueling a scenario rich in twists and turns. Without attaining mastery of a GTA IV on the writing, said twists constantly energize a plot that never wavers in rhythm. What keep us in suspense over the 15 to 20 hours needed to see the end.
Made in Hong Kong
The influence of works like The Killer, Infernal Affairs, Flashpoint, etc, is undeniable. Therefore, difficult not to offer gameplay in the service of the latter. Taking advantage of developers who are fans of actor Donnie Yen, who has distinguished himself in a few supercharged thrillers, but also of the support of MMA legend, George St-Pierre, to manage the fight choreographies, Sleeping Dogs will impress with its animations.
Kung fu techniques, but also judo grips and grips worthy of an octagon warrior, the pleasure felt in bare-handed confrontations is certain. Possibility of combos, moves to unlock, not to mention the multiple costumes available and which can give bonus damage, see literally change our fighting style, there is something fun. Especially since it’s fluid and there are very good feedbacks.
The title will not hesitate to highlight this with the combat arenas. An idea that works and that could have been much further developed. The values inherent in martial arts are never really put forward. An accent that I would have liked more present, although that remains logical in a Hong Kong so imbued with the cinematographic imagination. Still, the gameplay is a great success.
No doubt partly due to the know-how of Square Enix, with their experience on JustCause 2among others. sleeping dogs also incorporates the combat system of a Batman Arkham Asylum to own it. More flexible, relatively punchy, it’s a treat with the controller in hand while being sufficiently engaging. Then, the animations clearly throw some. We can only regret the limited depth of the gameplay, as well as its simplicity, although it is consistent with Wei’s martial talents.
A Hero Never Dies
It is also possible to use the scenery to knock out our opponents, adding significant pleasure to the clashes. What seems straight out of the unknown Rise To Honour, PS2 game featuring Jet Li and paying homage to various feature films in which he appears. Despite many flaws, the software had the merit of offering a sincere tribute to the actor and his cinema, in addition to providing rather atypical gameplay.
In addition everything to provide the game with an interesting combat system and inflated bullet-time gunfights. Not to mention the multiple interactions with the environment, enjoyable for the time. Rise To Honor already sported several systems that we will find in our nickname TrueCrime. It’s hard to pay homage to the HK thrillers of John Woo and company without bullet-time and realistic animations. What’s more, given the playful potential of this mechanism. Immerse yourself in Stranglehold Where Max Payne if you doubt it.
Praised by the majority of critics, although not sold enough to be a success, Sleeping Dogs did not have the deserved success. Projects for a sequel, in the making since 2013, a Square Enix reluctant to support another equally ambitious adventure, this is how the forgettable will appear Triad Wars. A spin-off taking up ideas around multiplayer, a central element of United Front Games’ vision for a second part, but in order to feed a service game.
Total failure that will bury all hope for the fans. In addition, the studios closed their doors in 2016. However, there is an ambitious prototype that exists. That’s why I want the license back but for a sequel, in a joint release with the adapted film to feature Donnie Yen and which fails to materialize. And this despite the wishes of the actor. Maybe a Sleeping Dogs obliges to think big, if not nothing… I accept it. I don’t want a sequel if it’s not more ambitious.
Why would we want a return of Sleeping Dogs?
We may find that the current period is possibly more conducive to a return. Asia takes a significant place culturally, it is visible in the video game, and if it is not for GTA VI, seats are vacant. It goes without saying that ambition is inseparable from work. In fact, it seems obvious that it is necessary to go further on all the aspects already exploited. Moreover, apart from Sifu, nothing seems more convincing in the faithful transcription of martial arts, if we except the games of Versus Fighting.
I dare to believe that, if there is a continuation, we would have many more possibilities of moves to use and unlock, with always more variety in combat styles like costumes. Attempts to explore Chinese myths in the DLCs, such as with ghost hunting or the secondary quest taking up the plot ofOperation Dragon, the app can become more rooted in Chinese culture. Exploring something other than Hong Kong, bringing the supernatural, I like it.
Take inspiration from what Ryu Ga Gotoku by staging a plethora of references to Japanese culture, as absurd and bombastic as they may be. Obviously, I’m counting on the studios to keep the restraint and the visceral aspect specific to Sleeping Dogs. However, when it comes to over the top action, don’t skimp on the best possible choreography. Without the Shaw Brothers or a John Woo, no Matrix nor of Devil May Cry, not even from Max Payne.
As for the cooperative ambitions of the teams, at the moment there are things to try. On this point, Rockstar’s work on the follow-up to GTA V is the best model to follow. Finally, if there is a point that is missing, it is the lack of activity to do. There is still room to decorate the map with various points of interest, always in mind Yakuza and his unfailing generosity. Enough to discover atypical Chinese activities, as well as to get more involved in the world of games with, always, martial arts and cinema as support.