Whilst I was most excited about seeing Aliens: Colonial Marines going into the MCM Expo this year, I think I came out being equally excited about Sleeping Dogs because I can see it becoming a celebrated game that'll easily hold its own against some of the classic action games we've all got tucked away in our collections. For those of you who aren't aware Sleeping Dogs is the game formerly known as True Crime: Hong Kong , which Square Enix have been developing since they picked it up from Activision last year. Luckily for all of us who were at the show, the game's producer, Dan Sochan, was present to talk us through some of the game and there was a booth where we could actually play the game.
The game's premise is a simple one that you should be familiar with, you're a cop who's currently undercover with the Triads, and there are plenty of elements present that you'd expect to see in martial arts films, which is hardly surprising considering the game's been influenced by the films of John Woo, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, as well as Infernal Affairs. However, this isn't a copy of popular movies a great deal of research has been done to ensure that the game is as realistic as possible, for example members of the development team went to Hong Kong and interviewed real undercover police officers as well as actual members of the Triads (described as terrifying!). Not everything is perfect though; the layout of the streets have been changed to improve the gameplay, but the major landmarks of Hong Kong are still present. Also, most of the audio is in English, but some of the characters do speak real Cantonese and they'll be subtitled.
Ok, so the main character in this one is Detective Wei Shen, who's just started an assignment to infiltrate the Triads. As a result he starts off at a very low level, so you'll be in a poor part of the city until your reputation builds, at which point you'll gain all the benefits that respect brings with it like better apartments. You'll learn what it means to be a true Triad as you go though the game, so you'll get to know the poor areas of the city intimately, hang out in karaoke bars, and run illegal fighting and gambling rings.
When it comes to the gameplay, you'll be dropped into an open world where you can pick and choose various missions to complete, some of which will be for the Triads whereas others'll be for the police force. Before you make your way into the city, you'll more than likely be hanging out in your apartment, where you can pick up in-game benefits by training with punch bags and a wing chun dummy, or simply by changing your clothes some of which you'll have bought using the money you've previously earned. Wei's upgradable too, so what this all means is that different people will almost certainly be playing with different characters.
Getting around the city's pretty simple because you'll be able to free run through it and whilst we've seen this in games before I personally think that the parkour in Sleeping Dogs looks a lot more realistic. You can hop into vehicles too, including cars and motorbikes, if you've got to get from one side of the city to the other in a hurry and the developer's wanted to bring exciting racing elements to the game, which we got to see as Wei hurled himself out of one moving car onto the roof of another. The car handling will also change depending on the road conditions, so you can expect to slide across the roads when you're travelling at a ridiculous speed in the rain. Cars aren't just for driving in this game though they have other uses, for example if you're dealing with somebody who's really getting on your nerves you can grab them and throw them into the boot, problem solved!
As you may well know, especially if you saw Matt's post the other day, the violence within the game is brutal in fact I don't think I've heard quite so many people simultaneously wince whilst watching a demonstration before. I don't want to ruin the story line for people so I'm not going into great detail about this, but one part of the game we saw that occurs later in the story sees somebody being tortured with hammers and drills, which I can only describe as gruesome and bloody! It also showed us that quick time events have been put into the game, but to be honest that doesn't bother me in the slightest.
Now we come to what should prove to be one of the best things about the game, the combat! A good deal of the action involves hand to hand martial arts fighting, but you've got weapons at your disposal too, in fact you can even disarm your opponents and use their weapons against them. It's possible to use objects in the environment to your advantage as well, again something we've seen before Arkham City immediately jumps to my mind, only in this game Wei doesn't seem to have any restraint whatsoever when it comes to damaging his foes, he goes all out! For example you can drop car engines onto people, repeatedly smash phone receivers into their faces if you're near a pay phone, slam people's heads into fridge doors, burn them on oven hobs, and even force their faces into table saws! It's also a good idea into taking on stronger opponents first as it intimidated weaker opponents to the point where they might decide to run away from you rather than risking their lives in a pointless, one sided brawl. Lastly, it's important to remember that the more things you use whilst fighting, the more points you'll build up.
There are other aspects to the game too, a bit of romance has been thrown in so you can take girls out on dates when you're not wiping the floor with people, and some stealth does feature but it's not a primary focus.
When I first started playing the game it reminded me of Jackie Chan Stuntman and Stranglehold, but unlike those games it seems to have a strong story running thorough it, the gameplay feels wonderfully fluid whether you're casually strolling through the streets or taking on twenty people in a fight to the death, and the more I played the further I sunk into its incredibly gritty depths. I think it's safe to say that Square Enix are onto a winner with this one and I can't wait to play more when it's released on 17th August 2012.