Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition Review – Hong Kong Action Delivered in Spades

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Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition
Square Enix

I’ll be the first to admit that when I was growing up, I fed myself a steady diet of kung-fu movies. Well, samurai films and kung-fu flicks actually, but for the sake of this review we’ll focus on Chinese culture. I was so blown away by the cool moves and crazy powers and abilities that some of the more outrageous kung-fu characters could pull off, that I actually signed up for kung-fu lessons at one point. When I figured out how hard it was to stand in a horse stance for thirty minutes at a time (ouch!), without moving, I quickly moved on to saxophone lessons.

When the hyper-bloody Hong Kong bullet ballet films came into their own during the 90s, mainly the ones by John Woo, such as A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, and especially Hard Boiled, I was entranced by not only their fascinating storylines, but also many of the characters, portrayed by such fine actors as Tony Leung, James Wong, and of course, Chow Yun Fat. This time, however, I didn’t try to emulate their lead-spewing theatrics in real life or I’d be writing this article from a prison cell. Since that last golden era of cinema, they’ve tried to replicate some of the same magic but no one has been able to capture that same essence.

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Video games, of course, were also a steady staple of my diet, which at one point, brought me to fantasize about what would happen if someone were to come along and marry two of my two favorite forms of entertainment. Namely, taking something like Hard Boiled and turning it into a video game. They tried to duplicate the same gun ballet feel with the various Max Payne games, as well as 2007’s Stranglehold, but those titles just didn’t measure up for various reasons.

Then 2010 arrived and I had the rare opportunity (and treat) to play a little known title called True Crime: Hong Kong, which at that time was being developed by Activision. It really intrigued me and I counted it as a game that people should definitely be on the lookout for. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?), Activision decided not to move ahead with True Crime: Hong Kong and it was left with zero backing. Luckily, Square Enix picked it up soon afterwards and re-dubbed it Sleeping Dogs, and a star was born.

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The original Sleeping Dogs let you play as Wei Shen, an undercover cop tasked by his superiors with taking down a powerful triad called Sun On Yee. Wei had to go deep undercover in order to pose as a capable recruit for the underworld forces, and he succeeded, at least for a while. As a lower level foot soldier Wei got involved in extortion, robbery, and other crimes befitting of a triad member. But when it came to more serious crimes such as murder, Wei’s morals as a law enforcer got caught up in a vortex of suspicion and ultimately, blood…lots of blood.

Unlike the previously mentioned video game offerings, Sleeping Dogs let you play both sides of the fence—when you weren’t working your way up through the ranks of Sun On Yee, you had the opportunity to work for your police superiors; foiling drag races, foiling big drug deals, and so forth. It also featured an element that had been sorely lacking in other similar titles, particularly some pretty advanced kung-fu combat. I, for one, was in a state of rapture (well, almost) when I found out that I could perform all sorts of brutal fisticuffs on my criminal foes.

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Fast forward a couple of years, and Square Enix, realizing that Sleeping Dogs’ graphics were getting a bit dated, decided to remaster their tribute to 90s Hong Kong gangster nostalgia and re-release it upon the gaming masses. And boy, am I happy that they did.

In Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition, Square Enix really upped the ante with their unique title, vastly tightening up the character models. You can now enjoy such new effects as hair blowing in the wind, more realistic mouth movements, and overall body mechanics/movements. Volumetric fog effects are also introduced, making the perpetually mist-shrouded city of Hong Kong look even more magical, especially at night. Other little touches, such as awnings flapping in the wind and enhanced crowd effects, make the game environs look and feel even more alive than before.

Does this mean that people should shell out their hard earned cash to replay the same game with essentially enhanced graphics and slight adjustments to gameplay mechanics? Well, when you factor in that Square Enix has also tossed in all of Sleeping Dogs’ DLCs and I’d say “yes!” Although Sleeping Dogs doesn’t feature quite the amount of open-world-ness than say, the Grand Theft Auto series does, its writing is a lot better, and it’s a more fluid and a much tighter gaming experience, especially story-wise. It also shines in the driving and fighting mechanics (particularly its hand-to-hand segment) departments, which are vastly superior to any GTA game or other such similar title.

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The additional layer of polish and presentation, plus the added DLC content, combined with the solid narrative and fun, rather bloody hijinks, really combine to make Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition a memorable experience. It’s a unique game, not only because of its beautiful, exotic setting, but also because it breaks a lot of typical gaming conventions, such as relying more on melee combat rather than blasting away with firearms. In fact, the gun toting missions are rare and most of them only appear toward the end of the game. This, in my opinion, was a brilliant move by Square Enix, as it forces players to master Wei’s martial prowess in order to test his kung-fu skills against increasingly harder and more blood-thirsty enemies and bosses.

Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition is an excellent title and is a perfect confluence of gorgeous graphics, an immersive storyline, crisp controls, and disparate gaming sub-genres, successfully all wrapped up in one sublime package. There are plenty of goons to wreck, plots to uncover, and twists to enjoy (or not enjoy in the case of betrayals), and it’s an explosive roller coaster ride that will stay with you long after its final, almost operatic ending chapter.

SCORE: 86%

Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition has some upgraded graphics that will blow you away, although it should be played on a higher-end gaming laptop or gaming PC.  We recommend playing it on a more powerful machine:

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