A MAN WHO NEVER EATS PORK BUNS IS NEVER A WHOLE MAN!
I was recently asked why I—and so many other gamers—love Sleeping Dogs so much, but I couldn’t really provide an answer that satisfied me. Games like Shenmue, Mass Effect and Uncharted impressed me enough that I play through them once a year to relive the experience, but—unlike Sleeping Dogs—I know exactly why I like those games and I could write hundreds of pages detailing my reasons. I eventually employed The Goldilocks Principle and argued that, while GTA is often too satirical for my taste and Saints Row was too silly, Sleeping Dogs was just right for me, but even that felt like I was copping out so I decided to some research on the game and the developers behind so that I might better understand why I adore this Sleeping Dogs.
Sleeping Dogs is a sort of spiritual successor to the True Crime series—which I played almost every day after school as a young kid—that sadly performed poorly and so Activision cancelled any sequels in development and put the franchise on hold… Until 2007. Activision approached the now-defunct United Front Games to develop a new game called Black Lotus, but, after seeing the developers efforts, Activision felt hopeful that United Front Games could inject new life into the True Crime franchise and officially announced that Black Lotus would become True Crime: Hong Kong. However, in 2011, Activision cancelled the project claiming “quality issues” as the reason. But, even though things were looking bleak, Square Enix swooped in and acquired the rights to the game but not to the True Crime franchise. A quick name change and Sleeping Dogs was born.
Sleeping Dogs was released in August 2012—4 years after GTA IV and 1 year prior to GTA V—and this was likely a contributing factor to its charm with many players. April 2008 saw the release of the critically acclaimed GTA IV—it is without a doubt a fantastic game—but I, as well as many other people, would criticise it for having sluggish vehicles and a camera that seemed to be actively trying to sabotage the player’s fun. 5 years later GTA V would fix most of the issues players had with its previous title, but there existed a void between the two GTA games that was very briefly filled by Sleeping Dogs.
You Look Like You Could Use A Pork Bun!
A large portion of my childhood was spent gaming and whenever there wasn’t a controller in my hands I was most likely watching some Hong Kong action movie that I definitely should not have been watching, but—thankfully—my parents had a relaxed policy on age-restricted content. I remember my favourite movies being Jackie Chan’s excellent The Legend of The Drunken Master, Police Story—also by Jackie Chan—and Chow Yun-fat’s Hard Boiled. When playing Sleeping Dogs you get the feeling that the developers also loved Hong Kong action movies and drew heavily on them for inspiration and—if I’m being honest—It really pays off. You become invested as you play undercover cop, Wei Shen, as he infiltrates the Sun On Yee Triad. It really is like walking into one of my childhood favourite movies, but now I get to call the shots and fight waves of enemies or shoot my way through claustrophobic buildings or alleyways.
The characters are carefully written and, as a result, feel human enough for you to care about or hate when they cross you. Wei Shen’s entry into the criminal underworld that stalks Hong Kong is a character called Jackie Ma, a childhood friend of Wei Shen and acts as a sort of deuteragonist for the game. Jackie initially comes off as incompetent and cowardly, often on the losing side of skirmishes, but he has a big heart and fierce loyalty to those he cares about. Through the course of the game, Jackie becomes a little braver and even, upon being locked in the back of a truck with a member of an opposing triad, manages to hold his own and subdue his attacker before Wei can save him. Winston Chu is the leader of the Water Street Gang and is a Red Pole—a sort of Triad Lieutenant—in the Sun On Yee; he’s got huge muscles and an even larger gold plated hand-gun. Initially, he’s quite aggressive—which I’ve always taken, along with his ultra-large, overcompensating gun, as a sign that he’s a steroid user—but as Wei proves himself capable and loyal, Winston eases up and treats Wei like a friend and brother. Even though Winston is written as a dumb brute—with possible erectile dysfunction—he’s uncharacteristically warm towards his mother and his fiancee, Peggy Li.
Something else that I’ve come to understand is a reason why I love Sleeping Dogs is the world that United Front Games so carefully and expertly crafted from over 25,000 images of Hong Kong taken during their visit. The game looks nice enough during the day, but when the evening comes and the neon lights are turned on it looks even better. Walking through the night market, which is the first area the game lets you explore, is a joy. There’s a large concentration of NPCs here all going about their business, selling food, clothing or bootleg DVDs and you can hear a wonderful vendor shouting from behind his food cart “Why isn’t there a pork bun in your hand!?”, “You look like you could use a pork bun” and my favourite “A man who never eats pork buns is never a whole man!”. All this adds up to an amazing atmosphere that I love absorbing during my gameplay.
Why Isn’t There A Pork Bun In Your Hand!?
Gameplay-wise, Sleeping Dogs isn’t really anything special, however, United Front Games have cleverly decided to focus on hand-to-hand combat—which is mechanically similar to how combat in the Batman games and/or Mad Max—and less on gunplay. There’s a handful of times in the main story that requires you to pick up a gun and shoot your way through a gauntlet of enemies. Outside of the story, you can, of course, find weapons hidden in lockboxes or even in one of your apartments after finishing the game, but you can only hold onto the handgun. Anything larger than a pistol has to be thrown on the ground rather than being allowed to holster it and you can’t keep a Tardis worth of ammo on your person. I really admire this decision and it manages to add fresh gameplay to the open-world crime genre.
One of the most fun side activities you can do in Sleeping Dogs is the 4 Fight Clubs. There are about 5 waves with an increasing number of people to beat but the combat is so tight and responsive that it’s pure joy to kick people in the face or throw them into a spinning air-duct fan and it’s not just the fighting that is streamlined. After GTA IV’s realistic and sluggish driving mechanics, Sleeping Dogs quick and arcadey controls feel amazing. Zipping down a street at 100mph you never feel like you can’t quick turn and shoot off down a different street if the need arises. On top of the tight turning, you can ram other cars with a dedicated button to wreck them and potentially stop the pursuit in its tracks which is a nice addition. You can also jump from vehicle to vehicle and the game will slow down to make sure it looks as cool as possible.
Almost everything the game asks you to do is designed specifically to make sure you look cool and feel awesome doing it. Sliding over obstacles in a gunfight, throwing someone onto a meat hook or just hanging onto the side of a speeding vehicle, Sleeping Dogs wants you to have a good time and it delivers in every way. I may not truly understand it’s appeal but I am one hundred percent aware that Sleeping Dogs is a special game that is worth playing at least once.
The Legend of The Platinum
Sleeping Dogs is really easy to platinum. There aren’t really any missable trophies as you can roam the city after the story ends and you can replay missions from the Social Hub.
The trophies I would recommend you keep an eye on are:
A Slap in the Face
Kill someone with a fish
This trophy can be achieved in the mission Club Bam Bam and is quite missable but don’t worry if you did overlook it as you can replay the mission at any point.
Use 10 different firearms to defeat enemies
I got this trophy without thinking about it, but you should try and pick up every new gun you come across and kill someone with it.
Use 10 different melee weapons to defeat enemies
I got this trophy after I finished the story but you should come across enough weapons while you play that it should really be an issue. However, if you do have trouble with this trophy then try the police side missions as some of them give you a baton. You can also use umbrellas and handbags that NPCs drop as weapons.
Hijack 5 trucks and collect their cargo
Quite early in the story, you will be told to hijack an armoured truck and take it to a garage to be sold. Hijacking 5 will get you quite a bit of early money and this trophy.
Sleeping Dogs’ platinum is about as straight forward as it gets. Finish the story, find all the collectibles and then mop up the miscellaneous trophies.