Open world characters are often one-dimensional. Either you are a cowboy, immigrant, or a superhero. Your actions and story are dictated by this origin. But what if your character wasn’t as one-dimensional? Instead of playing as a cop, you had to play as a gangster as well. Gone are the barriers of ‘good and evil’, instead you must fight for your life. Square Enix decided to take the road less traveled with Sleeping Dogs. Does this unique approach to open world achieves the title of “sleeper hit” given by Gamestop? Or is it another title destined for the bargain bin. After enough curiosity I decided to give the game a try.So far, what I’ve experienced is not a sleeper hit, but a title that put me to sleep.
A Story Built For Open World
Open world games are built on stories, it’s what gives purpose to your activities. Stealing a car makes no sense if there isn’t a reason behind it. In Sleeping Dogs you play the role of Wei Shen. An undercover cop that must infiltrate the Sun No Yee, a Chinese Triad from Wei Shen’s home town. Not the most original story arc, but it does give way to an interesting story/gameplay mechanic. Missions and activities are split between Triad and Police missions. Completing missions on each end will give Wei Shen the ability to upgrade various skill trees, including mêlée combat. What’s great about the spilt are how they blend into each of the stories. During the beginning of my play-through I focused on the cop missions and working to bring down a local drug dealer named Popstar, who works for the Sun No Yee. After the local drug dealer was arrested I was called by Winston Chu to meet him at the hideout. Instead of starting a mission, Wei Shen was facing down the barrel of a gun accused of sending Popstar and his crew to jail. I instantly realized that completing the cop missions was directly affecting my relationship with the Triad. What made the scene even more profound was a simple question, “what if i didn’t put Popstar behind bars?” Will future Triad missions have different outcomes based on my actions in this world? Wei Shun’s balancing act of professional cop and “hired goon” is a great story, but that’s only one part of the equation.
A City With No People
The creation of an open-world game will challenge any developer. Not only must you create activities to keep the player entertained and motivated to complete the game, but you must also build a functioning world. While Square created interesting activities to keep me entertained, which we will get into later, the developer forgets to add in the rest of the world. Streets are bare, with hardly any traffic to make driving a challenge, and the population is scare. The combination destroys the illusion of living in the world. In fact, because the illusion is lifted the game feels like it never left the prototype phase. It is the secret sauce that creates a successful open world. Sadly, Square forgot the secret sauce.
Repetitive Side Missions
Remember the split of Cop and Triad missions that we talked about earlier? While the premise is great, the execution isn’t as great. Once the world opens up for your exploration the side missions become repetitive. Taking over a territory and hacking a camera is fun the first time, but the second and third time…not so much. Also, you must travel quite a distance for some of the side missions and it becomes a chore.
I don’t know what it is about this game but it looks dated. For a game that was released last year, it looks like it was released during the last generation. So last generation might be a bit much but we have come to accept a certain standard of graphic quality and this game falls short of the standard.
So here we are with a game that has an interesting premise and idea, but lacks follow through. I want to like this game, but the absence of a living, breathing city is keeping me from over looking certain flaws like the graphics or repetitive side missions. I want to see what happens to Wei Shun, I just don’t care to live in the world to see it.