Sleeping Dogs is a 2012 open world action-adventure video game developed by United Front Games in conjunction with Square Enix London Studios and published by Square Enix. I usually don’t buy AAA title the year they are released because the price is usually too high. But when Steam accidentally offered Sleeping Dogs at a 91% discount during their Christmas sale, I decided to go for it.

From the Sleeping Dogs Wikipedia article:

The game takes place in a fictional modern day Hong Kong with players assuming control of Wei Shen, an officer of the San Francisco Police Department, who had been seconded to the Hong Kong Police Force. Wei has been assigned by the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau to go undercover and infiltrate the Triad society called Sun On Yee and take them down. There are two subplots contained within the main storyline: the first is Wei’s personal struggle between completing his mission as a police officer, and having to commit crimes to prove his worth to the triad. The other subplot consists of completing missions set out by a triad lieutenant, such as killing triad members who are loyal to competing lieutenants. The island is divided into four fictional districts which are named after real areas.

Hong Kong is a fantastic backdrop for this game. It’s huge, but not too huge and you’ll soon start to recognize parts of the city and find your way around without using the GPS too much. The GPS works brilliantly, by the way. The city looks beautiful in the sunset, and if you’ve never been to Hong Kong yourself, I recommend that you drive to Victoria Peak in the game and have a look at the city in all its glory. The developers have made sure to build a digital version of Hong Kong that resembles the real thing. I’ve been there twice in real life, and recognize the Soho area and the escalators from Central. There is attention to detail everywhere; Soho is flooded with Gweilo; foreign devils.

While similar titles, like Grand Theft Auto and Saint’s Row, are focused on gun combat, Sleeping Dogs is mostly about personal melee and boot-in-face combat. You do get access to firearms now and then, but only to a single weapon at the time and you’ll usually not use the gun outside of a mission. When levelling up, you’ll get access to new marshal arts actions that can be used to take out your enemies in all kinds of imaginative ways. Trying to perform these new actions with the keyboard, however, feels really awkward. You should definitely play this game with a Xbox 360 controller or some other game pad. With a game pad, controlling Wei, both in combat and in a vehicle, feels so much smoother than with the keyboard. I’m guessing the analogue sticks help a lot.

There are very few things wrong with Sleeping Dogs. There are the occasional bug, though, like the heads of people sticking out of cars roofs and the camera some times have a hard time following Wei. Every now and then he disappears off screen completely, which can be a tad annoying in the middle of combat. At one point I also managed to crash Wei’s so that he was thrown out of the vehicle and got stuck inside a large cage there was no way he could get out of. The only solution was to cancel the current mission and start again.

But all in all, Sleeping Dogs is a great open world game. It plays great, it looks great (even on my three year old system on medium settings) and it sounds great (there’s a wide range of radio stations and some of the cars sound – and handle – absolutely beautifully). With the release of GTA V this year, it’s quite possible that Sleeping Dogs will be quickly forgotten, but that’s a faith it doesn’t deserve. It’s one of the best games of its genre.