E3 2012: Sleeping Dogs Hands-On

Early last year, we received the depressing news that Activision canceled True Crime: Hong Kong. The game’s promising trailers and gameplay videos led to widespread disappointment. Later that same year, news quickly spread that Square Enix had stepped in to save True Crime: Hong Kong, but it would later become take on a different name. That name is Sleeping Dogs. This year’s E3 has allowed us to get some hands-on with the anticipated title and it has left me wondering why Activision would abandon such a solid open-world title in the first place. The only reason I can think of is that the publisher is just plain crazy.

The demo started out with Wei Shen, an undercover cop, locating a man for questioning. While heading to the target, the living world that made up the environment was hard to ignore. People went about their own business talking to each other, eating, preparing food and various other menial tasks. This section really showed off the living and breathing world that surrounds Shen. After admiring the scenery, I continued to the person my objective was pointing toward. Upon reaching him, a chase scene initiated. This instance implemented hopping obstacles, leaping fences and jumping off roofs. Every action melded into the next smoothly, which aided in the visual fluidity of the on-foot chase.

Partway through the chase, thugs arrived to defend their boss. Now it was time for combat to take center stage and it was able to shine bright. For an open-world title, Sleeping Dogs has one of the most in-depth combat systems I have ever seen. Fighting off groups of enemies contained a similar vibe as the two Batman games from Rocksteady. Punches can be thrown in different directions, powerful alternatives can be performed by long button presses and grappling is also an option. The system continues to impress when the environmental takedowns and counter-attacks . Let’s focus on that first combat option. After grappling an enemy, they can be taken over to any object that is highlighted in red to execute an environmental attack. These range from tossing someone into a dumpster to slamming an enemy’s face into a moving fan. Nearly every single one in the demo was brutal and deadly. Enemies will also highlight red, but it is brief. When this happens, the game is letting the player know that an attack is coming and that a counter-attack can be performed. United Front Games has fine-tuned multi-directional fighting with responsive counter-attacks and has topped it off with brutal environmental takedowns. This has led to one of the most developed combat systems in an GTA-style free roam title.

It finally came to a point where every thug was was unconscious (or dead) laying at Shen’s feet and it was time to focus the fight on the man that was being sought after from the beginning. Fighting him added a new element to the mix as he was wielding a knife. However, the new challenge wasn’t all that difficulty and he, too, joined his friends on the cold concrete floor. This ended the action-packed demo for Sleeping Dogs. Seeing every one of these aspects fully realized in the retail game is something I, and many others, can not wait to see when the game releases this August.