Streets of rage
Step into the shoes of a hard-boiled San Francisco cop seconded to Hong Kong to infiltrate one of the world's most feared - and fearsome - crime syndicates: the Sun On Yee Triad.
Going undercover in the buzzing island metropolis of Sleeping Dogs on PlayStation 3 is fun... and potentially deadly. Especially when you're told what happened to the last law enforcer discovered snooping on the Sun On Yee. Fortunately, the game's lead character Wei Shen is more than capable of facing down his fears and getting the job done, even when it requires maximum brutality.
Bringing a whole heap of Triad-related emotional baggage to work with you may not sound healthy, but Wei's tragic past, masterfully revealed as you progress through the game, gives him the motivation he needs to dance with the devil. The only question is, will his faith in justice survive the encounter?
Brilliantly scripted and compelling from the start, the story of Sleeping Dogs hinges on a profound moral problem. While good and evil may look different from a distance, up close they can be disturbingly hard to distinguish - even for a cop. Prepare yourself for some amazing, high impact action as you dive into Hong Kong's criminal depths.
Sleeping Dogs makes no secret of the inspiration it takes from classic Hong Kong action thrillers, so it's no surprise that the game exudes blockbuster class.
Expectations are sky-high from the outset, when real-time action and amazingly cinematic cutscenes combine to introduce the sordid, neon-lit city and its ruthless criminal element. Both the script writing and voice acting are superb - and very adult-oriented, as befits the game's adult rating - while the story moves at a terrific pace.
No sooner have you met Wei than he's being chased by the Hong Kong police department through dockside warehouses and restaurant kitchens, crashing through skylights and flinging aside any unwitting bystanders who get in his way. The subtly choreographed scenes are like something from a John Woo movie, immersing you in the non-stop spirit of the city. It all works beautifully, aided by incredibly lifelike visuals and intuitive controls.
Every sound effect and line of dialogue is crisp and super realistic, while the radio stations blasting from vehicles run from classical to crunk, with channels programmed by some of the world's best and boldest independent record labels, such as Warp and Ninja Tune. Racing around the city streets listening to futuristic beats or frenetic garage rock, admiring the delicate, rainbow-hued sheen of wet tarmac, it's easy to forget that Sleeping Dogs is a game.
The beast from the East
Marksman, martial artist and all-round man of mystery, Wei Shen spent most of his childhood in a dangerous district of Hong Kong.. Surrounded by crooks and Triad gangs, he seemed set for a life of crime - until his worried mother moved the family to San Francisco when Wei was ten.
Life in the US changed Wei forever. After training as a police officer, his skill and intelligence saw him rise quickly through the ranks. Fluent in both Cantonese and English and possessed of an insider's understanding of Hong Kong's criminal underworld, he proved a valuable asset to the force - so much so that when the Hong Kong police department needed an outside man for an inside job, Wei was top of their list.
Undoubtedly Wei has both the guts and the muscle for the task at hand, but does he have the mental strength to pick a moral path through the seedy underbelly of criminal society? As the story progresses and more of Wei's past is revealed, light is also shed on his hidden motives for accepting the job. Like the characters he encounters along the way, there's more to Wei Shen than meets the eye - and it's great fun finding out if the good in him can triumph over his desire for vengeance.
From the moment you set foot in Sleeping Dogs' vast and convincing free-roaming environment, you're spoiled for choice. The Hong Kong on offer is a teeming warren of grimy backstreets and gleaming skyscrapers, night markets and dockside wharves, and in almost every alleyway or building lies a story waiting to be told.
Of course, the main plot takes precedence, and a large part of your progress depends upon your infiltration of the Sun On Yee. But in-between all the gang-related extortion attempts, car chases and fistfights, there's plenty of time to explore the world around you. What's more, striking out on your own can bear very tasty fruit.
The game boasts three reward systems - Triad Experience, Cop Experience and Face Experience. Triad Experience is earned when you complete criminal missions and prove your obedience to your Triad overlords; Cop Experience is awarded for completing police-related side quests and minimising collateral damage. Face Experience relates to your reputation among the local community: do favours for friendly locals and you'll earn their respect, making them more likely to offer help when you need it. Once earned, experience points can be traded for upgrades including new martial arts moves, better weapons and handy tools.