Once upon time, Activision created the True Crime franchise as an answer to Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto III. True Crime: Streets of LA was an open-world action game released in 2003, putting players in the role of police officer Nick Kang. Two years later, Activision released True Crime: New York City to mixed reviews and disappointing sales numbers. A reveal trailer during the 2009 Spike Video Game Awards debuted the reboot to the True Crime series set in Hong Kong. However, the game was eventually cancelled by Activision due to high development costs and numerous delays.
Six months after Activision gave up on the game, Square Enix picked it up. The company purchased the publishing rights to the game but did not buy the rights to the True Crime name. The game was renamed Sleeping Dogs and is set to become the surprise hit of 2012.
Going through two publishing companies, experiencing several delays, and being renamed is usually not the formula for a successful video game. Nonetheless, Square Enix has put a lot of faith into Sleeping Dogs.
Gamers will take on the role of Detective Wei Shen, a Chinese-American officer from the San Francisco Police Department sent to assist the Hong Kong police. Shen goes undercover to infiltrate a Triad organization called Sun On Yee. The game will focus on Shen’s constant struggle to stick to his mission while remaining undercover as a member of the Triads.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding Sleeping Dogs over the past few years, United Front Games has remained the developer since day one. The team has put together a unique third-person sandbox game that blends action, racing, and RPG elements.
Traditional features of sandbox games are found as Shen navigates the beautifully rendered streets of Hong Kong. Side missions include fight clubs, street races, and gambling dens. Those could be found in any open-world game but Sleeping Dogs also includes activities such as karaoke and the chance to bet on cockfights. Shen will have to find his way through crowds of people, made easier by his ability to run, jump, and climb objects and buildings.
Driving in open-world games is often cumbersome but members of United Front Games have previously worked on the Need for Speed franchise. The team boasts Sleeping Dogs will have the best handling of any game ever in the genre. Gamers will be able to drive different vehicles including cars, motorbikes, and boats.The game utilizes a combat system that will invoke comparisons to Batman: Arkham City. Shen will be able to use his martial arts skills to take down swarms of enemies. Attacking opponents will flash, allowing gamers to perform a counter-move. However, Sleeping Dogs adds more violence than any Batman game. Almost any element in the environment can be used during combat. Enemies can be thrown into metal pipes, slammed onto gas stoves, and cut open using circular saws. It may be too violent for some but makes sense considering the adult undertones of the game.
Combat moves will be tracked and can improve through continued use during the game. Players will also have to try to balance three different XP systems based on the various situations faced with throughout the game. Triad XP, Police XP, and Face XP will play an important role in interactions with A.I. characters.
Even though the game takes components from different genres, the developers did not want it to feel like a mix-and-match of other games. United Front Games promises the gameplay elements of combat, driving, shooting, and staying on foot will all flow together seamlessly for action sequences that would make Michael Bay jealous. Sleeping Dogs is set to release onto PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Windows PC on August 14.