GAMERS FAMILIAR WITH GRAND THEFT AUTO could be forgiven for writing off Sleeping Dogs as a simple clone of Rockstar's crime-sim series at first glance. The game is quite similar, featuring the same open world, mission-based mechanic that sees you steal, rob and kill your way through its 20-hour-plus story.
However those who write off Sleeping Dogs due to its similarities will be missing out, as rather than just repackaging the Grand Theft Auto experience, Square Enix has built on and evolved the experience, weaving an intricate and complex plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat right up to its awesome climax.
One factor that really differentiates Sleeping Dogs from the competition is its rich cast of characters and Hong Kong setting. You play as an undercover police officer named Wei Shen. The game opens to see Shen returning to his old neighbourhood after moving with his mother and sister to the US several years earlier. Shen's official mission is a simple one, infiltrate and bring down the Triad operating out of Hong Kong by using your past connections.
What makes Shen interesting is that his aims go past his police mission. Early on it's explained that Shen's mother moved he and his sister to the US to try and break their connections to the Triad. The move reportedly failed with Shen's sister being unable to break her ties and eventually dying of a drug overdose, making Shen want revenge against the Triad for getting her hooked on heroin in the first place.
This means that Shen's goals aren't entirely in line with either the Triad or the police he's working for. The game does an excellent job of playing on Shen's split loyalties, showcasing the strong emotional bond he has with old childhood friends, many of whom are now members of the triad, while constantly reminding you of his reasons for joining the police.
These blurred lines are expertly built on with Sleeping Dogs' unique character leveling system. Sleeping Dogs allocates Shen experience points in three specific areas - Cop, Triad and Face - each of which grant access to new, unique abilities.