Status: Story and the vast majority of open-world challenges complete.
Most Intriguing Idea: An open-world game with a focus on hand-to-hand combat
Best Design Decision: The environmental takedowns
Worst Design Decision: The “grappler” enemies, who nullified the most interesting parts of combat
Mostly, a long and torturous development history results in a terrible game, released mostly from exhaustion and the faint hope of recouping a few stray coins to defray the costs of a failed process. Sleeping Dogs, however, emerged from a troubled production cycle as a very good open-world experience. It’s not perfect by any means — the weapons are frustratingly punchless despite how much they’re built up, and the game’s presentation of Wei Shen’s rise to power is not convincing storymaking. What I regret most, though, are the “grappler” enemies, who take away the environmental takedowns that are the highlights of the game’s martial arts combat.
Sleeping Dogs did an effective job of making its lowlifes seem sympathetic. Winston Chu is perhaps the best surprise: a man the game sets you up to dislike, who is then convincingly depicted as a person whose goodness is articulated through belief in the ideals of a ruthless, violent criminal enterprise. Wei Shen himself was relatively unlikable, however, likely due to an overly bro-ish take on the voice role. The story is competent, the combat and driving are mostly quite good, and the progression structure at least sets up an interesting system of behavioral trade-offs that speak to Wei’s own conflicted nature.