Story: Paul Semel
By casting you in the role of a cop rather than of a criminal, 2003’s True Crime: Streets of L.A. and 2005’s True Crime: New York City set themselves apart from Grand Theft Auto and other open-world crime dramas. But for the third one (which, for publishing reasons, is called something else), it’s actually the deeper and much improved mechanics that make this feel like even less of a GTA clone.
Set in Hong Kong, Sleeping Dogs takes a cue from The Departed and other films by putting you in the role of an undercover cop trying to infiltrate the Triads. And it apparently involves playing lots of video games; instead of the typically shallow driving, fighting and shooting mechanics, the ones in Dogs are deeper and thus closer to those in real driving, fighting and shooting games. The driving, for instance, recalls Midnight Club during races, Need for Speed: Most Wanted when the cops are chasing you, Burnout when you’re chasing someone and trying to knock them off the road, and even Pursuit Force when you jump from one car onto the roof of another, in an attempt to make them pull over.
Similarly, the cover-based shooting recalls Uncharted and Gears of War, complete with the option to use enemies as human shields, while the hand-to-hand fighting has you doing Mortal Kombat–esque combos. The latter also lets you use crowbars and other weapons, toss guys into open ovens or exposed fuse boxes, and do bone-breaking counter attacks that would make Steven Segal cringe.
Even the game’s Hong Kong setting helps, as it gives it a much grittier feel than other games of its ilk. And while none of this means Dogs will usurp Grand Theft Auto as the king of open-world crime games, its deeper game play does mean that it not only stands apart but stands tall as well.