Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition review - a blend between a kung fu action film and GTA

£49.99; PS4, Xbox One, PC; United Front Games

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The Independent Tech

In Sleeping Dogs you play as Wei Shen, an undercover agent set the task of infiltrating the thick web of the Sun On Yee crime-lords, one of the (fictional) leading triads of Hong Kong.

You do so, to begin with, by playing along: one of your first acts is to ram a lackey’s head against the edge of a counter and smash a rolling screen down on his skull to prove a point. Later you walk through the Night Market, stepping between prostitutes selling drinks and vendors who are asking for favours, demanding protection money. Immediately you sense a kind of moral thorn here - how will Wei Shen justify his actions? 

The game is open-world, a blend between a kung fu action film and GTA. Originally released in August 2012, it was an underrated gem that’s received a fresh dunk of paint and a slight tweak under the hood. But is it any good?

The answer’s yes. For those of you who haven’t played the original, of which there should be many as it wasn’t a huge commercial success, the game is a necessary one. It evokes Hong Kong in a way few games have and issues a new twist on the open world format that’s a refreshing break from GTA’s many derivatives. This isn’t yet again another America, nor is it a cheap stereotype of ‘Asian’ life. It’s a game that feels genuine, despite its ridiculousness.

Combat plays out like a cross between Batman in Arkham Asylum and nuanced kung fu. Cars aren’t awful to drive, or need upgrading like in Watch Dogs. Sure, you can eventually unlock guns but the game’s main focus is in that stylish combat. Picture, if you will, this environmental hazard: a row of swordfish heads, staring at the ceiling, and Wei Shen throwing a man on top. The game’s original and seems to trust the player at the same time.

Over the course of the game your martial arts skills and reputation grow. People eventually shout your name, rather than spitting at your feet. This is a game to be savoured, and one that I think is worth the upgrade. If you’re the type of gamer who would spend another £40 for Ocarina of Time on the 3DS, or for a game when it’s released on Steam, well then this is probably for you.

In May this year I visited Hong Kong and spent a long time with friends in the Lan Kwai Fong area. The game took me back to those days - of walking out of the apartment and hearing the cooling song of the extraction fans humming against the building walls as the buildings towered and toppled around me. When I slammed my fist into another brute’s face I could feel the oppressive humidity dripping down my vest, as I, Wei Shen, successfully countered another foe. It’s rare that games take us somewhere internal as well as to a new place, but this one did.

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