Sleeping Dogs (video game)
Sleeping Dogs is a 2012 open world action-adventure video game by United Front Games and Square Enix London for PlayStation 3, Windows, and Xbox 360 platforms. Set in contemporary Hong Kong, the single-player story follows Wei Shen, an undercover Hong Kong-American police officer on assignment to infiltrate the Sun On Yee Triad organization. Gameplay focuses on Shen's fighting, shooting and parkour abilities, and on gadgets that can be used for combat and exploration. Players must complete missions to unlock content and continue the story, but they may instead wander the game's open world and engage in both legal and criminal activities. The latter may incite a police response, the intensity of which is controlled by a "heat" system. Actions such as fighting, driving and racing grant Shen statistical rewards and earn the player achievements.
Sleeping Dogs' difficult and prolonged development began in 2008. The game was announced in 2009 as part of the True Crime series but was canceled by Activision Blizzard in 2011, as a result of the project's delays and budget issues. Six months later, Square Enix bought the publishing rights and renamed the game Sleeping Dogs, without the True Crime license, but considered a spiritual successor. During development, United Front staff visited Hong Kong to conduct field research for the visual environments and sound.
Upon its release in 2012, the game received positive reviews for its combat, voice acting, experience system and depiction of the city; but its graphics, camera, and animations were criticized. Within one year, the game had sold over 1.5 million copies. New outfits, missions and add-ons, as well as three expansion packs, were released as downloadable content in the six months following the game's debut. A remastered version, subtitled Definitive Edition, was released in October 2014 for Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. It features improved gameplay, setting and audiovisual quality based on community feedback. The macOS version of Definitive Edition was released on 31 March 2016 by Feral Interactive. A spin-off, Triad Wars, was canceled mid-development in 2015.
Sleeping Dogs is an action-adventure video game that takes place from a third-person perspective. The player controls Wei Shen, a Chinese-American police officer who goes undercover and infiltrates the Sun On Yee Triad organization. The first missions of the game are a linear tutorial for controlling the character. After these missions, the player is allowed to explore the game's world and take part in side missions and other activities. Shen navigates the world by running, jumping, climbing over obstacles, swimming, and driving cars, boats and motorcycles. The heads-up display (HUD) interface features a mini-map that indicates targets, key locations (safe houses and contact points) and Shen's current position. The mini-map incorporates two meters: one shows Shen's health and the other his face. When the face meter fills, upgrades are unlocked such as health regeneration, improved combat abilities and reduced equipment costs. The HUD also displays the weapon carried and its ammunition count.
The game features role-playing mechanics based on three types of experience points (XP): Triad, Face and Police XPs. Triad XP is obtained through melee combat and violent actions such as "environmental kills". Face XP, obtained in civilian side missions, fills Shen's face meter and unlocks cosmetic items such as clothes and vehicles. By reaching a higher Face level, the player can freely buy vehicles or clothing. When it is full, Shen gains health regeneration, increased attack damage and other benefits. Police XP is gained by minimizing civilian casualties and property damage in missions and by completing police side missions. Gaining XP unlocks abilities such as hot-wiring cars and disarming opponents. The clothes, accessories and vehicles purchased by Shen affect non-player characters' reactions toward him. Players may also collect jade statues used to unlock melee combat skills.
Sleeping Dogs' melee combat has been compared to that of Batman: Arkham Asylum: it consists of attack, grapple and counter-moves and can be performed with or without weapons. These three basic commands are chained together with the character's movement to execute attacks. The player's face meter fills up faster when enemies are defeated with different moves in rapid succession or with environmental attacks. Environmental attacks are performed by dragging enemies to certain objects, which Shen uses to eliminate opponents. Melee weapons such as knives and tyre irons are available, but they break with extended use. Players can perform "action hijacks" while driving vehicles. These cause Shen to leap from his vehicle to steal another in motion. In combat, Shen loses health as he takes damage. This can be mitigated by taking cover where available. If the health bar is depleted, the character will respawn at a hospital.
If players direct Shen to commit crimes, police response is indicated by a "heat" meter on the HUD. The meter displays the current wanted level; if it reaches 5, the police will aggressively pursue Shen. The meter recedes when Shen is hidden from the cops' line of sight. Police officers continue to search for Shen even if he leaves the wanted vicinity, and they will resume the chase if he is sighted. If Shen is arrested or killed by officers during missions, players can restart from the last checkpoint.
Some areas in the world remain inaccessible until milestones in the story are achieved. Although players must complete missions to unlock content and continue the story, they may also wander the game's open world and participate in activities such as visiting a karaoke bar, carjacking, street racing and joining a fight club. There are several potential girlfriends for Shen: successfully dating them awards collectibles and bonus content. The completion of side missions rewards the player with new missions, vehicles, and outfits, among other things.
The game has no multiplayer component, but online leaderboards are available for players to compare scores. Many activities that are not central to the story grant Stat Awards in three tiers: bronze, silver and gold. These unlock achievements and trophies.
As the game progresses, the players acquire various safe houses to save progress in, but at certain times is required to go there to progress further. Like other houses, the player can survey unlocked areas (i.e. if they unlock the hack boxes given), change outfits, and a parking spot is accessible in which they can use unlocked vehicles.
Setting and characters
Sleeping Dogs is set in a contemporary Hong Kong, which is split into four districts named after regions of the city. The game reveals the story of Wei Shen (Will Yun Lee), a former San Francisco police officer who was transferred to the Hong Kong Police Force and assigned the task to infiltrate and destroy a Triad organization known as the Sun On Yee (based on the Sun Yee On). The main storyline features two sub-plots: Shen's balance between completing his police mission whilst committing crimes to prove himself to the Triads, and missions assigned by a Triad lieutenant, including assassination of Triad members loyal to other lieutenants.
Shen's mission is coordinated by Police Superintendent Thomas Pendrew (Tom Wilkinson), and progress made by Shen is reported to his handler, Raymond Mak (Byron Mann). Shen infiltrates the Sun On Yee via his childhood friend Jackie Ma (Edison Chen), a low-level Triad member; and his loyalty is tested by the Triad boss "Red Pole" Winston Chu (Parry Shen). Other characters in the game include the head of the Sun On Yee, David Wai-Lin "Uncle" Po (James Hong); Shen's love interest Amanda Cartwright (Emma Stone); Winston's right-hand man, Conroy Wu (Robin Shou); singer Vivienne Lu (Lucy Liu); and Shen's girlfriend Not Ping (Celina Jade).
The game begins in Victoria Harbour, where Wei Shen is arrested after a drug deal goes wrong. In jail, Shen meets an old friend, Jackie Ma, who offers to introduce Shen to the members of a Triad gang once they are released. It is later revealed that Shen's arrest was part of a police operation, headed by Superintendent Thomas Pendrew and Raymond Mak, to infiltrate the Water Street branch of a criminal organization, the 'Sun On Yee' Triad gang. Shen joins the gang and is sent on various assignments by the leader, Winston Chu, against a rival branch known as the Jade Gang led by Sam "Dogeyes" Lin.
Retaliatory attacks on each other's properties culminate in the killing of Winston and his fiancée at their wedding by 18K gang members. The group leader of the Sun On Yee Triads, David Wai-Lin "Uncle" Po, is also critically wounded in the attack but is saved by Shen. As a reward, Shen is promoted to leader of the Water Street branch and hunts down Winston's killer who reveals that Dogeyes was the instigator of the attack. Shen then captures Dogeyes who is killed by Winston's mother. Po later dies in the hospital.
As a branch leader, Shen becomes embroiled in a power struggle over the leadership of Sun On Yee, siding with "Broken Nose" Jiang (Elizabeth Sung) against another branch leader, Henry "Big Smile" Lee (Tzi Ma). Shen also refuses Pendrew's order to get off the case out of fear of Lee taking over the leadership. Pendrew then leaks Shen's identity to Lee, who attempts to use this information to disgrace Jiang prior to the upcoming election. After Jackie is killed at the hands of Lee's gang and used as bait to draw out Shen, he's kidnapped by 18k and tortured by Lee's torturer Mr. Tong. Shen then escapes his captors and kills Lee. With the deaths of many senior ranking gang members, Shen is commended on his work but is informed by Mak that Pendrew has since been reassigned and is out of his reach. Shen later receives video evidence from Jiang that Pendrew was responsible for the death of Uncle Po. Pendrew is imprisoned for his crime while Shen returns to the police force.
Towards the end of 2007, Activision approached the newly founded United Front Games, which consisted of only ten members, to develop an open-world game. United Front accepted and Activision provided sufficient funding for 180 employees. Early designs for the game, named Black Lotus at the time, incorporated dark tones with elements of humour similar to an "HBO crime drama". The project advanced to full production in early 2008.
A year into development, Activision proposed that Black Lotus be made part of an existing franchise and highlighted similarities to the True Crime series; both games were set in open worlds with plots centred on an undercover cop in a criminal organization. Sales of previous True Crime games had been disappointing, but Activision felt the innovations in Black Lotus could revitalize the franchise and make the game successful in its own right. Activision attached the game to the series and revealed it to the public as True Crime: Hong Kong in November 2009. They delayed the game until 2010 to allow further refinement. During this period Hollywood action editor Tony Ciccone was hired to consult on the game's visual identity and animations.
Despite progress in game development, at the release of the financial report for the last quarter of 2010 on February 9, 2011, Activision announced the cancelation of True Crime: Hong Kong. The publisher said that due to "quality issues" further investment would not make the game competitive in the genre even with their most optimistic projections. Although United Front Games shared this sentiment, executive producer Stephen Van Der Mescht expressed in an interview that "True Crime: Hong Kong was playable from start to finish and virtually complete in terms of content" prior to Activision's cancelation of the project. Van Der Mescht said the game "stood apart" from the competition.
On June 22, 2011, Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg explained that the budget and development delays were contributing factors in its cancelation. According to Hirshberg, the increase in budget and subsequent delays meant that the game would have to be "pretty incredible success" for Activision to have an acceptable return on investment. Due to competition posed by other titles, particularly Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, Activision's view was that True Crime: Hong Kong was not at the level of quality that it could compete.
United Front Games cut 120 staff with the company's solvency in doubt until August when Square Enix acquired the publishing rights to the game. Square Enix did not buy the True Crime intellectual property, and renamed the game Sleeping Dogs. Square Enix London Studios general manager Lee Singleton said he recognized the game's playability and potential. United Front Games' President Stefan Wessels stated he was excited to work with Square Enix London. Sixty people were added to the development team and the game was released in late 2012.
During development of the game the combat system was one of the key focuses. Mike Skupa, the Design Director, said that the combat was refined using feedback from Square Enix, with references drawn from Tony Jaa's The Protector. The system was designed to emphasize multi-directional combat, strike-based gameplay and environmental interaction. It started as "one big violent sandbox" and progressed to a playable demo. Skupa was pleased with how well the game kept the qualities of the original demo.
The game's designers performed extensive research in Hong Kong to create an accurate portrayal of the city. Art designers spent seven days in Hong Kong, where they studied the city's environment, and took more than 20,000 photos as references for the physical environment in the game. They travelled on foot to various locales, such as clubs and malls, and interviewed ex-Triad members and retired members of the Hong Kong Police Force Anti-Triad unit, which inspired narratives and character design. The sound designers spent ten days in the city overseeing the dialogue sessions on weekdays and capturing ambient noises around the city at weekends.
During the early stages of development, in-game dialogue was recorded in Los Angeles by local Asian actors, but much of the audio was then re-recorded in Hong Kong through Drum Music, a specialist recording company. Audio design was complicated; scripting was handled in Vancouver and the recording was in Hong Kong. There were reservations among the developers about the language for the background dialogue; the sound design team eventually prevailed in using Hong Kong Cantonese over English.
In-game radio music was handled by Joe Best and sourced from various music labels. Tracks were licensed from Tsunami Music, Warp, Ninja Tune, and Roadrunner Records which also lent their names to the in-game radio stations. Through Tsunami Music, voice actors were auditioned and recruited to provide presenters for each of the radio stations in the game. DJs from companies such as Kerrang! also provided voices for the in-game radio presenters.
Marketing and release
United Front Games relied on viral marketing, such as Internet advertisements and TV trailers, prior to Sleeping Dogs's release. The production team promoted the game with regular communication on social networking websites. They also promoted it at video game conventions such as Game Developers Conference, PAX East, MCM London Comic Con, E3, Comic Con, and Gamescom.
Square Enix revealed North American pre-order bonuses for Best Buy, GameStop and Amazon customers in April 2012; each retailer offered its own exclusive in-game content pack. A United Kingdom limited edition release contained two such packs, and an Australian special edition, sold through EB Games and JB Hi-Fi, included all three packs at no added cost.
Further marketing of Sleeping Dogs was via cross-promotion on different platforms; players who bought the game through Steam received an eight item pack for Team Fortress 2, which was later made available for separate purchase, and a Hong Kong-themed Team Fortress 2 level, Kong King. Owners of Just Cause 2 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or PC received automatic access to a Sleeping Dogs character outfit in the style of Just Cause 2 protagonist Rico Rodriguez. The outfit increases the player's action hijack statistics and increases the range from which the player can perform stunt takeovers of enemy vehicles.
The game was released on August 14, 2012 in North America, August 16 in Australia, and August 17 in Europe. September 27 Japanese release was titled Sleeping Dogs: Hong Kong Secret Police (スリーピングドッグス 香港秘密警察?) and was censored to pass the classification by the Japanese ratings board CERO. Differences include penalties for attacking civilians, lack of a street race flagger and a less explicit sex scene.
An enhanced version, subtitled Definitive Edition, was released on October 10, 2014 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It includes all the 24 previously released downloadable contents (DLCs) and features improved graphical resolution and gameplay, setting and audiovisual quality changes based on community feedback.
Square Enix announced six months of downloadable content to follow the game's release. Packs included new content such as outfit items, vehicles, experience point boosts, new tasks including money hidden around the city for players to find, vehicle races, weapons, missions and fight movesets. Square Enix released a total of five content packs along with various pre-order bonuses, such as the Dragon Master Pack which was released in November 2012. The last downloadable content for Sleeping Dogs was the "Wheels of Fury" supercar expansion, released in February 2013.
The first story-driven game expansion, Nightmare in North Point, was released in October 2012. Its theme is based on Chinese horror and folklore, and features Chinese vampires known as the jiangshi. In the expansion's plot, Shen's girlfriend is abducted by the ghost of Smiley Cat, a former gangster killed by Uncle Po, who has risen up from the underworld as a ghost to take his vengeance on the Sun On Yee. Shen fights Smiley Cat's army of jiangshi, Yaoguai and possessed gangsters, as well as the ghosts of Dogeyes, Johnny Ratface and Ponytail, who reveals that Wei can defeat Smiley Cat by burning the last remnant of his original body. After incinerating his little finger, Cat returns to the underworld and Shen's girlfriend is freed.
The second story-based expansion, Zodiac Tournament, was released in December 2012. The expansion adds a new island to the game, with new fight arenas, enemies, bosses and outfits. In the expansion's story, Shen is invited to an exclusive fighting tournament held away from Hong Kong. Inspector Teng asks Shen to investigate an illegal fighting tournament. After defeating several fighters in lethal matches, Shen wins and chases the Tournament Master, who offers to share his earnings in return for his life. Shen declines his offer and snaps the master's neck, killing him.
The third and final story-based expansion, Year of the Snake, was released in March 2013. It adds six missions set after the game's story. The additional missions feature Shen investigating terror attacks around Hong Kong stemming from a cultist group who believe that they will achieve spiritual salvation through the cleansing of Hong Kong residents. Shen must sabotage the cult's activities, ultimately ending in the arrest of the cult master. The DLC also adds the ability for Shen to tase and arrest civilians and criminals around Hong Kong, as well as additional collectibles, side missions, ownable police vehicles, and new clothing.
Sleeping Dogs received positive reviews upon release, according to video game review aggregator Metacritic. It was nominated for "Action Game of the Year" and "Outstanding Achievement in Story" at the 2013 D.I.C.E. Interactive Achievement Awards.
Eurogamer writer Dan Whitehead called the combat system "robust and intuitive". IGN's Colin Moriarty compared the combat to that of Batman: Arkham City and compared it favorably with Grand Theft Auto IV despite its simplicity and repetitiveness. Hollander Cooper from GamesRadar praised the combat, especially the unique melee attacks. Andy Kelly of Computer and Video Games welcomed the slower-paced missions. Carolyn Petit from GameSpot and Ben Wilson from PlayStation Official Magazine found the combat enjoyable and highlighted the environmental attacks as "empowering and effective". Cooper, Allistair Pinsof from Destructoid, and Edge found the missions generic and linear, a sentiment reserved by Dan Ryckert of Game Informer for the shooting missions. Petit disagreed, saying that the missions were varied and enjoyable. Whitehead and Ryckert complained that there is too little to spend mission earnings on.
The leveling system was described by Ryckert as "stand[ing] out from the open-world pack". Moriarty praised the system for its use of the Face system and the ability to replay missions if unsatisfied. Petit agreed and enjoyed the "pleasant sense of growth" given to Shen by the experience system during the campaign. Pinsof called the system "one of the greatest innovations Sleeping Dogs brings to the genre". Jon Blyth of Official Xbox Magazine liked the "pleasingly absurd" missions needed to gain Face.
Moriarty lauded the game's depiction of Hong Kong as "alive and well-populated" and also liked the AI, the setting, and the voice acting, in particular the use of Cantonese and English. Edge gave similar praise: "Offering a view of Asia through the filter of its action film industry, this is a depiction of Hong Kong that could have come straight from the reel." Pinsof acclaimed the city's scale and AI.
Shen and the other characters were mostly well received. Cooper applauded the conflicted nature of Shen's personality as a result of being in an overwhelming situation, arguing that this detail solidified him as a developed and likeable protagonist. Cooper found the Triad members unsatisfactory by comparison, comparing them unfavorably with Grand Theft Auto characters. Edge called Shen an engaging protagonist and also complimented the other characters, whose voice actors brought life to the characters. Blyth described the cast, aside from Shen, as "brilliantly recognizable stereotypes that have been given enough extra edge for you to care about them", and felt the attitude shifts of some characters were distracting and unrealistic. Wilson said that the characters were "fleshed out brilliantly". Pinsof claimed that the game's premise "grants a perfect excuse for Shen to do terrible things while remaining a sympathetic, level-headed lead." Kelly thought Shen's two-faced nature was the main entertainment factor of the missions. Whitehead found the player's ability to switch allegiances as needed to wear away at "the already fragile grasp the narrative has on Shen's conflicted loyalties."
Moriarty criticized the game's draw distance and texture loading and Whitehead noted some framerate and environmental glitches. Petit said that, in spite of generally convincing non-player character design, "character models look like plastic dolls when viewed up close, and some gestures characters make are rigid and unnatural." Edge stated that character animations in a variety of contexts look "robotic", and Kelly said that "everything in the distance looks like it's been smeared in Vaseline." Pinsof described the graphics as "gorgeous" and conducive to an immersive experience in Hong Kong. Moriarty noted that the game's camera was particularly problematic when driving and less so during combat. Cooper and Edge also criticized the camera.
In the UK, Sleeping Dogs was the best-selling game in the week of its release, and had the fifth-highest first-week sales of any game released in 2012. It retained the top spot during its second week, despite sales dropping by 15%. It returned to the top spot after four weeks on sale. Sleeping Dogs sales rose by 8%, despite five weeks in the chart, defeating new release Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Sleeping Dogs was the 20th best selling title of 2012 in the UK, and the best selling original game. According to NPD Group, Sleeping Dogs was the sixth-best selling game in the US in August 2012, at 172,000 copies. PC sales for Sleeping Dogs were not counted, as it is only available by download in the US.
According to Square Enix, Sleeping Dogs sold 1.5 million copies by the end of September 2012. Square Enix president Yoichi Wada defended the game's sales and said that the firm might have had unreasonably high expectations for the game. He saw Sleeping Dogs as a strong new intellectual property and said that titles such as Sleeping Dogs tend to sell better over long periods of time in the West, unlike in Japan where most lifetime sales are achieved in the first months. On March 26, 2013, Square Enix announced that the game was expected to sell about 1.75 million copies in 2013. On September 10, 2013, the company announced that Sleeping Dogs, alongside Tomb Raider and Hitman: Absolution, had been successful in their game development, but did not meet sales expectations, and were considered by the publisher "failures".
With the closure of United Front Games, the future of Sleeping Dogs is uncertain. Square Enix retains sole rights to the property.
In other media
Triad Wars is a canceled spin-off to Sleeping Dogs which was scheduled to be released in 2015. The game was initially planned to be released as a PC online game with more massively multiplayer online (MMO) elements. However, it was canceled by the United Front Games with the statement "We've loved seeing how you've played Triad Wars but we know it wasn't right for many of you".
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