Square Enix are at it again with their "definitive" release of a previous generation title, this time bringing United Front’s open-world, third-person action title Sleeping Dogs to Xbox One with a new coat of polish. But are the visual improvements and included DLC enough to lure you in for another go, or is this purely for those yet to experience it?
Sleeping Dogs puts you in the shoes of Wei Shen, a Chinese-American cop returning to Hong Kong to unravel the Triad presence in the city. Additionally, Wei has some unfinished business with the criminal syndicate’s bosses who forced his mother to flee to the States in the first place. Yet as Wei slips deeper into his faux life of crime, the allures of money, wealth and power start to take hold and raise questions to which side of the law he should really serve.
You’re lead through the highly condensed city of Hong Kong as you take on missions and rise through the Triad ranks. Mostly you’ll be hijacking and driving through the streets - made all the more bustling by the Definitive Edition – between gunfights, whilst ancillary distractions such as collectables and side missions lure you into fistfights and more in the neon-lit back streets. It’s a relatively small open-world city but this compactness certainly makes the collection tasks seemingly more bountiful.
Disappointingly, however, there’s a lack of diversity with the city layout. The tower blocks in the background are largely an elaborate skybox. Entire shops are visibly copied and pasted, and around every corner is near enough the same street design. That said, it’s a pleasingly colourful recreation of the city, and impressively sharp with the Definitive Edition’s high-resolution textures and improved lighting.
While Sleeping Dogs follows the genre playbook very closely, it’s more than just another GTA or Saints Row, Wei’s actions have consequences on the world and on his progress. In an attempt to reflect Wei’s conflicted loyalties, playing the good cop will gain you police experience, whereas playing the bad boy - killing innocents, damaging property - will level you up as a Triad member, with each path unlocking multiple, unique abilities along the way. Additionally, the various side missions earn you ‘face’ for helping passers-by or proving how much of a tough guy you are, and certain shops won’t sell to you until you’ve ranked up enough to prove you can rock that dress jacket, gold chain or imported sports car.
Sleeping Dogs also has a unique arcade style to it; this is especially evident in how you traverse the world. Walking and running simply won’t do, instead you parkour around the environment, to a limited extent, with simple one-button presses to vault obstacles at speed. Additionally vehicle handling is highly responsive and frantic, abandoning realism all together. Meanwhile, whilst gunplay is certainly an option, it lacks the visceral enjoyment of beating the snot out of people with your fists and feet. Wei’s martial art encounters are intense brawls which clearly borrow from the Batman Arkham games, mixing some brutal-looking and sounding strikes, kicks and grapples, complete with environmental take-downs such as face-planting into a wall and electrocution by neon sign.
Unfortunately, however, we’ve seen all this before. It’s certainly the Definitive Edition in terms of collating all the content with all the DLC packs included, as well as both the Nightmare in North Point and Year of the Snake standalone expansions, and the aforementioned improved visuals are appreciated - although difficult to notice unless performing side-by-side comparisons – but it’s a high asking price for what is essentially the Game of The Year Edition of a two-year-old title.
Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition is a smart, accessible, and enjoyable open-world adventure with plenty to do. The terrific melee combat system and intriguing story are more than enough to warrant a recommendation to anyone yet to play it, but if you’ve experienced the streets of Hong Kong before then the slightly sharper visuals and included DLC are a tougher sell.