We go hands-on with Square Enix’s open world action game, Sleeping Dogs

we go hands on with square enixs open world action game sleeping dogs 7538sd screenshot wei punch street jl 01

It was somewhat surprising when Activision dropped United Front Games’ True Crime: Hong Kong game after showcasing it at GDC and E3 in 2010. Even back then, the game looked solid. And although it had the True Crime branding, it really was an original open world game set in Honk Kong. Square Enix has stepped in and revived the game, which has shed the True Crime brand in favor of what could become a new franchise, Sleeping Dogs. The game will finally ship for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC later this year, although no exact date has been given yet.

Sleeping Dogs has come a long way in a couple of years. Visually impressive, the game is also very easy to pick up and play. Mike Skupa, design director at United Front Games, said that the team has focused on “combat, shooting and driving and making those best-in-class so that gamers can have the same quality of experience as they’d have in a linear game.”

we go hands on with square enixs open world action game sleeping dogs 7539sd screenshot wei shoot building jl 03

With nods to games like GTA IV, Gears of War 3, and Batman: Arkham City, Sleeping Dogs is aiming for the growing audience of gamers that are clamoring for story-driven entertainment. Skupa said the team, which traveled to Hong Kong to capture the look and feel of the game, drew inspiration from Hollywood.

“We were influenced by a wide range of movies, especially The Departed, which is based on Infernal Affairs,” said Skupa. “Eeven films like the Bourne series and Tarantino movies played a role. And then, obviously, we watched a lot of Hong Kong cinema and action movies.”

The game features elaborate fight sequences with eight or more enemies converging at once, huge car chases through crowded Hong Kong streets, and intense firefights with cover-driven action. For the most part, a simple button push will have players performing death-defying feats. During a fistfight, objects throughout the environment, whether it’s a table saw in an under-construction building or a garage parking lot with a car battery suspended in the air, are easily accessible to deliver gory finishes to enemies. It’s the ability to quickly utilize objects in an environment that allows the melee combat to move at a frenetic space with many enemies attacking at once.

we go hands on with square enixs open world action game sleeping dogs 7540sd screenshot wei street jl 01

“The big focus of the game has been that it’s a sandbox game and that goes both for the mission structure as well as the core game play mechanics,” said Skupa. “Our three big core mechanics would be the melee combat, the driving, and the shooting aspects. All of those things get touched by a free running system, which basically allows the player to navigate the world in a very contextual manner. What I believe stands out is the way we bring all of these elements together to create a seamless mix of gameplay that the player can utilize to overcome a variety of obstacles.”

One of the playable demo’s more memorable experiences takes place on a crowded highway, in and out of traffic – sometimes on-coming – with the player pursuing a bad guy’s sports car while on a motorcycle. In addition to shooting out tires of cars, which sends the car flying into the air for a finishing shot to turn it into an exploding wreck, the player can navigate through traffic and–with a perfectly-timed button push–can jump onto the roof of the speeding car before sliding into the driver’s seat for an interrogation. Skupa hinted that the final game will also offer an even more harrowing boat battle in the waterways in and around the coasts of Hong Kong. While the action is accessible and takes center stage, the world was created based on the real Hong Kong.

we go hands on with square enixs open world action game sleeping dogs 7536sd screenshot wei po jl 01

“From the beginning, we really wanted to ground the story in reality so we did a lot of research on the Triads and undercover work, and we created a universe that we put our main character, Wei Shen, in,” said Krupa. “We started off creating a set of characters, a scenario, a neighborhood, and then with our main character we tried to create a sympathetic character that we could put undercover. The big focus on that was just the concept of identity, which is a strong aspect of any good undercover movie. Shen actually goes back to the neighborhood he grew up in and has to deal with a lot of the characters that he knew as a youth. The story is a combination of his professional journey and his personal journey, which makes the conflict within the character quite interesting.”

In addition to the core narrative structure, the player has hundreds of secondary things to do within the game world, which is broken up into four large sections of Hong Kong. Players are free to explore and do favors for characters, take on jobs, and even go shopping. Shen will collect a number of vehicles throughout the game, including motorcycles and cars, and those can be stored in garages throughout the city, at the ready for driving action or simply a night on the town.

we go hands on with square enixs open world action game sleeping dogs 7533sd screenshot wei boat jl 02

“There’s an extensive upgrade system that allows the player to grow his character both from a combat standpoint as well as with skills like driving and shooting capabilities,” explained Skupa. “There are a lot of different things that the player can do, but we really wanted to make sure that the majority of our secondary content actually ties into the fiction and the themes of the core story experience.”

Lee Singleton, general manager of Square Enix London Studios, believes people will be “quite comfortable playing Sleeping Dogs because of the intuitive controls, but they’ll be pleasantly surprised with the gameplay mechanics and doing some things they probably haven’t done before within an open world environment.”

The way things are shaping up, Sleeping Dogs could launch a brand new franchise for Square. Singleton said that the brand isn’t tied to one city, either, which opens up an entire world of possibilities.

Product Review

'Marvel's Spider-Man' slings and swings its way to the top of the superhero heap

Insomniac's entry into the superhero genre has a big suit to fill, but ‘Marvel's Spider-Man’ is a phenomenal action game, a strong Spider-Man story, and an open-world game that has plenty to do without getting boring.
Gaming

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now, from Super Mario Odyssey to Fortnite.
Gaming

This list of PlayStation 4 exclusives puts its competitors to shame

The PlayStation 4's game library and incredible selection of exclusive games could make anyone with an Xbox One or Nintendo Switch think twice. Here's our list of the latest and greatest PS4 exclusives.
Deals

Check out the best Green Monday deals for those last-minute gifts

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, but that doesn't mean you've missed your chance of finding a great deal. We're talking about Green Monday, of course, and it falls on December 10.
Gaming

Itching to fight in an online match with friends in 'SSB Ultimate'? Here's how

You can play online against your friends in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but it isn't quite as simple as you might expect from a multiplayer game in 2018. Here's how you can do so using the Battle Arena system.
Product Review

‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ is an ode to gaming that lives up to its name

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a loving tribute to Nintendo and video game history. It’s a terrific multiplayer fighter that also has plenty for single-player fans to love this time around.
Gaming

Still trying to unlock your main in 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate'? Try these tips

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is Nintendo’s biggest entry in the series to date with over 70 characters to unlock, but the process can feel tiresome. Here are our tips to unlock your roster as quickly as possible.
Gaming

PlayStation Classic hacked in less than a week to play games via USB drive

Hackers have already managed to crack the PlayStation Classic, with programs now available to allow users to play additional original PlayStation games on the system via a USB drive.
Gaming

‘Fortnite’ adds sword from ‘Infinity Blade,’ which disappears from App Store

Epic Games has added the Infinity Blade melee weapon to Fortnite just as it pulled all three games in the Infinity Blade trilogy from sale. The games are still available to download if you bought them.
Gaming

How you can give your PS4 a fresh start with a factory reset

Learn the many ways you can factory reset your PS4. From reverting your settings to factory to doing a full wipe and reinstalling the latest PlayStation firmware, we cover it all here, step by step.
Gaming

How to make a clan in ‘Destiny 2’ and where to go from there

Want to know how to make a clan in 'Destiny 2'? Here's everything you need to know, including how to design your clan's banner, earn extra loot, and help other players with guided games.
Mobile

Put down the controller and pick up the best phones for gaming on the go

Which phones are the best if all you want to do is play some mobile games? We've done the hard work and put together a list of the best gaming phones on Android and iOS, so you can keep playing and winning.
Gaming

Need help getting the Sleeper Simulant in 'Destiny 2'? We’ve got you covered

The Sleeper Simulant is one of the coolest new Exotic weapons you can unlock in the Warmind expansion of Destiny 2, but it's an involved process that will take awhile. Here's everything you need to know.
Gaming

Ditch the meditation app. 'Katamari Damacy Reroll' is pure gaming zen

Katamari Damacy Reroll brings the magic of the PS2 classic to Nintendo Switch and PC. With updated visuals and the same great, singular loop, Reroll stands the test of time. Katamari Damacy is the ultimate relaxation game.