On the cover Sleeping Dogs may appear to several people as an Asian version of GTA 4. There are many fair reasons for a person to believe as such. Sleeping dogs do indeed share many similarities with GTA 4.
Both are open world sandbox games(albeit Sleeping Dogs is not on as grand a scale as GTA 4), their stories revolve around organized-crime syndicates and they both grant the luxury of trampling innocent by-standers under your vehicles. However, there are more than a few things that distinguish Sleeping Dogs.
Comparisons between Sleeping Dogs and GTA 4 are inevitable. GTA 4 is considered the Holy Grail of modern sandbox games and any other game making an entry in this genre will ultimately be compared to GTA 4 and judged by its standard. Literally, GTA 4 is the yard scale to which every other sandbox game is measured against.
Sleeping Dogs not only manages to hold its own against GTA 4 but even trumps it on numerous counts. A bold statement but not without merit I feel. Now before hate/rage comments start to rain on me or the flame war ensues let me make my case.
GTA 4’s combat style or mechanism was archaic the day it was released. Niko Bellic could only throw a handful of punches followed by a low sweeping kick. This pattern got repetitive and tiring very quickly and seeing Niko use the same combo during the 35+ hour of game play was also more than just a little drag.
Sleeping Dogs. However, stays true to its inspiration of Hong Kong kung-fu movies. Wei Shen executes complex multiple combos all throughout the game. These combos can be strung together by carefully timed counters to enemy attacks. The combos and counters have beautiful animations to go along and what’s more impressive is that they never seem out of place and unnatural.
In this regard Sleeping Dogs to realism pays off very well. Sleeping Dogs melee combat system felt like a new and improved version of Batman’s moves from the Arkham series, and if you can top batman then you must be really frakin’ good.
GTA 4 had a big beautiful and gorgeous world surrounding its protagonist but sadly Niko could not use any of it to inflect pain on his enemies. Sleeping Dogs makes the most use out of its environments. Every time I grappled with any poor fellow and saw anything flashing red; I ran towards it with sick gleefulness.
Sure the first few gory deaths I saw made me cringe but soon enough I could not be just live without triggering every environmental death trap I saw. My personal favorite was shoving a guy headfirst into a meat grinder and watching his entrails come out of the other end.
Of all the things to like about Sleeping Dogs combat mechanism it was really something basic that was my personal favorite, I-e the sound effects. That snapping sound of a bone breaking was so realistic and cringe-inducing, but it also gave an inhumane satisfaction to the player. Every time that Wei Shen snapped a dude’s arm or broke a guy’s leg that sick snapping sound almost made you feel that.
Sure we could pile up lifeless bodies of thugs, innocent by-standers or pretty much anyone in GTA 4 too, but it never was close to the satisfaction of seeing Wei Shen dish out punishment by using just his hands.
Driving around in GTA 4 was ok it was not bad, but it was just a way getting from point A to point B with killing people under your vehicle who were stupid enough to get in your way. In Sleeping Dogs you can do the same and so much more.
The first rush of adrenaline I felt playing this game was by simply driving a motorcycle at its breakneck speed. When you drive fast in this game you really can feel it as you see neon signs blurring all around and their lights whipping by as you bolt down the road.
The best thing about the driving in this game is the control it offers to the player. No matter how fast you may go to Wei at no time seems to lose control of his vehicle and stays firmly in/on it. Shooting through tight alleyways, zigzagging through cars on a crowded Hong Kong highway or chasing another vehicle down at a full throttle without ever having to hit the brakes is exhilarating and satisfying like not at any time before.
Driving at the full speeds is not all that is to drive in Sleeping Dogs. Car duels are big part of the game. Having two or more cars tough it out on the streets of Hong Kong is good. Ramming your car sideways into another is brutally awesome.
If you manage to make the other car take an involuntarily tumble…well let’s just say it looks good in slow motion. This car dueling is an effective way to end car chases or escape from the police.
For me, vehicles when they crashed or went flying through the air it incited a sense of nostalgia for one of my favorite games of all time, Burnout 3: Takedown.
Niko Bellic remained what he was throughout the whole course of the game, he really did not pick up anything brand new or learned any fresh moves during his adventure.
Sleeping Dogs’ protagonist Wei Shen. However, has four skill sets/trees to spend his experience points on. It is right to say that this kind of thing really belongs to an RPG instead of a sandbox game and is a luxury in this case but hey it is there, and it adds to the depth of the game.
There are four skill tree for you to invest your experience points on:
- Cop skill tree
- Triad skill tree
- Melee skill tree
- Face skill tree
Points to spend on these trees are accumulated in accordance to how you play. If you protect the innocent and go out of your way to save them during your missions you will be granted experience points to spend on the cop skill tree. However, if you are just like any other person who played GTA or any sandbox game chances are you will be doing a lot of unnecessary killing, and this will cause your triad level to rise up, and you will have to spend experience points on the triad skill tree.
Face skill tree is tied to how many favors you do for the citizen of Hong Kong, and the melee skill tree is tied to how many stolen jade statues can you find and return to the kung-fu school.
Progressing through these skill trees really fleshes out Wei Shen’s character and also makes him stronger towards the end of the game. GTA 4 sorely lacked this sort of leveling system. The closest thing it had to this was a stat screen of all your past doings and nothing more. This made Niko stale.
I’m going to get a lot of angry/hate comments for my last two points but what the hell everyone is entitled to their opinion and so am I to mine. Sleeping Dogs may be present a shorter story or campaign but without giving any spoilers let me assure you that every second of that experience is riveting and compelling.
GTA 4 does indeed have a good story to go with it, but most missions in it were the go kill someone or go fetch someone type although that bank robbery mission was an epic. Sleeping Dogs. However, delivers a far more thrilling and emotionally investing drama and much of it is because of the protagonist I feel.
Niko Bellic as a protagonist is one-dimensional, I feel. He is a guy who wants to protect his family(i-e his cousin), live the American dream and police to him are the bad guys.
Wei Shen as a character is far more complex than that. As an undercover cop and also a member of the triads Wei has a kind of a dual personality. As an officer he has a code to adhere to but being a member of the triad he also has to keep up his ruthless gangster appearance so as to not arouse suspicion.
The threat of his cover being blown up and the suspense of finding which side will Wei ultimately ends up on keeps the gamer thoroughly engaged.
Yes, you read that right. The sub-heading does indeed read “Voice acting,” which means I’m about to condemn GTA 4’s voice acting as inferior to Sleeping Dogs. This will come as a surprise to you hell it even comes to me as a big surprise.
Every GTA game in the past has had top notch voice acting and so does GTA 4 particularly the banter between Niko and his dates or his cousin Roman Bellic was always hilarious and entertaining. So why do I feel that Sleeping Dogs’ voice acting is better?
It has to be the mixture of the Cantonese, and the English language which the cast managed to pull off so smoothly. Sleeping Dogs takes place in Hong Kong so Cantonese language was expected in this game, but I didn’t think it would be executed so smoothly that it would come off without a glitch and feel all so natural and just right.
Another that made me decide to regard Sleeping Dogs voice acting as better than GTA 4s was the general theme behind it. In GTA 4 no matter how many killings were done the characters always had a laugh about it with some witty joke(maybe not Niko as he was the resident emo in that bunch).
Not to say this was not entertaining, but it sometimes felt out of place. Sleeping Dogs adherer’s itself to a darker and foreboding theme. The characters in it acknowledge what’s going around them and react and speak accordingly. This provides the game with another layer of depth, in my opinion.
Moreover, the star-studded voice cast of Will Yun Lee, Edison Chen, Lucy Liu, Tom Wilkinson and Emma Stone deliver stellar performances and successfully portray emotions in their lines.
And just for the record, let me clarify that Emma Stone wasn’t at all the only reason I prefer sleeping Dogs’ voiceover to GTA 4’s.
In conclusion, I would like to say that this article is not meant to degrade GTA 4 in any fashion. I can think of many things just from the top of my head that GTA 4 does better than Sleeping Dogs like for e-g.
- Far superior mini-games.
- Engaging Multiplayer mode.
- Far more vibrant and lively city.
- The size or scale of the game itself.
- Relationships with dates and friends.
I have tremendous respect for GTA 4 as an example of video gaming art. GTA 4 has enjoyed enormous success and deservedly so, but I feel that Sleeping Dogs has just as much potential and it also deserves recognition. Before its release Sleeping Dogs was hardly showing up on most gamers’ radar.
If you are a fan of GTA series or sandbox game genre, then you owe it to yourself to at least try this game out. Who knows it may pleasantly surprise you like it surprised me.