In the modern 24/7, 365 news cycle in which
we find ourselves it seems every company is rapid-firing their increasingly disinteresting
wares at our occipital cortex with enough profligate abandon to give the ShamWow guy
the creeps. Perhaps out of necessity, sometimes a game or two just plain ninjas the fuck up
behind us and finds its way to store shelves before we’ve formulated the faintest inkling
of what in the ever-loving fuck it actually is. Speaking only for myself, that was very
much the case when I was treated to my first viewing of Sleeping Dogs at this year’s E3,
and sure enough, just a couple months later, there it sat… wedged uncomfortably between
a brittle copy of the Silent Hill HD collection that appeared to be tie-dyed in an aromatic
cocktail of urine and menses… and a virtually brand new – and mercifully unopened – copy
of Street Fighter X Tekken. Allow me to state once more for the record,
having already blown my wad on the subject during numerous installments of the Hate-Bit
Podcast, that this is one game you should not permit to Sam Fisher the fuck past past.
Maybe it’s the radioactive drinking water in Tokyo, but lately, Square Enix has been
winding their shit tighter than Hannah Minx’s water-bra. At this rate, they’re actually
in genuine danger of having a fuckin’ CLUE. From my personal 2011 game of the year Deus
Ex: Human Revolution… to even the minor improvements to their flagship RPG series
during the incrementally-less-shitty Final Fantasy XIII-2… Square Enix has apparently
recognized their fallibilities over the past decade… and appears to be taking genuine
steps to remedy the problem. Sleeping Dogs does to the increasingly stagnant Grand Theft
Auto series… what Deus Ex: Human Revolution did… to BioWare’s fallen angel, Mass Effect.
It extends a middle finger, takes a lingering puff of a cuban cigar and proclaims, “No,
motherfucker… THIS is how you do it.” To commence in decidedly cosmetic fashion,
I found the voice acting in Sleeping Dogs to be downright superb. Particularly for a
game that cuts such a wide swath ethnically. Protagonist Will Yun Lee is dynamic and clearly
ethnic, without once permitting his performance, or those of the supporting cast, to degenerate
into Hong Kong Phooey. “White… cocksucka!”
“Two white cocksuckers killed him… and stole the dope that he was bringin’ to you?”
“White cocksucka! You! Swedgin!” “The dope that you were gonna’ fuckin’ sell
to ME?” “White cocksucka!”
“These two, white cocksuckers?! Who the fuck did it?”
‘Wu!” “WHO, you ignorant fuckin’ chink?”
“WU?!” “Wh-who… WHO STOLE THE FUCKING DOPE?!”
“COCKSUCKA!” But to every rule, an exception. And where
Sleeping Dogs’ voice acting is concerned, that exception’s name… is Kelly Hu. Mind
you, I would never dream of criticizing the performance itself. Ms. Hu is as convincing
and fantastic as ever, the problem is that her in-game avatar has all the erotic appeal
of a shuffleboard tournament. I mean, have you seen Kelly Hu?! This woman is hotter than
Thai Food, why the fuck is her character post-menopausal?! Scan her into the game balls-ass naked and
keep her that way. You’ll still be pulling in Game of the Year awards five fuckin’ years
from now. Just in time for MovieBob to stop masturbating to it.
For the better part of the last decade, gamers and journalists alike have implored developers
to resist their natural impulse to succumb to the proverbial ‘one button to rule them
all’ syndrome. In Assassin’s Creed, for example, from waffle-making to hairy, Italian orgies…
there’s little the combination of the right trigger and the X button cannot do. Which
makes the fact that Sleeping Dogs requires you to actually depress the ‘A’ button each
and every time you actually want to jump all the more refreshing. Admittedly, in the greater
macrocosm of design elements, it’s almost a trifling addition to itemize, but in a modern
industry where ‘inclusive’ has become synonymous with ‘aggressively lobotomized’, it’s a welcome
indicator connoting Sleeping Dogs’ less condescending overall design philosophy.
A philosophy that truly moves to the fore when engaged in a combat system that is easily
one of the more robust martial arts simulations in the history of the medium. Coupling the
freeform, combo-driven pugilism of Batman: Arkham Asylum with a bevy of counters, grapples
and contextual environmental takedowns that place themselves well in advance of the former.
Yes, rageaholics, if Sleeping Dogs is any indication… Wei Shen would shred Batman’s
steroidal ass in twain like a chicken at an Alice Cooper concert.
Perhaps chief among Sleeping Dogs’ accomplishments is the impressive amount of polish applied
to a new I.P. From fist-fighting to car handling, United Front studios have displayed a refreshing
competence and developmental acumen on all levels of design. And while you needn’t twist
my arm to elicit a belly-ache concerning the vomitous camera effect during vehicular accelaration…
a suprisingly negligible amount of time is devoted to actually driving a vehicle in this
game at all! I understand the man is in the twilight of the twilight of his career, but
is there any particular reason we’ve appointed Michael J. Fox as cinematographer during this
game’s driving sequences? This shit is shakier than the Oslo Peace Accords, a fact that might
be less pronounced if the vehicles possessed more than two speeds: Those being ‘Inert’
and ‘Hang onto your ever-lovin’ balls!’ And further, when the inevitable tutorial text
elects to gité into frame and obscure the entirety of your forward field of view fucking
perpetually, until you’ve fulfilled whatever arbitrary objective happens to be involuntarily
scrawled in your figurative day-planner, even on an HD display… it’s driven home to the
player that Sleeping Dogs, though a resounding success, is nevertheless an imperfect one.
But don’t take my word for it: Shoulder roll your ass on down to the Okinawa Corrall and
have yourself a good old fashioned gunfight. This game’s gun fighting doesn’t suck dick…
because fellatio is at least marginally pleasurable for the recipient. No, the gunplay in Sleeping
Dogs is a nebulous black hole from which no fun can nourish the faintest hope of escape.
And don’t even entertain the thought of bringing a knife to a gun fight, because by the time
you so much as make the decision, you’ll already be more riddled with lead than Detroit tap
water. United Front would have been far better served just dispensing with the gun fighting
entirely and instead focusing on their masterful hand-to-hand combat, and to temper this cynicism
for a moment, I’m happy to report that for the most part… that is, in fact, what they’ve
done. Granted, it runs contrary to the game’s pseudo-realistic aspirations to have Yakuza
hitmen playing Power Rangers in rush-hour traffic, but as far as I’m aware, the singular
aim of any video game is to be even the slightest bit fun. David Cage’s ENTIRE CAREER notwithstanding.
By and large, fun is exactly what Sleeping Dogs is. If Grand Theft Auto would like to
be fitted for another sandbox-shaped crown, then a long, hard look in the direction of
Sleeping Dogs is precisely what that will ultimately require. Rent it, buy it, inappropriately
fondle it… but above all, fucking play it! I’m RazörFist.
God – fuckin’ – SPEED!