Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition – Review

 

The way I look at Sleeping Dogs and this Definitive Edition release is thus: If you were an adolescent man in the early 2000’s you undoubtedly have them in the back of your DVD collection. Or might have recently sent them off to a trade-in site. I’m referring to the Hong Kong Legends DVD releases that showed some of the early careers of Jackie Chan and Jet Li, before Chris Rock and Mel Gibson made them action names in Rush Hour and Lethal Weapon respectively. The thing is that these movies look cheap and, frankly, they are done on an extremely low budget with the stars risk taking, death defying (quite literally) stunts gripping us to the screen. That’s how I think of Sleeping Dogs; on the face of it, just another low budget action movie looking at the big guns and trying to emulate their limelight. But secretly, and in both cases it maybe one of the best kept secrets, they are actually incredibly good, enjoyable and have a great deal of passion in them.

Arguably the first non-Western set open world game on the market at the time in 2012, Sleeping Dogs quietly took up a respected position on the last gen consoles who were waiting for a delicious treat to fill their growing Grand Theft Auto holes, which it did. But to pigeon hole it as just that would be disingenuous to the game. That is certainly something that the Definitive Edition of the game has given light to. I never fully got in to Sleeping Dogs the first time around due to other concerns coming my way like education and that thing you do between getting educated and sleeping. So now was a great time for me to delve in to Hong Kong, without any real prior knowledge of the way the game worked except for maybe a couple of hours play.

For those of you who don’t know much about the background of the game you play as Wei Shen, a vagabond undercover police detective looking for a place to belong after the death of his sister due to drug addiction. You take part in an operation to infiltrate the Triads in your native Hong Kong under the supervision of another Hong Kong officer and a British superior. The game switches its dialect as freely as Hong Kong probably does from English to Cantonese and the island of Hong Kong with its high rises, its ports and unique autonomy from most places in design (get prepared to drive on the left) creates an environment that is second to none and full of character with places to explore and items to go and find. Even mini games galore and Karaoke! Put simply, in the first place, even before this new revamped edition of the game, Square Enix and United Front Games did a marvellous job.

The first things I instantly noticed jumping in to the former British colony were the things that have been lauded by everyone. The increase in draw distance helps just as much as the increased texture levels and lighting dynamics. The depiction of Hong Kong in the game is wonderfully claustrophobic and it creates a heightened sense of panic and unease with its density. The way the early part of the game gives you the busyness of the market and the reflection of neon helps the pace of the game no end. That’s not to say that the resolution upgrade isn’t completely without its flaws at times though. A few things haven’t had the same care and attention as others, which isn’t really that apparent or grating until you notice them. The cars don’t have the same kind of realistic curvature as those of a Rockstar game or Watch_Dogs. For the most part, the game has been upgraded in enough to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

But therein lies the problem. You can argue that, even with the graphical upgrade and even with the addition of the bonus content (which is actually a lot of fun and a welcome addition to the game), that there are some flaws in the game that could have been cured but haven’t. This of course means that there are flaws in the game and occasional glitches and issues. For example the radio stations are slow to change and the music doesn’t really play like a radio station but a temperamental old MP3 player. There are also a few sound glitches with the speech where the lines of dialogue seem to overlap other lines of dialogue. I had a sound bug at the final mission where a machine gun noise was constantly happening and I occasionally came across a few crashes. These kinds of glitches make the game a tiny bit frustrating when you actually realise this game could have been better than what it was before with a tiny bit more work. Although in the same vein, given that the game hasn’t changed, this is a positive. Much like the Anniversary editions of Halo, the core of the game has remained unchanged and that includes some of its much-celebrated gaming mechanics.

There are also a few things that could have improved in this regard too. Driving in this game very rarely holds much of a challenge other than learning how to perfectly control the hyperactive handbrake and I would have gladly taken a bit of a challenge in the types of cars and their handling. The camera can be annoying at times when in combat and occasionally countering the attacks isn’t as responsive as you’d like it to be. That is where my complaints end. There are many things that Sleeping Dogs DE does well and the combat system is one of them. The free flowing, combo-based melee martial arts combat is 99% of the time, fluid and exciting. It doesn’t have the quick to target striking of an Arkham game or Mordor but it doesn’t need it because it’s great as it is. The enjoyable variation of moves that are under your control give you the satisfaction of nailing exactly what you want to nail. The missions are fun and the parkour/free running element gives you that feel like you’re Jackie Chan, hanging on the back of a bus and flying through a gap that no human should possibly fit through or vaulting a fence they shouldn’t be able to leap over. Then you get the slightly hard to handle, never perfect, gun system. Guns are rare in Hong Kong supposedly and using them is even rarer in the game. Which is incredibly refreshing and when you do use them, the reward for getting the shot perfect is a lot better than just simply hitting a headshot every time. There’s recoil and occasionally wild shots, and it compliments the rest of the combat system well.

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There’s not much you can say about the design of the world that hasn’t already been said. Nor the story, which has been much celebrated for ignoring stereotypical tropes, Orientalism if you will allow a literary term. It’s a play detailing the lower end of the triad hierarchy and the rise to power of a man playing several ends of law-enforcing fiddle for his own ends and questioning his beliefs. It is enjoyable without being too over the top or over-egging the cliché’s that the genre is inevitably tied to. When you compare the story and the characterisations in the game to those of others in the genre, like Watch_Dogs, it gives itself a good outing even after two years. In fact, except that Watch_Dogs is graphically superior, Sleeping Dogs is in my opinion a better game. It has a more engaging story, vastly better voice acting and much more interesting environments to explore. Its clothing options are distinctly more varied and the characters, even though they aren’t perfectly synced and have occasional hangovers of the lesser textured versions, are far more enjoyable, believable and allowing of empathy.

The problem is when reviewing a game that has essentially already been reviewed is that you have to take the positives and the changes and critically assess them. So in that regard Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition is good. It isn’t great though, but it is definitely very good. If you’ve never played the game then now is the time to start. If you have then I’d certainly recommend it for the nostalgia kick and for the fact that it is an overall much better game than Watch_Dogs, the only other next gen open world option for each console at the time of writing. But where its improvements highlight its understated and underrated quality, it also sadly highlights where it fell a little and where it has aged. It means that once again, and maybe this couldn’t be helped due to release dates, that it appears in the shadows as a stopgap for those waiting for the next Grand Theft Auto. But as shadows go, this one is a silhouette above the rest.

Summary

This is a welcome return for Sleeping Dogs and its a release that will make you enjoy revisiting the world or dipping in for the first time, especially with everything thrown in. The graphical upgrades are great despite a few gameplay bugs not being ironed out which could have made it better. Worth the investment and maybe shows potential for a sequel.

Good Points

– Great work on texture and lighting upgrades

– Excellent game and story to begin with

– Combat system is pretty awesome

Bad Points

– Driving isn’t really that challenging

– Occasional bugs and glitches remain

– The game feels a bit old at times

Why an 8?

When you have a great game to begin with, and get the option to port it across to better technology, why not? Sleeping Dogs DE is still fun, enjoyable, and an excellently created world and story. It’s a welcome addition to the next gen shelves and heres hoping this breeds more from Wei Shen’s adventures.

 

This review is based on the PS4 version of the game.

 

Xbox Report – GamesCom 2014

halo 5 feat

It’s that time of year again where the post-E3 glow has faded and another mid-summer pep up is needed to remind you to spend your Autumn cash. However before we go in to anything, I feel that, given the fallout from earlier, a glossary is needed for your understanding. So here we go:

Exclusive: A game or DLC that is only available on one console.

Timed Exclusive: A game or DLC that is available on one console for a period of time before being released to other consoles/platforms.

First on Console: A game that may already be out on other platforms but will appear on this console first, before others, with a time not determined.


 

So here is the big news of the day:

Rise of the Tomb Raider, the sequel to the incredibly well received Tomb Raider reboot of 2012 and the definitive Next-Gen editions, will be an Xbox exclusive. You might well have already seen the meltdown that this has caused on social networks and a fairly glib press release from Crystal Dynamics as to their reasons why. The facts are this: Sony’s twenty year relationship with heroine Lara Croft is at an end. The numbers we are assured add up, despite 10 million PS4’s being sold and supposedly outselling the Xbox One 3:1 along with the previous game outselling on PS4 2:1. I’m sure more will come over the coming months to explain what is seen as a very corporate and business based move.

Xbox One - WhiteSecondly is the big news on console packages that are being released. FIFA 15 will come with a console package as will, curiously, Sunset Overdrive with an exclusive white console. These are the standard Xbox One’s compared to the package shipping with Call of Duty Advanced Warfare.

So far, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the new Call of Duty was an Xbox One exclusive. It’s not but the communications certainly feel that way both in magazines and in the press. The timed exclusivity of DLC for Xbox is the only thing about the game that is completely Xbox for the time being. However the new package of a custom skinned Xbox and a digital version of the Day Zero edition along with a custom pad and (this is the big unit shifter) a 1TB (read that TERRABYTE) hard drive. That is actually a pretty sweet package and the single player gameplay footage looked very good. You may have many comparisons already but none of your games have Jason Statham sound-a-likes saying “bastards” after the Golden Gate Bridge is reduced to rubble.

In fact that swear made me note how the trailer for Sunset Overdrive was censored for saying ass. The console package is a strange one for this exclusive as there is an uncertainty about the game, if it is as good as it promises to be and if Xbox are putting way too many eggs in their basket. It looks very colourful, crazy and anarchic. But so did Brink… Remember Brink?

Of course you want to know about Halo and what we learned. Well, not much that we didn’t already know. We got to see some excellent footage running at a slightly weird 60 fps (weird as I’m so used to not seeing that in a Halo game) and that the new Netflix-esque Halo Channel (a newer sibling of Halo Waypoint) will give us exclusive game reward based content, social experiences and a whole lot more, including of course Halo Guardians.

The best news though is that the silence has broken over Quantum Break. Ever the coolest dude on planet earth, Sam Lake graced the stage and presented a time-bending third person action adventure where you can manipulate your world to your advantage in an effort to fix time, which has been broken by a big mean corporate baddy. Think the bullet time mechanics of Max Payne, or the Lucasarts game Fracture or Sierra’s Timeshift, with a story kind of like The Philadelphia Experiement (younger readers may need to search that one) that meets Quantum Leap/Sliders. But it looks pretty cool, even if we aren’t entirely sure why.

Fable Legends gave us a peek into the eye of evil, allowing us to play as THE bad guy, as opposed to playing a guy making evil choices. Forza Horizon 2 looked and played like a glossy Need for Speed Rivals cum Burnout with a bigger car set. Infact they also released the first ever Rolls Royce for a racing game and the new Formula E Renault Spark car for Forza 5 for free download, the latter of which is actually sitting in front of me in reality.

The casual mentions of Grand Theft Auto 5 were there along with a load of exclusive footballers for FIFA 15’s legends in Ultimate Team. Presented by Peter Schmeichel who effortlessly picked himself and his countrymen, the Laudrup brothers. The new mode has the England legends of Sir Bobby Moore and Alan Shearer along with Irish man mountain Roy Keane and Jay-Jay Okocha… Yes, you read that right.

The big kudos has to go to ID@Xbox, the indie game division. Because the line up for that is outstanding. All of these will be first on console (see your glossary) and include such big hitters as Plague Inc. Goat Simulator, Smite, Speed Runners (that should be excellent on consoles) and the fantastic Space Engineers. All of which have lit up steam and YouTube for the past year. There’s also Fruit Ninja Kinect 2, Frontier’s exclusive SteamRide (a Rollercoaster Tycoon/PAIN hybrid) which is an interesting development given the big IP that Frontier currently have that has been touted to grace consoles in future, and the very very quaint and exciting prison RPG The Escapists from Team 17, who will also be giving their back catalogue to the Xbox. Another indie exclusive is the beautiful art platformer Ori and the Blind Forest for which will also come to PC with its Trine/Child of Light-esque visuals and reality warping puzzles. Very pretty.

Down on the floor I got to get a hands on with Call of Duty, Halo 2, Forza Horizon 2, Minecraft Xbox One edition and Dying light along with some lovely demonstration gameplay of everything else. Keep your eyes peeled to TheGameJar and our twitter feeds throughout the week.

We got to see some videos of other games which were certainly interesting but not exclusive. The big story here though is the massive coup, if you want to call it that of snagging Tomb Raider away from what’s seen as its rightful home, new consoles and a great batch of indie games. The console maybe be statistically falling in sales to the PS4 but don’t count out the Xbox One yet. There is life and that life does indeed look very exciting.

[author]

How I Survived The Steam Summer Sale On A Mac

… I didn’t

So in case you didn’t know, I don’t have a PC. Well I have a PC I can use but I am an iMac user. In fact my decision to go to Apple computers was partly because I get too distracted by gaming on a PC to be productive. So how exactly did I manage to succumb to the wallet emptying frenzy of the Steam summer sale?

Well indie gaming played a big part of that. There are also some games that I have in preparation for them to come to Mac. But Steams support of the platform is growing very quickly. So here’s a quick list of what I managed to buy during the sale and a tiny bit before it too.


 

  • the walking dead 203 2Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent
  • Counter-Strike (including source, GO, etc)
  • Endless Space
  • Goat Simulator
  • Kill Fun Yeah (gifted)
  • candles amnesia 1Noir Syndrome
  • Octodad: Dadliest Catch
  • Pixel Piracy
  • Super Meat Boy
  • Tomb Raider
  • The Walking Dead
  • goat simulator trailerThe Walking Dead: Season Two
  • The Witcher: Enhanced Edition
  • The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced

 

For a platform that doesn’t have a lot of gaming, I think that’s a very good haul. Tomb Raider is the only disappointment because I need OSX Mavericks to run it and I really don’t want to upgrade yet. But it was £2? And it stopped me getting the enhanced PS4 edition so I’m ok with that.

But, there were a few PC stragglers that I got too, partly because I’m sure they will come on Mac at some point. Those were Alan Wake/Alan Wake’s American Nightmare and Banished.

So despite having a non-gaming machine I still managed to get eighteen games. EIGHTEEN! If I had a PC you can imagine that I would have gone hambone on the finances.

The steam summer sale every year is met with fear and trepidation for ones financial wellbeing. Let’s be honest as well, the next generation of gaming is unlikely to fully hit us for another three months, maybe longer? So it makes sense to buy a heap load of games that I don’t actually have time to play.

the walking dead season 2 4The Black Friday-esque hysteria that gamers go through every time this happens is great. You can almost feel the shame dripping from the Facebook posts, Twitter updates and the like, of people who have realised they have a problem… I have a problem.

In all honesty I came in to the sale like a fully researched shopper. I wanted three of the games I actually purchased. Only three. Those were The Walking Dead games and Goat Simulator. Because the latter was finally Mac ready and the formers, well I don’t need an excuse to get those.

But I do find it interesting that I’m still buying games that I kind of had no intention of playing just because they looked okay and were at a decent price. A friend of mine text me saying he’d always wanted to play The Witcher because it looked interesting. I now own two of them. Endless Space was a nice looking game in the screenshots and the trailer, so I got it. Super Meat Boy was fun to watch and I imagine immensely frustrating to play. Pixel Piracy may have some sea legs behind it and Octodad has eight of those sea legs.

So looking back… I’ve mugged myself off quite successfully really and that is fantastic for gaming. I might have spent about £35-£45 all in all but I got a lot out of it, despite being a Mac gamer and arguably I got very good games out of it.

tomb raider 2Which is why it is sad that my best and favorite sale purchase didn’t come from Steam but from Xbox Live over the same period. That was Sonic Generations. What an excellently fun game that is!

The thing is with gaming, I find myself looking at co-op games more and more now, especially as more of my friends are separated by distance and family commitments that remote gaming is far more important and we still want to share the joy of a game. I don’t mean the kill all the noobs sharing but the working together sharing. And the increase of games on the Mac and the Steam sale combined really does start to link my PC playing friends and me closer together.

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All I need now is for GOG to hurry up and make the Rollercoaster Tycoon and Heroes of Might and Magic series available for Mac and I’m sorted.

[author]