Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition Review: From Hong Kong with Love


Developer:  United Front Games  

Publisher:  Square Enix

Platforms:  PS4, PC, Xbox One (Version Reviewed)

Release Date:  October 14th

Does speeding around narrow roads of Hong Kong, trying to make a name for yourself in the Triad underworld, all while gathering evidence against the very organization you so deeply care for, sound interesting?  Then you really need to play the United Front Games remastered Sleeping Dogs:  Definitive Edition.  This is the graphically improved edition made especially for next-gen consoles.  The game was originally released in 2012 and is an open-world crime game in the vain, (for lack of better comparison) of the Rockstar classic GTA.    The newly remastered edition comes with all the bells and whistles from the previous version, but also includes 24 pieces of DLC and much better graphics.

The game takes place on the streets of Hong Kong, where the protagonist (Wei Shen) has just returned from an extended period in America.  You are quickly arrested and thrust into an interrogation room whereupon you learn that you aren’t the hardened criminal initially assumed, but instead an undercover agent.

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Your assignment, infiltrate the Son On Yee crime organization and give the police enough information and tips to help arrest as many members as possible.  It becomes clear that you were selected because you already know most of the members of the gang.  You were from the same neighborhood as the members and these relationships help to provide you a solid cover.  However, gaining the trust of your boss Winston doesn’t come without some serious initiations.

It is during your initiations that you are introduced to the martial arts fighting system.  This is a very prevalent aspect of the game.  You learn different moves by collecting Jade Statues, which are hidden all across the city.  There are a total of eleven statues, all which help you level your martial arts skill tree.  For each one you collect, you gain a skill point which can been spent at the martial arts school.  With each new skill, comes a new attack that helps you expand your combat options during some of the, at times, very difficult hand-to-hand combat scenarios.  There are many opportunities to use your martial arts, and as you progress in the game there are times when you battle upwards of ten enemies simultaneously, so it is imperative you learn all the fighting techniques.  Not knowing enough of the martial arts skills can cause unbelievable frustrations, and ultimately limit how intense and brutal Wei can be.  In other words, GO GET THE JADE STATUES, they will make an enormous difference.

Not only is there a leveling system for your martial arts, but as you finish missions, you gain cop upgrades and Triad upgrades to unlock new abilities for each.  These skills vary from stealing cars, to opening police trunks, (which contain weapons) to perhaps the most useful skill, a slow motion attack.    The slow motion attack was pretty spectacular.  It allows you to get incredibly difficult shots with uncanny accuracy.  The skill upgrades are a really great way to encourage you to strive, or perhaps strategize your gameplay for whichever upgrade you wanted next.  If you wanted a cop upgrade you could play more carefully, not run into cars, or crash into pedestrians, all which dock you points for your next cop upgrade.  However,  if you were searching for the next Triad upgrade you could play more reckless and without remorse, bolstering your Triad ranking and leveling that skill tree quicker.  This was a terrific addition to the game and one that separated it from some of the other games in this genre.

The main story missions provide a thrilling tale of crime, deceit, love and war.  You are thrust into a low-level position in the Sun On Yee Triads and the game follows your rise to the top.  Very reminiscent of other open-world games but it does have a nice twist when considering you are essentially a double agent.  I really enjoyed the fact that you could decide whether you wanted to be ruthless or act like more of a cop.  I initially tried to drive carefully or aim precisely to help alleviate injuring innocent bystanders.  However, as I progressed I became less concerned with innocent people and more with just enacting my revenge, no matter the cost.  I won’t reveal what Wei was revenging, but I can assure you it was well deserved.

Driving is another really integral part of the game.  Taking into account the Hong Kong was once a part of the United Kingdom, driving is on the left hand side of the road.  I’ll be honest, it took some getting used too.  I was always driving on the wrong side of the road.  Weaving in and out of traffic and always wondering why everyone was driving the wrong direction.  It was making me crazy, until I finally realized what was happening.  United Front Games did a spectacular job making Hong Kong look the part.  After I got more or less acclimated to driving on the left, I was able to really absorb the lights and sounds of the vibrant city.  The driving handles were tight and felt realistic, but I didn’t like them as much as I have with other open-world games, but for the most part they were pretty solid.

Lets pause for one moment because I really need to stop and talk about how the remastered game looks.  I didn’t play the original game but I went and did some screen shot comparisons and as you might expect, they weren’t even close.  This game feels like you are rolling through the streets of a vibrantly colored city, full of life and vitality.  Hong Kong couldn’t look more alive.

United Front Games did a fantastic job making Hong Kong look the part

There are numerous street vendors, shop owners, street gangs, massage parlors and of course Karaoke bars to help bring Hong Kong to life.  The graphics boost gives the lighting that extra bump to fully emerge you into such a dynamic environment.  Most notably were the colors of the street signs.  They are spectacular.  There are so many times that I caught myself running into walls because I was so mesmerized by the how incredible they looked.  You know the old bug and bug light phenomenon, I just couldn’t help myself.

There are tons of side machines littered throughout the game.  From car races, to taking out gangs of thugs, police missions and even opportunities to go out on dates.  These were all nice additions to give you a break from the main story.  Of course if you want to stay with the main story you don’t have to break away and do any of the side missions.

Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition also comes with all of the DLC from the original version.  This includes the Year of the Snake, which is a continuation of the main story and Nightmare in North Point.  In Nightmare in North Point, Wei has to save the city from the ghosts of some of the enemies you defeated in the game.  I always enjoy these fantastical additions, and this was a welcome change from the original game.


Let’s get right to it.  Sleeping Dogs is quite entertaining.  The game has all the elements of a fan favorite, which is probably why it was remade.  An open-world crime story, that rivals the pinnacle of this genre, GTA.  The thrills of balancing life as a gang leader, while remaining undercover as a cop is a great story.  It is hard not to enjoy a story pitting good vs. evil, but Sleeping Dogs takes it a step further.  It delves into the good cop/bad cop argument.  It asks the question are there limits to how far an undercover agent can go?  The game does a nice job of keeping “score” of how much of a good cop or a bad cop you are.  Sleeping Dogs pits the desire to do your job, against the friendships you develop and how you manage that enormous gray area in between.

As much as I enjoyed my time with Sleeping Dogs, it wasn’t without some flaws.  One in particular was quite bothersome.  The camera angles were at times extremely annoying.  I would be in the middle of a fight and would turn a certain direction and lose the camera angle.  There were many instances where I couldn’t see myself at all.  Not ideal when in hand-to-hand combat with five other guys.  I also experienced this same camera mishap when driving.  It wasn’t enough to drive me totally insane, but frustrating nonetheless.  Seems like a rather glaring issue when considering how integral a good camera angle is during a martial arts battle.  The other issue I had with it was the ease at which you could persuade characters in the game.  Throughout the game you are placed in many different scenarios that require a quick persuasion of a character and when these present themselves all you have to do is quickly press the “Y” button and you are done.  Seems to me that if you are going to add an aspect where you need to persuade someone to get into a building, or past a guard, you should be asked to do more than just press one button.  For example, give a list of answers to several questions.  If you get them right, you are in.  Bribe someone, that has worked as a persuasion tactic for centuries.  Or better yet, threaten someone if you chose.  This could have even been another way to gain experience points for your cop or Triad skill tree.  Seems like this was only half way thought out and I would have liked to have seen it taken a step or two further.  Great idea, not the greatest execution.

There is one more issue that will likely stand out to most people, and that is the price of the game.  The remake is $59.99 which is the typical price of new games, only …THIS IS NOT A NEW GAME.  However, the PC version is $30, which seems much more reasonable and to go even a step further, if you already owned the original in your STEAM library, you can upgrade for $15!  Now at those two prices this is an excellent value.  I really think United Front Games and Square Enix missed the mark on the Xbox One and PS4 prices.  Knowing that the open-world giant GTA5 is looming mere weeks or months from now, pricing the game at a more value oriented price, would broaden the chances of higher sales.  Granted, they are including all the DLC for the game, which amounts to quite a lot of extra content, but still, with so many brand new games releasing this month and the coming months, Sleeping Dogs needed one extra incentive, price.


Despite my concerns on the price, the game is still a pretty good value, even at the $59.99 price.  There is a vast campaign with a multitude of side missions and a captivating story that is always twisting and turning.  The characters are great, the writing is great and the plot is wonderful and extensive.  The side missions keep you occupied, and offer a nice change of pace.  Should you go out and grab the game?  If you love open-world games, where you can explore a vibrant city, and get lost in an in-depth story, then absolutely.  PC users definitely get the better value, but the game is expansive enough where PS4 and Xbox One users should still consider Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition.

(A copy of this game content was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review.)