GDC 2012: Sleeping Dogs hands-on

GDC 2012: Sleeping Dogs hands-on

Sleeping Dogs’ development history is pretty well known. Developed by United Front Games and scheduled for release through Activision, the game was cancelled and brought back to life by Square Enix.

Originally planned as another game in the True Crime series, but now known as Sleeping Dogs, I had a chance to play two levels. The first focused on hand-to-hand combat and the second was to preview of driving.

I admit right now – I want to play this game as soon as possible.

Visually, Sleeping Dogs contains both the clean and dirty look of Hong Kong. The on-foot level I played took place in the streets and back alleys off the main street. With a lot of non-playable characters (NPC) bringing the area to life, through my headphones it was possible to hear a lot of background chatter and noise. The environment felt real. There is a lot of detail and background action, making the area feel alive.

The actual graphics of the game are stylized reality. With the game featuring an Asian protagonist, I was afraid that the character models would be big on cut and paste with slight variations. But from playing the game, all the characters do have unique appearances.

It was hard to tell with NPCs, but the primary and secondary characters all have a great amount of detail. One aspect of the level that stuck out was the lighting of the game. The darkness was cut with streetlights or neon signs and they reflected off surfaces in realistic ways.


I played a chase sequence ending in two fights. Chasing my target through the back streets required avoiding NPCs or barreling through them to catch up. Jumping over gates or vendor booths, the action is fast-paced and not that difficult to complete, but the experience is satisfying. At the end of the chase, I had my first chance to fight.

Combat gameplay is influenced by Batman: Arkham Asylum. Square Enix’s London Studio assisted with Batman: Arkham Asylum and are helping United Front Games. So combat is a mixture of weak and strong attack combinations and counters. But Sleeping Dogs’ combat felt a lot more organic. The enemies still crowd and wait to take cheap shots, but it isn’t as predictable.

The rooftop level also allowed me to use the environment for some brutal action. After grabbing and enemy, I was able to drag them to objects on the screen that flashed red. I first used an air conditioner and shoved the head of the enemy into. There was a nice short animation of him being taken out. On other areas of the level I used a trash chute and door fan to defeat the enemies. The animations are a little over the top, but I was told that the game is focused on having a serious story.

While combat is influenced by Batman: Arkham Asylum, it feels independent and adds more martial arts style into each attack. I really enjoyed what I played. It’s also possible to jump kick. Jump kicking felt really gratifying!


The other part of the demo was a race. I was told that the driving was developed by part of the team from Black Box who developed Need for Speed. The presenter asked me to really look at the gameplay of the racing mechanic.

The race was a simple mission. Drive through checkpoints and come in first. In the first five seconds, I crashed the front end, so now I know there’s some level of vehicle damage.

Racing through the streets of Hong Kong, I saw a good variety of landscape. A lot of the race took place under overpasses. I don’t think it was on a main street, but a lot of the smaller objects like signs and trashcans are destructible.

The racing level was impressive. Handling was smooth and the car handled responsively. The driving felt like a driving game. There wasn’t much difficulty in the level, but if the handling of the car is the same for other sedan cars, then I’m not really worried. The control scheme also includes being able to shoot from the car and steal cars, but I didn’t get to see that part of the game.

The two level preview that I saw convinced me that the game has the potential to be great. The controls for on-foot missions and driving are both solid and hopefully United Front Games have an immersive story to go along with Sleeping Dogs.

Sleeping Dogs is planned for release in 2012 on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.

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