• A player controls the radio while using any vehicle he owns, borrows or steals. He can pick from the half-dozen or so stations to really add to the adrenaline rush during any high-speed chase. I especially appreciated Sagittarius FM and its eclectic classic and alternative rock from bands such as the Who, XTC, the Jam and Siouxsie and the Banshees.
• Even the optional minutia of life for a criminal or cop kept my interest, be it taking a potty break, buying new clothes, sleeping, bowing before shrines to increase my health meter, stopping to eat a bowl of noodles (for a price), and using my cellphone to call acquaintances, take surveillance photos and check mail.
• Now, let’s talk about jaw-dropping. I drove a motorcycle toward two armed drug runners, jumped off the bike at full speed and, as the bike slid, shot the gas tank to give the bums a face full of flames while I safely rolled to a stop on the ground.
• Side missions offer some strange requests, such as driving a car into the harbor so an unfortunate citizen can collect the insurance money and pay her husband’s hospital bills. Yes, Shen can swim.
• Driving is a very exhilarating and integral part of the game. I was impressed with the ability to jump out of a sports car at high speeds and onto the outside roof of a panel truck, then climb along the side of the vehicle in motion until I could toss out the occupants and continue driving.
• Perhaps the oddest fun comes with a visit to the famed Club Bam Bam featuring the best karaoke bar and VIP rooms in the city. After quickly flirting with the hostess, I had Shen singing off-key to the Clash classic “I Fought the Law” (use the controller stick to follow a moving floating bar across the screen) while the friendly female seductively danced behind my character.
• A mission for my boss Winston Chu involved driving a bus around the city, dropping thugs off to beat up rival gang members and then forcing a rival minibus off the road. It concluded with transferring unsuspecting citizens to my bus and escaping a vehicle ambush with the passengers screaming.
Bundled in the gritty story, realistic characters design and beautiful locales (look for the hint of “Blade Runner” during the rainy evenings) are vocal performances from a selection of familiar actors. They include Tom Wilkinson as Pendrew (the head of Hong Kong’s organized crime bureau), Emma Stone as Shen’s new best friend Amanda, and Kelly Hu as Officer Teng. Will Yun Lee (soon to be the Silver Samurai in the next Wolverine movie) stars as Wei Shen.
Buyer beware, however, this game pulls no bloody punches. Firefights, fistfights and tire-iron fights (check the trunk of nearly any car to find one) all are brutal. That means stick an enemy into a lit furnace and watch him burst into flames (while he screams and writhes in pain), take a goon’s coconut and pop it into an air conditioning unit’s spinning fan, bash a foe into a wall (head first) with a bloodstain left behind him, and an assortment of devastating head shots using high-powered rifles.
Additionally, intentionally running over citizens or causing mass chaos is always available, but the cops will pursue you (and shoot to kill) until Shen outruns them.
Decidedly, mature gamers will embrace the Sleeping Dogs experience and demand more from Wei Shen in the future. The game is a wonderful late-summer treat, if not one of the wildest rides of the year.