Sleeping Dogs is an incredibly underrated game, despite being critically acclaimed and praised by players. The game boasts an immersive Hong Kong setting, thrilling combat, and a story full of thought-provoking moral dilemmas. Perhaps one of the reasons Sleeping Dogs is largely overlooked is that it falls under the umbrella of Grand Theft Auto (GTA) clones.
Following the tremendous success of the GTA series, the gaming market has become saturated with games trying to emulate its core features. GTA uses an open-world map for characters to acquire various vehicles and weapons, usually for illegal and violent means. So many games’ imitation of these elements has effectively created a sub-genre of GTA-clones. As with all gaming genres, there are some GTA clones that are better than others. Sleeping Dogs is a standout for being particularly strong in terms of gameplay and storytelling. Sleeping Dogs improved the GTA-clone formula in ways that make it a great game on its own.
There are several ways that Sleeping Dogs’ gaming features are better than other GTA clones. The main character of Sleeping Dogs is Wei Shen. Wei is a Chinese-American police officer recruited by the Hong Kong Police Department for an undercover mission to infiltrate the city’s Triad gangs. Wei is the ideal candidate for this task because he knows several gang members from his childhood. The Hong Kong game map is smaller than other games’, but it is filled with things to do. This is unlike many GTA clones, which have larger maps with fewer accessible attractions.
The city and its inhabitants in Sleeping Dogs feel alive; pedestrians will even pull out umbrellas when it rains or react to Wei’s weapons, details not even found in GTA itself. There are also different types of side quests that make sense for the character and setting, such as police quests or completing favors for gang members. Sleeping Dogs’ side quests add to the overall experience rather than sticking to fetch-quest designs that many GTA clones are known for.
One of the best features of Sleeping Dogs is the combat. Wei is a martial artist, and this comes into play during the core Wei-versus-many fights. Wei has a large arsenal of moves to take out enemies, who sometimes drop knives or other weapons that he can use to inflict further damage. He also uniquely and creatively uses the environment in his attacks for further combat variation. As a cop, Wei knows how to use guns as well, which is particularly helpful when he is in cars. He fully leans out of the vehicle to shoot opponents or their vehicles’ tires. Wei is even able to jump between vehicles while driving to take them over, which is not possible in GTA’s vehicles. Sleeping Dogs’ combat is cinematic, but it makes sense due to Wei’s credentials. The freedom of combat variation can make it challenging at times but it’s a standout feature.
Sleeping Dogs’ main story is a huge reason why the game stands out amongst other GTA clones. Wei must balance both of his identities in many morally ambiguous situations. This can be further complicated for the player due to the in-depth character development. Each character is unique and has understandable motivations. Other GTA clones can leave characters underdeveloped which sometimes allows story elements to fall flat. Although Sleeping Dogs may fall into the sub-genre of GTA clones, its dedication to worldbuilding, combat, and story validates it as an underappreciated standout.