John Woo delivered one of the most exciting Hong Kong action films of all time with The Killer (1989) and then again with Hard Boiled a couple of years later.  For those of us who appreciate well-crafted Asian Cinema – we had a bit of a ‘golden era’ of films that kicked off with John Woo, were complimented upon by guys like Ringo Lam with Full Contact (1992) and later in 2002 we were treated to Infernal Affairs.  These movies all featured strong Asian talent, bullets flying and thick melodrama – the cult following of this genre quickly became a norm.

SLEEPING DOGS (Square Enix) is the first video game to truly get the look and feel of these early HK action films in a smooth, fluid and exciting game.  While gunplay is part of Sleeping Dogs – it isn’t as prominent as hand-to-hand combat – something the game really polished before release.  You know what else is polished in Sleeping Dogs — the driving, the voice acting, the motion capture and the writing.

The story behind Sleeping Dogs is deep – you play as Wei Shen a handsome and fierce cop working undercover in Honk Kong attempting to take down the sinister gang of Triads.  If you’ve seen the HK classic Infernal Affairs (or one of the sequels or the remake called The Departed) then you’ll feel closely at home with the treatment of the main character and his conflict between right and wrong.

At the heart of Sleeping Dogs is the hand-to-hand combat – along the way you’ll pick up new moves and upgrades.  Fighting is much like Batman Arkham City in which you can counter moves, attack and defend yourself against multiple villains and punish them with brutal force.  Sleeping Dogs does offer an ‘open world’ but is mostly mission-to-mission specific much like you would find playing L.A. Noire.  Toggling between missions and objectives is as simple as clicking down your thumb-stick and the map is exceptionally easy to use.

Sleeping Dogs will take you to a world most are not used to – not all characters in the game speak English, you drive on the ‘opposite’ side of the road and things that may be against the law over here in the States appear to be less frowned upon overseas.  The graphics and style of the game will draw you in – a minor complaint we had with controls was the auto-camera which can be jarring in both walking and driving.  Another downside is that Sleeping Dogs is a single-player experience so most of the replay value will involve collecting objects and goodies in the game.

Sleeping Dogs is available now for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC – Square Enix has already announced plans to extend the game with upcoming DLC content.  Gameplay videos and commentary by Robert Welkner.

Sleeping Dogs Preview Interview with Hailey Bright