The Dissenting Voice: I will not let Sleeping Dogs lie

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OK. So Gushing Garth has done his usual “Ah Luffs It!” at Sleeping Dogs – and also as usual I’m here to sour up the environment. It is, they say, a talent (or not, I forget). Let’s get a few preliminaries out the way: I love the game. It’s beautiful, bold, innovative, engaging. It has excellent voice-acting – aside from one or two minor moments, where my brows were so furrowed it looked like they were duelling; the game puts GTA IV, Saints Row and others to shame in many respects but in other places, it is severely lacking.

“Good in some places and bad in others” must be the most overused phrasing in game reviews, so I’ll shut up and move on to the hate.

I’m going to do a numbered list, since I discovered when I wrote a little piece about the film Prometheus, readers seem to prefer it. I realise many of these might be fixed in later updates, but as I’m currently playing it (on PC, but some are universal factors), they exist much to my chagrin.

So a couple thing, my lovely Sleeping Dogs…

 1. I should not have to use the menu-screen to find out how much money I have.

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2. You have simply the worst shooting mechanics: the camera is stiff initially, which works somewhat. Then upon acquiring a weapon, it flails like a retarded bonobo discovering an outhouse. There’s no reason the camera couldn’t be better managed as Rockstar managed in Max Payne 3.

3. Cover-based shooters have done something smart recently: they’ve remembered that a mouse has, at minimum, two-buttons. You, though, decide to ignore the right-button so that I have to use an arbitrary keyboard button to lean out and shoot. “Dude! Just change it to the right mouse-button!” you angrily yell from your troll-home. Ha! Yes, except the right-mouse button is the “interact” key.

“So what? Make the interact key something else!” I’d love to, but the interact key is used all the time: from obtaining a car, talking to people, mid-fight (it’s the counter), and so on. It’s one of the most widely-used buttons. There is no reason they could not have made “lean out and aim from cover” also the interact key. This coupled with pathetic camera controls makes this the worst cover shooter I’ve ever played.

4. Who the hell is that guy? Wait, now he’s dead? Why is Wei upset? Oh: I was friends with him?! Really? Who is he again? Oh, thank goodness there’s a report file in my phone! Er, wait… which was the new report that could’ve informed me – wait, there’s no date or numbers on these things? How are they arranged?! Ok, wait, I think he’s name was Harry or something. Oh, no – you’re categorizing it under his pseudonym? Which file just opened up? Aaaaakk! Dammit, game!

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5. The side missions for the cops usually involve you busting up a drug-ring. I go in, kick some butt, hack a camera, go home and access my TV – yeah, er, why not the computer that’s on Wei’s desk as opposed to the screen where I play Guitar Hero? – and then watch through the newly-hacked system. And I have to identify a drug supplier. Thankfully, the drug-supplier for this city is one poor guy and his clones.

It’s hard to imagine why I need to wait to identify who the supplier is, when it’s always the same damned character model: this could’ve been a fun little-mission, where I had to watch carefully for body-movement, actions for a randomly generated model then arrest him/her. If I mess up I get a penalty. But no: same model, merely cloned every time. Boring.

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6. Awesome – a really fast car! I can’t wait to… Oh, it doesn’t turn? Oh, I just killed thirty people turning down a road. OK: I’m not driving fast cars again.

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7. So I action-hijack bank vans that transports money, then automatically the cops spawn. Fine. Except it’s incredibly difficult to shake them. The van is slow (but very hard to destroy) and it’s hard to manoeuvre. Getting rid of cops is doubly difficult when they also randomly spawn in front of you like demonspawn. So, Sleeping Dogs, if you’re cheating, so will I. I simply drove back home, got out and ran inside and waited for the heat to lift. Sort yourself out, game. This isn’t how cop chasing works.

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8. Yay, I met a hot girl and got her number (this has never happened to me in real life, so I don’t know what the appropriate reaction is)! OK, let me call her. Nice we went on a little date, I got some bonuses – if you know what I mean? – and now I think I want to see her again. She was nice. Oh her number’s gone? Um. OK. Why? Do you not want us focusing too much on romantic interests? Then why did the other girl get jealous and leave me? Either include it and do it properly – create tension and politics – or get rid of it. The women here are merely property to be acquired to get me bonuses, which is, I think, a bit insulting (not that some men don’t think about women like this anyway!).

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9. Hey, Sleeping Dogs: what’s with your selective moral apprehensiveness? At one point, Wei is told he has to kill someone and we’re supposed to feel slightly uneasy about this: he is after all a cop but that’s part of the Triad initiation. But, um, two missions before, I shoved a guy headfirst into a fan, threw another guy off a building and tossed another guy into a furnace and watched him burn (and laughed maniacally). Why does Wei feel uneasy about murder when he has gratuitously already committed so many moments before?

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10. Wait, what is the Sun On Yee and the 18K? I know they’re rivals of some kind – but, um, why? Loki? Is that a gang? A triad? A triad leader? And how does this relate to Uncle Po? Is he my real uncle? And what’s the difference between a Red pole and how do gangs relate to Triads? Are gangs in Triads? I’m so confused by these terms and power-structures, I have no idea what’s happening or why. No explanation is provided.

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11. How the hell do I call a taxi? This is the only means of fast-travel, but I have to seek them out like friggin’ Pokémon. And then they drive past. To use them, I have to stand next to one and hold down the ever-utilised interact key. However, if I don’t hold down long enough, I steal the thing. No, dammit! I wanted to fast-travel not get into a car. So I find another taxi, but it drives past. So I have to drive in front, stop my car and get out.

Then stand next to the taxi and hold down the interact key. Why you couldn’t include a number to order a taxi – like you do for ordering one of my own cars from the garage – is beyond me; nor why you made the same key to use a taxi’s service as one which hijacks. You don’t want people confusing those two.

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12. Did I mention how bad your shooting was?

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13. You also have some of the worst navigation I’ve encountered. Like most games, it gives me only legal routes. (I don’t know why – perhaps to encourage me to seek “other” means – fine). But even the legal roots will lead me to an arbitrary building, with my goal located on the other side. It provides no assistance and after searching, I might discover that there’s a tiny road next to the building – or an alley. I have to do this while a countdown occurs. I see no reason for this. Either include the actual way to get there or indicate you’re giving us a broad scheme – not one that is so bad it actually makes it harder and worse.

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14. Lock-picking am I? Wish me luck figuring that out: you tell me to use my mouse, but that does nothing. Really: nothing. I have to use my keyboard arrow-keys/WASD (which I’m not told). Then, I have to wait for the moment just before the tumbler turns green – just before – then press the left arrow key, while holding the up arrow. Have fun with that. It’s the single worst thing I’ve ever done in a game since I clicked New Game on Skyrim.

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15. There is nothing indicating which doors (during non-mission adventuring) open, which are locked, which are impassable, and so on. I just have to keep running like a moron into them. This is unhelpful: some tiny outline would’ve helped, just as it is in missions.

So I have a few problems with you, game. I’ll still keep playing – I think I’m nearly done. But seriously. Sort yourself out. These are not things that needed to be there. These errors – like the horrific lock-picking, terrible navigation and awful shooting – could’ve been spotted by a half-blind Neanderthal, within 5 minutes.

Hopefully patches are forthcoming or have arrived (as I’m sure the comments will indicate). But I’m annoyed that what could amount to such an incredible experience is undermined by amateur mistakes that yanks me out the game and says “Look! I’m a game! Tee hee!”

Ugh.

I did mention I love this game, right?

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