Square Enix are of course well known for working with Japanese developers, however over the recent years they've broadened out by working with Western developers after the acquisition of Eidos. Sleeping Dogs is a good example of this as they have recently worked with United Front Games to finish the development of Sleeping Dogs. It is set in the vibrant and bustling streets of Hong Kong, and is set to be a massive sandbox action-orientated game similar to Grand Theft Auto plus of course the original True Crime games.
You take on the role of an undercover cop called Wei Shen working for the Hong Kong police, and you get a lot of agro from the local triads; Sun On Yee. Through the demo played you get to experience the severity of mobs trying to kill you, however the main story missions are just the tip of the iceberg.
In the demo there was little side questing or free roaming; putting you in a small section of the game which demonstrates the fighting techniques and detail of the scenery of Hong Kong. One of the great components of the game is the fighting as it encourages melee combat over lots of run and gunning. Sleeping Dogs uses a variety of martial arts styles which makes you wish that United Front were working on the next Shenmue as their fighting system is well designed and could work well in a modern Shenmue. Once you've gotten a hold of an enemy in a fight the best part has to be grappling as you're then free to push them into the surrounding scenery and then perform a devastating move on them.
These can include a casual slamming their head into the ground or wall, however it can become more elaborate and cringe worthy. For example, you can put a man's head above a cooker and set it on fire, or can slam a fridge door on an enemy's head crushing their skull. The goriest death I took part in though was forcing a man's face into an electric saw which as you could imagine created a large amount of blood and screams. In the demo there were no firearms present but there will be a large range of weapons in the final game which can mix up the combat a little. Talking a little more about the combat system producer Dan Sochan said,
"There are 65 unique special moves and they can be found everywhere, you can also pick up objects such as frying pans and frozen fish".
As it is a huge city to explore there are many different side quests which you can take part in such as gambling, illegal street fights, street racing, betting on cockfights and even free running. You can steal or buy a variety of vehicles in the game including motorbikes which you can jump from while in motion.
Sleeping Dogs uses an XP based system which you get from a variety of methods during play, there is Face XP which you get from buying new suits and cars, Triad XP is gained by gang attire and Police XP is increased by wearing your police uniform and solving crimes. Each of these types emphasises which route you want to go down, and this can change the way the NPC's react towards you.
United Front have put a lot of effort into making the environment look as close to present day Hong Kong as possible; the streets are cramped with people and shopping stalls where you can buy various items, as well dingy looking alleyways with smoke blowing out of the drains and half-broken neon lights flashing on the walls.
"A lot of research went into it, we travelled to Hong Kong to find out what it was like to be an undercover cop and we met these triad gangs which have been around for hundreds of years".
Of course Sleeping Dogs was originally True Crime: Hong Kong and was announced back in 2009, however after Activision decided to cancel the development last year it was thought that United Front Games would never be able to finish their game. Then six months later Square Enix picked it up and helped fund the completion, they just had to change the name so they could help finish what had already been started. The game has been on a fairly long development cycle, but it's almost ready, even if the game sports a different name now.
Sleeping Dogs looks like a great open-world game especially as it's using a slightly more underused location for the entirety of the game. In a true sandbox style Sleeping Dogs offers many hours of extra content separate from the main storyline so it'll be able to keep you entertained for hours. Sleeping Dogs is set for release on August 17th 2012 on Windows, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.