The game received general praise, earning an 83 on Metacritic after its 2012 release, and it still holds up today. That’s because Sleeping Dogs is more than just a clone of GTA, as it improves on many of GTA‘s core appeals to make an overall better game.
Sleeping Dogs‘ best elements are in its gameplay. Its driving mechanics have a more arcade-y feel than GTA 5‘s driving, allowing for more recklessness without losing momentum. Protagonist Wei Shen can pop out of a car’s window at any time to fire at enemies in slow motion, targeting drivers or car tires to send pursuing vehicles flying into fiery explosions.
The best part, though, that players can open a car’s door while it’s moving and jump over to an adjacent vehicle, automatically taking it over and continuing the chase. Ground combat is just as fun, with a counter- and combo-focused system that results in plenty of flashy melee beatdowns of large groups of enemies.
Couple that with gruesome, contextual finishing moves (like shoving someone into a dumpster or an exhaust fan), and GTA‘s combat is just plain boring by comparison.
Similarly interesting are Sleeping Dogs‘ story and setting. Compared to GTA 5‘s LA-inspired Los Santos, Sleeping Dogs‘ depiction of Hong Kong is vibrant, and it’s a location few other games have explored. Its story takes inspiration from the city it’s set in: In keeping with Hong Kong action movies, Sleeping Dogs‘ narrative is full of over-the-top action.
It can be a bit trope-y, sure, but there are few games that deliver the “playable action movie” experience as well as Sleeping Dogs. Players are bound to fall in love with its charismatic characters, like Wei Shen’s childhood friend Jackie Ma, and run into some genuinely brutal and heart-wrenching twists along the way.
That’s not to say Sleeping Dogs is without humor. It does take itself more seriously than GTA, but that actually works in its favor. Unlike GTA 5‘s pop culture-filled satire – which felt dated after only a few years – Sleeping Dogs sprinkles in a more appropriate amount of laughs, focusing instead on developing its characters and making sure its big moments land.
Even eight years after its release, is still an entertaining playthrough, and it has more heart than many of Rockstar’s most polished games could claim.
Originally published at Screen rent