When beating up a group of unarmed thugs in the back alleys of Sleeping Dog's Hong Kong, you don't have to jam anyone's head into an air conditioner's fan and turn their face to a bloody pulp. Sleeping Dogs offers plenty of options to interact with the environment; they just happen to be ultra-violent. Like most open-world games, Sleeping Dogs offers a variety of choices to deal with any given situation, even if this first look at the game journeyed through two linear sections to showcase gameplay over freedom.
When it comes to combat, Sleeping Dogs has streamlined its gameplay to a system reminiscent of the recent Batman games. That's no surprise as Square Enix London helped Rocksteady with the combat in Batman: Arkham City. Bold exclamation marks indicate when someone's about to attack, so a familiar counter-system comes into play immediately. Additionally, by grabbing any thug who gets too close to our hero, the nearby world illuminates with bold red outlines. These areas, ranging from fuse boxes to blunt railings, offer up execution-style moves to put an end to anyone getting in your way.
In the demo, most of the enemies were unarmed, making these moves, indeed, overkill. Sleeping Dogs takes combat to the extreme. This doesn't even include the segments when the hero's launching through the air on a motorbike in slow-motion, rattling off shots from an Uzi.
Outside of the market chase, there's a street racing aspect to Sleeping Dogs as well. Reminiscent to Rockstar's Midnight Club series, this scenario opened with the hero betting the ladies accompanying him in his car against a rival. Silly, really, but once underway the driving dynamic provided a challenging course through the tight streets highlighted by glowing flares. There appeared to be a decent amount of rubber-banding, meaning that even if you crash an opponent into a railing, they'll catch up pretty quickly. But overall by hitting the right drift points and keeping the gas pumped, Sleeping Dogs' racing is a smooth arcade-style ride.
After playing through a parkour-style chase, a beat 'em up gang fight, and coming in ahead of the pack during the race, Sleeping Dogs proves its core gameplay operates smoothly. Once the world opens up to allow more freedom, it's going to be awesome to see how jacking cars and grappling strangers into environmental objects feels when it's not on a set path.
Wandering through busy backstreet kitchens to sliding through market stalls revealed a world brimming with life in this early glimpse of Sleeping Dogs. The bold outlines during combat and cheesy racing setup about betting on ladies reveal an action-movie sensibility, but this first look at the game certainly was fun, albeit shockingly violent.