After the Tomb Raider Definitive Edition, The Last Of Us Remastered, and others, it’s hard not to be tired of next-fen remakes that only spruce up the graphics and include the previously released add-ons. Especially when you have ones like Metro Redux which vastly improved aspects of the original Metro games. Sadly, the former is what we’re getting once again with the Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition that’s being released by Square Enix on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. But while this new edition isn’t worth getting if you’ve already played the first edition, this engaging open-world action game is worth getting if you missed it before.
Made both before and again by United Front Games, the Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition casts you as Wei Shen, an undercover cop in Hong Kong tasked with infiltrating a local crime syndicate. Which — as you know if you’ve ever watched the movies Infernal Affairs or The Departed — means that everything goes according to plan and everyone ends up happy and healthy and wise. Oh, that reminds me, there’s this bridge in Brooklyn….
Admittedly, Sleeping Dogs isn’t the most original game ever made. Besides the well-tread premise, much of the gameplay is familiar as well. The combo-driven fist-fighting that has you being attacked from all sides? Straight out of Batman: Arkham City (well, if Bats wasn’t as acrobatic). The free running? That has Assassin’s Creed written all over it. The driving? Well, okay, it’s very Grand Theft Auto-esque, in that you go three times faster than everyone else on the road.
What makes the Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition stand out, though, is that it combines the good parts in ways other games do not. For instance, while this has you parkouring like Ezio from Assassin’s Creed II, the combat is way better than anything in that series (though Wei should really learn how to dodge). As a result, the Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition is much closer to the Saints Row series, especially 2011’s Saints Row: The Third, than ones named after a car crime.
The Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition also differentiates itself from the Grand Theft Auto games by being smaller in scope but far more focused. While there’s a lot less to do in this game, all of it relates — even if just tangentially — to the story and your role in it. The extra stuff doesn’t feel like a distraction or busy work, though it also doesn’t give the city as much color or give you as much to do. Which isn’t a compliment or a criticism, just an observation.
While the world in the Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition may not be as vast as the one in a Grand Theft Auto game, it’s just as rich and layered. Is the real Hong Kong anything like this? I have no idea, I’ve never been. And even if I had, I wouldn’t have experienced the city’s seedy underbelly. But the game certainly makes the city seem vibrant and alive. And full of foodies for some odd reason.
Unfortunately, the Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition still has some of the issues that plagued the original version. For starters, there are times when objects in the foreground block your view, like when you’re fighting in a marketplace and an awning gets in the way. Some missions are also noticeably harder than others you’ve just breezed through, while there are times when mid-mission checkpoints are spaced annoying far apart.
The Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition also has a weird story problem. While you’re an undercover cop who’s infiltrated a dangerous game, you sometimes do missions as a regular cop, in the uniform and everything. At one point, for instance, you hop in a police car and stop a street race, while at other times you wear your uniform and take down some loitering criminals. But not only would this never happen — an undercover cop would never risk being seen in his uniform or his squad car — it also doesn’t make any sense, since this has plenty of missions where you fight crime but in a sneaky way.
Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition also has a problem that’s so common these days that I now just cut and paste this paragraph into almost every game review I do (seriously, go check): some of the type is too small. Unless you sit really, really close to your TV — y’know, like your mama told you not to — you’ll have a hard time reading the button prompts and the captions. But this is an even bigger problem than usual because some of the dialog is in Cantonese with English subtitles. Which isn’t to say you won’t know what’s going on, but you may miss some things.
It also doesn’t help that the map in the Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition has some dark blue type against a black background, which it makes it hard to read as well.
As for the other differences between the Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition and the original from 2012, they’re mostly cosmetic. Sleeping Dogs was a good looking game when it came out on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC, so the difference in visual fidelity, while noticeable, isn’t dramatic. It also doesn’t change anything about the way the game plays, so it’s merely a superficial augmentation.
More substantial is how the Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition includes all of the game’s add-ons, which not only include three story-driven campaign expansions as well as a wealth of new weapons, outfits, cars, and other fun stuff.
Which is why, in the end, buying the Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition is pointless if you’ve already played this game. But if you haven’t, and you like open world crime dramas — especially ones with Batman-ish fighting, Assassin’s Creed-esque free running, and, well, the usual lead footed driving — you’ll get caught up in this familiar tale of an undercover cop trying to, well, what undercover cops always do.