Monday, June 3, 2013

Inexplicable Video Game Review: Asian GTA (and Emma Stone)

The easiest way to describe Sleeping Dogs is via the title I used for this entry. Basically, the game boils down to an Asian version of Grand Theft Auto – it’s a big sandbox crime game set in Hong Kong, and takes two steps forward but one step backward with its portrayal of morality. It seemingly offers you a bit wider of a path to take at first before you realize, nah, this is just as violent and immoral as Grand Theft Auto, even if you are playing a cop.

The premise – You’re Wei Shen, a cop on loan from the San Francisco PD to a department in Hong Kong, where you grew up. Because of your background and because you grew up with the lieutenants of the gang triads, you’re tabbed for undercover duty.

As opposed to pretty much every other undercover situation ever though, the department doesn’t seem to mind you regularly executing gang members. Or running over pedestrians on the street – If you do happen to get caught by the police afterward, well, it’s just a $15,000 fine / bribe to get out of the clink.

Since the game can be tricky in spots, I did get caught by the police a couple times, and each time that struck me as ludicrous. Why not have your character just respawn from a checkpoint instead? That’s what happens when you’re actually doing a mission for the triad or the police force.

Beyond that, if you want to platinum the game, it requires that you do some really morally squeamish things for completely unknown reasons. One of the stat awards requires that you kill 50 cops, even though it’s technically possible to play through the main storyline without intentionally killing police officers. Another stat award requires 50 destroyed vehicles, so the easiest way to do that is to ram civilian cars on the highway – there actually aren’t that many missions with the triads where you can destroy their cars repeatedly.

These elements detract a bit from a really solid narrative – the game was published by Square-Enix, and shares some plot elements with their better games – and some good innovations when it comes to the sandbox genre. As opposed to, say, Infamous, anything that you can collect – health upgrades, melee upgrade statues – is shown on the mini-map and can be manually selected on the map. Then, depending on the location, you get turn-by-turn directions presented on the screen. (It’s nice when a game set in the present somewhat acknowledges the idea of GPS.)

So, overall, getting back to the actual game… If you can get past the moral hurdles I outlined a bit, then Sleeping Dogs is worth its purchase price, which is about $10 to $25 on eBay, depending on whether you want it new or used. It’s also currently free for Playstation Plus subscribers.

(I’ve inadvertently been shilling for them the past couple of blog entries, but it’s mostly because I got rid of my cable to save money. My GameFly and PS+ membership combined is barely a quarter of the cost of what my cable TV cost.)

Random note: Sleeping Dogs keeps up the trend of Emma Stone playing non-redheads for some inexplicable reason. Even in digital form, she shows up as a blonde. Dear Emma, since I know you’re no doubt reading this, please stick to the red hair. Even if it’s not your natural hair color, I guarantee you, it’s a good look on you.

The picture of Emma Stone is a fairly common wallpaper from the Internet, which I found via Google Images. And if she needs more proof to go back to red, about 90 percent of the results for “Emma Stone hot” are with her as a ginger.

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