@bowlisimo There’s always one surprise per year – your Borderlandseses or Demons’ Souls. They come from nowhere and BAM, awesomeness. Sleeping Dogs has the most torturous development cycle and the worst pedigree possible (True Crime? Really?) it’s impossible NOT to believe that a steaming mess should be the inevitable result.

What seems clear is that this is a work of passion on the part of United Front. I think I’ve read a few times that “this is the game they really wanted to make”, even if it took 7 years or whatever — only all other previous iterations used to be wrapped up in B-list franchise junk as a concession to whoever was publishing it. Squeenix just said “nope, go live with whatever your vision is”. Great.

Not to butter it up TOO much. I mean, it’s still just Super GTA Asia, don’t expect something transcendental or genre busting. I think maybe a good comparison is Darksiders. The original Darksiders took the Zelda model and then did a big “what if…” on it. What if combat was actually visceral and exciting rather than dumbed down to a Nintendo level? What if a whole bunch of DNA from other ideas like Portal or FPSes could be subtly injected into the experience to improve those things we always found lacking about the Zelda trope. You’d get a Zelda game that out-Zeldaed Zelda. Sleeping Dogs is this to GTA.

I was mentioning to Lynette how satisfying it is to have an open world crime game that takes its subject matter seriously. There’s no farting noise radio shock jock radio stations, no off-color South Park style knowing wink parodies on the billboards. No Rockstar joke asshole characters like Brucie or whoever. It’s all straight up Hong Kong action cinema. Music and atmosphere is always an appropriate mix of fish-smell and incense laden China — commercials on the radio are in Cantonese, music alternates between Phatt Beats with Chinese rappers busting rhymes I can’t understand or twangly jangly Blade Runner style trance music or Chinese military marches blaring out of the radio when you get AM in from the mainland. When you’re acting like a triad guy you’re being rewarded for your brutality and your ruthlessness. When you’re “off duty” then you’re penalized for doing unsociable things like, oh, running over random pedestrians and causing mayhem. Because you’re a fucking cop. Duh.

One thing that makes immediate sense when you play Sleeping Dogs is how much better the GTA experience becomes when you remove guns from the equation. Much like Yakuza, guns are nominally there in the world but you solve 99% of problems by beating the hell out of other people. This is lampshaded in fact, as Wei’s (department mandated) “beat ’em up but don’t outright murder people” point of view actually becomes a major plot point later, as in the world of Chinese gangs that behavior is equivalent to hanging a sign that says HAY GUYS, POSSIBLE POLICE MOLE HERE over your head when you’re doing undercover work. It didn’t take long for the other gang bangers to be like “why DON’T you like killing people, Wei?”

In fact, I have seen one gun total so far in my play so far. I picked up a heavy pistol from a hidden lockbox I discovered, then stood there with it in my hand going “I have a gun! So….. yeah.” I couldn’t ride a bike with it in my hand, couldn’t seem to put it away or hide it anywhere inconspicuous. Ran around for a while, then had to throw it over my shoulder into some bushes. Just something I didn’t want or need complicating my life. Super refreshing.