Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition Review – Definitely Not Definitive (PS4)
The original Sleeping Dogs released back in 2012 on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. We reviewed that game here, and our own Anthony Severino loved it. I wasn’t with the site at the time, but my opinion of Sleeping Dogs pretty much falls in line with Anthony’s almost exactly.
This is an underappreciated open world game that features a fantastic location, combat that borrowed from the (at the time) innovative Batman: Arkham games, sharp writing and a completely unique style. When other companies were aiming to ape Grand Theft Auto‘s design of the open world experience, Sleeping Dogs borrowed from it in all the right places and expanded on ones that needed more attention.
Subtle tweaks to the open world mechanics make it an exceptional game. Combat, for instance, isn’t just spamming the punch button until someone drops. Wei Shen, our main character, has combos in his arsenal. He can block and parry with triangle button the same way the Dark Knight can in Arkham Asylum. Wei can even grab hold of an enemy and dynamically slam him into objects in the environment, resulting in a gruesome end for the victim and fear from his partners in crime.
Wei can be upgraded, too. This storyline sees our hero caught between good and evil as he works as a cop infiltrating a Triad gang. In-game actions will add experience to each side of that good and evil coin, and the result will see levels gained in the Triad and Cop skill trees. Those levels lead to a few narrow paths of unlocks, and Wei Shen actually develops mechanically as the game goes on rather than just serving as a static template in an open world.
Waypoint management is another tiny tweak that sets the tone for Sleeping Dogs‘s open world approach. You can open your map and set waypoints on objectives the old fashioned way (through a system menu), or, this is unique here, you can click the left stick to cycle through objectives without opening a menu. Those cycles will even drop GPS directions in front of you.
Sleeping Dogs succeeded in 2012 as an open world game that improved upon the foundation set down by so many titles before it. United Front Games wasn’t able to produce the same feeling of life from this game’s open world that Rockstar achieved with Grand Theft Auto IV and V, but I’d argue that the driving, fighting and gunplay in Sleeping Dogs is actually on par or better than the Liberty City and Los Santos centered genre counterparts.
The problem I have with calling this Definitive Edition a success is that, well, it doesn’t improve too much upon the original. Definitive implies that this is the greatest Sleeping Dogs will ever be. That’s not the case. It could have been better. While it packs all the DLC and makes the jump to the new generation of platforms, the “definitive” effort here never feels, well, definite.
With this “definitive” version came the jump to the new consoles. Sleeping Dogs leapt from the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Here’s the thing, though, the graphical improvements here don’t make it look that much more attractive.
Consider The Last of Us and its remaster. Now, the original there was by no means ugly, but the jump from the PS3 to PS4 actually improved the fidelity of the game in significant ways. With Sleeping Dogs, though, the affair only looks a little bit better. There are still plenty of muddy textures, sprawls of gray and relatively empty streets that pull you away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong.
Then there are the super, super stiff NPC animations when you do actually make it to a crowded area. They look and feel last-gen, not like the definitive edition of a new generation experience.
The deal with Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition is that it’s a really great option for a PS4 owner without a PC who never played the original. That’s an extremely narrow consumer target, but it’s the truth.
You can get the same game on the PC for half the money with all of the DLC. The Definitive Edition on that platform is $30, not $60. If you have a capable PC, go that route. If you’re part of the PlayStation faithful and you only have a PS4 in your gaming collection, I can really only recommend Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition if you never played the first.
This is a wonderful, fun, well-made game that’s easily worth an exploration; however, its upgrades and price don’t justify double-dipping for those who have already experienced Wei Shen’s tale before.
I loved Sleeping Dogs the first time around. As a fan, there’s not enough in the Definitive Edition to call it “Definitive.” It’s adequate, and it’s overpriced especially given the fact that the exact same game is selling for half the cost on PCs.
Sleeping Dogs for the PS4 was purchased for review. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.