Sleep­ing Dogs with the good bits mobbed by freemium hooks


Hong Kong’s gang­sters show quite the lack of imag­i­na­tion. Whichever fac­tion they be­long to and wher­ever they set up shop, ev­ery one of the city’s ne’er-do-wells fol­lows the same in­te­rior de­sign rules for their safe­house. There’s a lobby with some so­fas, chairs and burly badasses; up­stairs is an open-plan living area with more loi­ter­ing goons, and an en­forcer kick­ing his heels on the bal­cony. They all have the same tem­ple gar­den, and be­yond that lies an industrial es­tate hous­ing their var­i­ous crim­i­nal rack­ets: coun­ter­feit­ing, cock-fight­ing, hack­ing and so on. This is a work in progress, of course, and the closed-beta la­bel does much to ex­cuse the copy-past­ing of the lo­cal set dress­ing. But it does mean that, in its cur­rent form, Triad Wars feels less like a battle for supremacy in a city teem­ing with small-time thugs with big­time dreams, and more like a se­quence of iden­ti­cal fights against a king­pin who moves his op­er­a­tion across town af­ter ev­ery de­feat.

That aside, United Front’s fol­low-up to Sleep­ing Dogs is sur­pris­ingly well fleshed-out – a fac­tor, pre­sum­ably, in a blan­ket-cov­er­age NDA be­ing fi­nally lifted on a game that has been playable since late last year. Its sys­tems, pro­gres­sion and economies are in place; Hong Kong throbs with busy roads and streets. On first in­spec­tion, it’s Sleep­ing Dogs again: that Arkham com­bat sys­tem, that lu­di­crous car han­dling, those road­side food ven­dors ask­ing why you don’t have a pork bun in your hand. There’s an evo­lu­tion of the pre­vi­ous game’s skill trees, too, and many mission de­signs have been brought over: timed de­liv­er­ies, on-foot chases and no end of spe­cific skulls to crack. Yet what sets the two apart is an em­pha­sis on sys­tems over story, United Front cast­ing aside a lin­ear nar­ra­tive in favour of

Cars re­quire lit­tle en­cour­age­ment to ex­plode, and a sin­gle shot-out tyre will trig­ger a dra­matic slow­mo­tion crash. Th­ese lit­tle nods to Hong Kong ac­tion cinema are less ef­fec­tive in a game struc­tured around a very dif­fer­ent sort of power to its pre­de­ces­sor

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