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