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  1. #1
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    The Turning Point of Sleeping Dogs (spoilers)

    I'd originally put down Sleeping Dogs about, let's say, three fifths of the way into the game in order to get my MMORPG on with Guild Wars 2, and now that that bug's outta my system (thanks in large part to the public announcement that they're going to start having another tier of gear that can only be attained by running a certain dungeon until my eyes bleed, which is why I quit every other MMO I've ever played, but that's another story), I finally got around to finishing it.

    And I kinda wish I hadn't.

    Thing is, Sleeping Dogs is basically two games. I really, really like the first game: It's a spin on the GTA formula where guns are largely nonexistent and you're running around listening to HK-Pop and beating up toughs with your hands and fists. You're a bit of a cowboy cop but since nobody ever dies on your watch, you kinda just go with it. The game even rewards you for not hurting innocents or causing property damage.

    I liked that Wei Shen. I mean, he's formulaic as fuck (running from a violent, mysterious past that includes mourning the ghost of his sister who fell by the wayside thanks to gangs, etc) but for the purposes of the game it was decent 80s HK thriller fare. You got your crooked cop, your stodgy cop, your naive cop. You got your marauding gangster, your moronic gangster, your loyal-to-a-fault gangster, your wannabe gangster. You got your elder who gives vague, concerned advice and you got your revolving door of arm candy. You got every cliche ever to walk into a gangster flick swaggering around an always ever-so-slightly out of focus Hong Kong, and always with that sort of cheeky Jackie Chan innocence to it.

    And then the second half arrived. "There are very few guns in Hong Kong," says Thomas Pendrew, the crooked cop in the first half. He's a lying liar who should be trussed up by his forked tongue, because that little fib got fucking destroyed in the second half. The second guns entered the equation, not only were they more common than streetside noodle stands, but no longer did Wei Shen even attempt to look like he's guided by any moral standards. I mean, other than the writing, of course: He sure did like to talk about being conscientious, but holy fuck, man. You can't call yourself a force of justice if you're the biggest badass in a full-fledged gang war you helped foment. "Oh yeah, I just murdered thirty-five people in an ambush that cut off power to a hospital. That's not gonna have repercussions." You can't honestly think you're doing anything moral when you're sending waves of men to hell in a crowded intersection with a grenade launcher.

    I mean, I get that this happens a lot in these types of games: Difficulty is effected by throwing more guys at you; by making each encounter more deadly. We certainly saw it with Max Payne and Adam Kane and James Lynch. But Payne was unhinged and the duo were heartless criminals. As it stands, when you're chewing through fifty guys a day, you're not helping out the murder rate in the city. You are the murder rate in the city. In fact, in the two weeks or so that we follow Wei Shen's law enforcement career once he was introduced to guns, he's got Hong Kong's peak annual murder rate beat by a factor of ten.

    I suspect that most people take this in stride. The writers certainly did. Indeed, that was the greatest disconnect of all: The motif of the game was whether Wei was taken in by the loyalties of the triads or his sense of duty to the HKPD. And indeed the great villain in the game is not an evil mob boss (although the Big Smile Lee certainly got a grandiose death by you, by virtue of having you shoot up a restaurant in a blind bid of revenge), he's the police superintendent. But what was his great evil? What did this man do to be worse than the toughs you've sliced and diced and hosed and beaten to a pulp? He made a deal with a low-level mob enforcer to arrest the three bosses above him, and then turned around when he became a big boss himself and killed him.

    Well, shit. For Wei Shen that's called Tuesday.

    In fact, that's exactly what Wei Shen ended up doing: Killing and arresting all the mob bosses but one, and watching that boss - in this case Broken Nose Liang - take over the entire enterprise uncontested. Yet I, as a player, have the execrable reward of watching Wei, absolutely oblivious to the irony, castigate his (former) boss Pendrew for this very same act before lording a death sentence over him.

    Thing is, this is also a trope in the whole thriller sense: Harry Callahan and Popeye Doyle and Bullitt were cowboy cops who were colossal fuckups that recklessly endangered everybody and didn't actually get results. Except they realized it by the end. Wei has no moment of clarity. All his travails are taken in stride. All in a day's work to see everybody you got to know murdered in horrible ways and to have made your name in the news for bloody massacres three times in one week.

    In this stead, Max Payne made me feel dirty because there was no justice to be found in his world. James Lynch made me feel dirty because I got to watch in gory detail just how horrible a man he was. Wei Shen makes me feel dirty because he learned nothing from his travails, except deep down I suspect it's not him that failed to learn anything: It's his writers.
    Nalano H. Wildmoon
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  2. #2
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus jnx's Avatar
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    Not sure what you're saying but I probably agree. I enjoyed Sleeping Dogs very much but the guns had nothing to do with that. I enjoyed it despite of them. In my eyes it certainly would've been a better game if it had sustained some integrity towards the end.
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  3. #3
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus DaftPunk's Avatar
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    I hated the game.

  4. #4
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jnx View Post
    Not sure what you're saying but I probably agree. I enjoyed Sleeping Dogs very much but the guns had nothing to do with that. I enjoyed it despite of them. In my eyes it certainly would've been a better game if it had sustained some integrity towards the end.
    No, I think you got the gist of what I was saying: The gunplay turned it from a unique encounter to a generic encounter, and furthermore destroyed the mood of the plot.

    Gameplay pre-guns:

    Light attack
    Heavy attack
    Light attack
    Counter
    Grapple
    Light attack
    Combo
    Counter
    Light attack
    Scenery abuse

    Gameplay post-guns:

    Headshot
    Headshot
    Headshot
    Headshot
    Headshot
    Reload

    Story pre-guns:

    "Hey Wei, we're gonna knock over a drug shipment. You in?"

    "I dunno... could you repeat that louder into my lapel?"

    Story post-guns:

    "Hey Wei, we're gonna blow up Police HQ. You in?"

    "Am I ever! Lemme get the car started."
    Nalano H. Wildmoon
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  5. #5
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Kadayi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    I mean, I get that this happens a lot in these types of games: Difficulty is effected by throwing more guys at you; by making each encounter more deadly. We certainly saw it with Max Payne and Adam Kane and James Lynch. But Payne was unhinged and the duo were heartless criminals. As it stands, when you're chewing through fifty guys a day, you're not helping out the murder rate in the city. You are the murder rate in the city. In fact, in the two weeks or so that we follow Wei Shen's law enforcement career once he was introduced to guns, he's got Hong Kong's peak annual murder rate beat by a factor of ten.
    I think you conflating a lack of guns at the beginning with an attempt to somehow cater to reality. The lack of guns is there to cater to kung fu hijinks.
    Why yes you're right I'm deliciously evil

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  6. #6
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus squirrel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kadayi View Post
    I think you conflating a lack of guns at the beginning with an attempt to somehow cater to reality. The lack of guns is there to cater to kung fu hijinks.
    And fits with the reality. Not every country has guns flooding the streets like the United States of America, after all.

  7. #7
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    Gonna have to disagree, I really don't remember that many guns featuring bar a few missions towards the very end of the game?

    And then it was only for a while until INFINITE CLEAVER

  8. #8
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kadayi View Post
    I think you conflating a lack of guns at the beginning with an attempt to somehow cater to reality. The lack of guns is there to cater to kung fu hijinks.
    Let's take two scenarios, both in-universe, and compare them both in terms of cohesion and gameplay:

    Wei Shen wants to stop an alleyway from being the local go-to place for drug dealing.

    When Wei moseys up to the alleyway, indeed, there are half a dozen hoods just kinda hanging around. They spot him and move to rough him up. Wei beats a few of them up and the rest run away. Thus, in their absence Wei is free to tap into a local security camera and leave the scene. By the time Wei gets home, sure enough, the hoods have reclaimed their hangout spot and the deal goes down. Wei fingers the dealer, cops rush in for the bust, and Wei gets to have a warm fuzzy feeling for a job well done.

    Here are the disconnects with this scenario:


    1. Why are the hoods' preferred hangout directly under a security camera?
    2. Why do the HKPD have to hack into a security camera rather than just request the feed from the camera's owner?


    Now, let's add guns.

    When Wei moseys up to the alleyway, indeed, there are half a dozen hoods just kinda hanging around. They spot him and all pull out automatic weapons. Wei pulls out his nine and guns them all down. He then steps over the pile of dead bodies to tap into a local security camera and leaves the scene. By the time Wei gets home, the police have already corralled the scene, removed the bodies, cleaned up the blood, and ceased their investigation. Furthermore, an entirely new squadron of hoods have immediately taken over that very crime scene, and despite the increased police attention and the deaths of their compatriots, they continue as planned and the deal goes down. Wei fingers the guy with the briefcase and an arrest is made.


    1. Isn't gun running far more important than drug dealing?
    2. If the weapons are on their persons, why is a finger-man needed for a bust? They don't need an undercover cop; they need a SWAT team.
    3. What self-respecting hoods wouldn't lay low after such a bloodbath?
    4. What self-respecting drug dealers wouldn't lay low after all their contacts are dead?
    5. Why are the second set of hoods not armed, considering the first set got gunned down?
    6. Wouldn't murdering a bunch of hoods prompt a thorough police investigation?
    7. Wouldn't murdering a bunch of hoods prompt a violent reprisal by their gang?


    Both ask me to suspend disbelief, but one is beyond the pale.
    Nalano H. Wildmoon
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  9. #9
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    Fun > Realism

  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Swayze View Post
    Fun > Realism
    And beating people up is more fun than shooting them.
    Nalano H. Wildmoon
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    "His lack of education is more than compensated for by his keenly developed moral bankruptcy." - Woody Allen

  11. #11
    My interest is piqued, what do you mean to say with "Wei has learned nothing from his travails.". I would argue the exact opposite, despite the writers failing to build his character and make it possible for the player to empathise.

  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Heliocentric's Avatar
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    GTA 4 did the same thing but only about 2% in Niko's moral compass started spinning wildly.
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  13. #13
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Battlehenkie View Post
    My interest is piqued, what do you mean to say with "Wei has learned nothing from his travails.". I would argue the exact opposite, despite the writers failing to build his character and make it possible for the player to empathise.
    Wei showed no remorse for carving a bloody path through Hong Kong. Wei failed to notice that he is pretty much exactly the same as Pendrew.

    Pendrew killed informers who threatened to out him. Wei killed informers who threatened to out him. Pendrew had no compunction killing mob bosses instead of creating cases against them. Wei had no compunction killing mob bosses instead of creating cases against them. Pendrew thought only of his career. Wei thought only of his revenge. Yet Pendrew was a villain and Wei is the protagonist.
    Nalano H. Wildmoon
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  14. #14
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus SirKicksalot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    And beating people up is more fun than shooting them.
    Slow-mo vaulting over cover or jumping from a car was just as fun to me. I'm sorry you didn't like it.

  15. #15
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SirKicksalot View Post
    Slow-mo vaulting over cover or jumping from a car was just as fun to me. I'm sorry you didn't like it.
    Max Payne has better gunplay. Gunplay is not Sleeping Dogs' strong point.
    Nalano H. Wildmoon
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  16. #16
    I'd agree that there was a disconnect between the kung fu and gun parts of the game if not for the fact that you actually killed quite a few people with your bare hands before you even got to handle a gun. Shoving someone's head into a spinning ventilator blade isn't very ambivalent about your intentions.

    There was of course a certain amount of disconnection between actual gameplay before and after guns showed up in your inventory, but the character portrayal (good undercover cop murdering people by the dozen) was skewed from the beginning.

  17. #17
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by His Master's Voice View Post
    I'd agree that there was a disconnect between the kung fu and gun parts of the game if not for the fact that you actually killed quite a few people with your bare hands before you even got to handle a gun. Shoving someone's head into a spinning ventilator blade isn't very ambivalent about your intentions.
    Assuming the fan's running with enough power to decapitate anybody (and you shove their head right into the center of the fan anyway, not into the blades). I didn't see unequivocally deadly acts of violence until you started chasing a dude through a fish locker, where suddenly you're skewering people left and right and running their heads through saw blades.
    Nalano H. Wildmoon
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  18. #18
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Kadayi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    Max Payne has better gunplay. Gunplay is not Sleeping Dogs' strong point.
    True, but then Max blows hard at kung fu
    Why yes you're right I'm deliciously evil

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  19. #19
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kadayi View Post
    True, but then Max blows hard at kung fu
    Then it's a good thing Max Payne didn't switch to kung fu halfway through, eh?
    Nalano H. Wildmoon
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  20. #20
    I agree that the gunplay was extremely flat, it's a shame they had to shoehorn it into the game when they could've spent more time on the kung-fu parts (which I thought became stale halfway through as well).

    The morality issue is interesting; most videogames suffer terribly from genociditis. Apart from the fact that anyone who's killed swaths of people becomes rather questionable as a paragon of virtue, developers don't always give a proper excuse for why one guy can mow down armies. Plus, it feels so much better to beat a single, skilled adversary than slaughtering 30000 mindless gimps. Sure fun>realism, but we're talking about suspension of disbelief here, and perhaps other approaches are just as much, or more, fun.

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