Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
The halfway house between GTA’s sneering arrogance and Saints’ Row’s chaotic nonchalance, and that’s exactly why Sleeping Dogs has a small but passionate fanbase. It’s not quite the Serious Sandbox, but it is very much no mess, no fuss, just cars and fights – which in some respects is more appealing than the excess of its contemporaries.
The city isn’t wacky, and combat benefits from martial arts as well as guns – a surprisingly big change, given GTA-likes usually involve just a bit of punching and kicking on the melee front.
Really though, the reason to like Sleeping Dogs is that it’s focused, and it gets it right. Many GTA-likes don’t achieve even that, and particularly struggle in terms of tone and character: looking at you, Watch_Dogs. Part of this is down to not using an American city, and thus avoiding both over-familiarity and trying to trade blows with a Rockstar budget. Hong Kong feels like its own place, an exciting place, a strange place, a cocktail and West and East. And given that place is the real reason to play a game like this, place is why Sleeping Dogs succeeds despite arguably lacking any other must-play element.