Sleeping Dogs is a title that’s highly overlooked by most gamers. It’s a hidden gem of the seventh console generation that has also found its way to more current platforms. An open-world crime drama set in Hong Kong, the game has a compelling story that harkens back to a time when action movies were all the rage.
So, what exactly is Sleeping Dogs, and what makes it special?
What Kind of Game is Sleeping Dogs?
Sleeping Dogs is a relatively unique game. On the surface it looks like an open-world game about the underground, making it feel very much akin to a GTA game set in Hong Kong. However, it’s much more than that.
For starters, its story is reminiscent of the Yakuza series. It deep dives you into the dark corners of an Asian-style mafia organization, wheeling and dealing in all sorts of shady business. Because of its setting, you can also expect Sleeping Dogs to feel like an interactive Hong Kong kung fu flick from yesteryear, complete with over-the-top dialog.
The game also deviates greatly from Rockstar’s series because of its combat. Where GTA encourages you to make use of various firearms, Sleeping Dogs focuses on martial arts. The main character is an expert in a variety of styles and is able to fight in a freeform manner that harkens back to the Batman Arkham series.
Furthermore, Sleeping Dogs has a freer approach to open-world exploration. GTA is quite free, but you don’t have as many options to traverse besides using vehicles. Beyond hijacking cars, motorcycles, and boats, Sleeping Dogs allows you to climb, jump, swim, and parkour your way through obstacles. In many ways, traversal is closer to a game like Saints Row, Prototype, and Marvel’s Spider-Man.
The long and short of it is that Sleeping Dogs takes a host of ideas from other games and mashes them into one single game. While it has its flaws, it executes these design points effectively while also making them its own.
What Games Are Like Sleeping Dogs?
This question should actually be the reverse. Given that Sleeping Dogs borrows a ton of concepts from other titles, it would be only fair to ask “what games is Sleeping Dogs like” instead.
But, as I said, it’s a fairly unique subgenre mashup in its own right. So, whether you’re wondering if you should play it or you’ve played it and want to know what to try next, here’s a non-exhaustive list of titles, categorized by concept:
- Open-world criminal story
- Grand Theft Auto series
- Watch Dogs series
- The Saboteur
- The Godfather
- L.A. Noire
- Red Dead Redemption series
- Martial arts beat-’em-up combat
- Batman Arkham series
- Yakuza series
- Mad Max
- Freeform open-world traversal
- Prototype series
- Marvel’s Spider-Man
- Saints Row series
- Crackdown series
In case you’ve played and enjoyed any of the above games, you’ll likely find something to hook you in Sleeping Dogs. Likewise, if you’ve gone through Shen’s adventure and are looking to branch out to something else, you can’t go wrong with any of the titles on the list.
Out of all of these games, some are considered heavy hitters in their respective spaces. Name any of them and most gamers will at least be aware of their existence. To get a full idea of what games are like Sleeping Dogs, it’s worth making some more detailed comparisons.
How Does Sleeping Dogs Compare to GTA?
GTA and Sleeping Dogs are both open-world games that follow a main character who’s intertwined with the criminal underground of their world. Both games give you missions that progress the story and give you insight into other characters’ backgrounds and relationships with the protagonist.
Sleeping Dogs, though, adds more to the mission structure by giving you a choice to either do good deeds or commit crimes. As one would expect, the latter incurs the wrath of the police which you must evade.
Finally, Sleeping Dogs has more RPG elements that give you a better sense of progression. This system consists of three different XP elements, each granting you stronger moves and more cosmetics.
How Does Sleeping Dogs Compare to Yakuza?
Unlike Sleeping Dogs, Yakuza isn’t a pure open-world game series. You’ve got some freedom to go to places but the setting feels limited as it’s primarily within the bounds of a single district. By comparison, Sleeping Dogs has a larger space to explore and uncover secrets and collectibles.
Where the two games are better matched is in their storytelling and combat. Both Yakuza and Sleeping Dogs feel like you’re playing through an Asian crime drama where overacting is the norm. In many cases, the storylines borderline on extreme silliness, although Yakuza is a lot more unhinged in this department.
Combat in both games is martial arts based. Your primary way of dispatching foes is through hand-to-hand battle, using combos, defensive maneuvres, and environmental attacks. Sleeping Dogs, though, feels more freeform and fluid. Fighting multiple foes is intuitive, whereas in Yakuza the game feels more rigid, making group fights feel clunky.
How Does Sleeping Dogs Compare to Saints Row?
The best way to compare Sleeping Dogs and Saints Row is in the levels of ridiculousness and cheese each has to offer.
The Saints Row series is a sandbox game that could just be called “Over-The-Top: The Game” and be done with it. Each title is in direct competition with its predecessor on how much crazier it can get. There are a ton of things to do, meaning you can spend countless hours and still have stuff to complete.
Sleeping Dogs is also cheesy and silly but in a more focused and inspired manner. With roots firmly planted in the cops vs. criminals kung fu action flicks of old Hong Kong cinema, it gets quite wacky but mostly when it comes to dialog and how storylines get resolved.
That all being said, freedom of exploration is at the heart of both the Saints Row series and Sleeping Dogs. You’re not going to be quite as superhuman in the latter but the parkour elements do give you a fluid sense of speed and freedom.
How Does Sleeping Dogs Compare to the Batman Arkham Saga?
Sleeping Dogs is often compared to the Batman Arkham series because of its combat system. The Dark Knight games aren’t exactly open world in the same way. They’re far more level-based and the exploration parts feel more contained.
But both games have a ton of similarities in their combat systems. Because of this fact, Sleeping Dogs is often seen as “GTA with Arkham combat”. In both titles, fighting enemies is heavily combo-focused, allowing you to string multiple attacks together fluidly. On top of that, you can freely switch your target mid-combo to deal with a more direct threat.
Both games also give you defensive tools and cues that help you continue your battle momentum no matter how many times you you are forced to switch your focus. Sleeping Dogs makes this system its own by also including a robust grappling and counter system aiming to make you feel like a badass kung fu movie star.