When Sleeping Dogs originally came out last year, I loved it (though sadly, didn’t review it), and it was one of my favorite games of the year. It was a new IP in the open-world genre that had a blend of arcadey driving, Max Payne-esque shooting, and a combat system straight out of Batman: Arkham City. Along with awesome gameplay, the game had one of the strongest storylines in gaming (which is saying something, especially when it’s an open-world game), and characters that were likeable (Jackie Ma, anyone?) and fun to play (Wei Shen could take on Niko Bellic any day!). Not only did it have all of that, but the city that the game inhabited (Honk Kong) was beautiful to just run around it, and felt just as alive as Liberty City from the acclaimed Grand Theft Auto IV. Sleeping Dogs showed that if the Grand Theft Auto series wanted to keep the crown for best open-world game, it’d have to work for it.
The game’s first expansion, Nightmare in North Point, was a decent outing, but it inevitably drew comparisons from Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, and Nightmare in North Point didn’t measure up.
With Year of the Snake, Square Enix London and United Front Games looks to create an expansion that’s on par with Rockstar’s. I’d like to think they succeeded.
Name: Sleeping Dogs: Year of the Snake
Developer: United Front Games & Square Enix London
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: Xbox 360, Ps3, PC (reviewed)
Year of the Snake starts off with Sleeping Dogs’ protagonist Wei Shen being demoted to a beat cop, after causing quite a stir in his journey to take down the Triads (the higher-ups didn’t care for Wei’s destruction of property, apparently). This leads into a brief but quite humorous montage where Wei writes out parking tickets, breaks up disputes, and gives out directions. After this montage, Wei is found writing a parking ticket when a car speeds past him and towards a New Year’s party, and this is when Year of the Snake hits the ground running.
Wei finds a bomb in the car, and against direct orders, he drives it into the bay to prevent it from killing any innocents (I guess even when he’s not undercover Wei has a penchant for not following what he considers “stupid orders”). Wei also manages to arrest a suspect of the bombing, and you find out that there are multiple bombings planned to usher in the Year of the Snake (it’s the title of the expansion, get it!) and the apocalypse. Wei is then thrown onto the case to track down these cultists and stop them, and the tension and action doesn’t let up for the rest of the DLC. Although there’s nothing exceptional about the story, it’s an excellent continuation of Wei Shen’s story, and I was happy to play through it.
If you played Sleeping Dogs, you know how pretty Hong Kong is, and Year of the Snake is no exception. The DLC itself has a very dark tone to it, and the nighttime setting and rainy weather in Honk Kong helps reflect that. Even though it’s a couple months old, Sleeping Dogs is still a gorgeous game, and every so often I find myself just walking down the streets of the crowded city, staring at the neon lights and the store signs. I only did that once or twice though — the DLC is incredibly fast-paced and keeps you moving, even when you want to stop and stare at the sites. You feel like you need to keep moving from mission to mission, even though there is no real timer in between missions to keep you focused.
Favors from Sleeping Dogs are back, though they’re nowhere near as involved as they were in the original. They’re more here as filler, and since there’s no “Face” meter to upgrade, there’s no real incentive to do them. You start with $25,000 at the beginning of the DLC, and since there’s no clothing to buy (you’re stuck in a cop uniform for most of the time except for a couple missions) and the only cars you unlock in your garage are police ones (but holy crap does the police bike go fast), your money goes towards food and that’s about it — no need to try and make a lot of it! Along with these favors are other side-missions where you actually act as a police officer and enforce the law. These are also fairly shallow and are little more than a time-waster.
Although these side-missions are menial and only seem to be there to make sure you understand that you are officially and publicly a police officer, I like that they added them specifically for that reason. I like that I get to be on the good guy side of the law in an open-world game for once. I know in Sleeping Dogs you were an undercover cop, but when you commandeer a car you still punch the driver in the face and throw them out brutally Now, you hold up your badge, yell “Hong Kong police!”, and people get out willingly for you so that you can go save the day, and in this DLC you start out surrounded by the sleek, fast sports cars. It’s a minor touch, but nice. Don’t worry though, you can still give flying round-house kicks of justice to random passerbys if they rub you the wrong way. Also, now that you’re a cop, you have handcuffs (apparently an unlimited supply), and you can abuse those if you would like, leaving behind you a string of handcuffed innocents. I don’t want to think about how clogged I left the station throughout this DLC.
Although Nightmare in North Point was a disappointment, Year of the Snake more than makes up for it. With more of the same gameplay that made the original Sleeping Dogs a blast (with a few shooting missions that were my favorite part of the DLC), and a tight, fast-paced storyline that doesn’t let you put down the controller until you’re done with it, Year of the Snake is a great way to end the Sleeping Dogs DLC. Now I just can’t wait for a full blown sequel.