I love Kung-Fu films. Ever since I saw Jackie Chan throw down with Benny The Jet on Channel Four, way back in the late 80s/early 90s, in the beautiful Wheels on Meals, I’ve been hooked on martial arts movies. It’s a love affair that’s lasted nearly 30 years, and it’s taken me to all sorts of places when it comes to my search for chop-socky. It also covers all forms of the genre from the traditional outings to the new breed such as Chan and Li. It’s even seen me fall for the wushu movement of the mid to late 2000s as well as the burgeoning Korean scene that gave us some of the best action that helped to breathe life back into something that had become somewhat stale. Hell, it’s even influenced my music tastes as Wu-Tang’s Enter the 36 Chambers is one of my favorite albums of all time. When it comes to video games, outside of beat ’em ups, there are not many options.
However, why is that? If any form of storytelling is tailor-made for the world of video games, then it’s Kung-Fu with its epic plots and quick-fire violence it’ seemingly marriage made in heaven, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that companies seem reluctant to throw their weight behind a genre that is begging to be exploited. We’ve had a couple of false dawns, such as the brilliant Jade Empire.
It wasn’t perfect, but that was part of its charm and the fact it allowed you to decide how you wanted to play the game, either good or evil, made it a brilliant RPG as well. Sadly, and for whatever reason, the much-touted sequel never saw the light of day which meant I had to go back to getting my ass handed to me on Mortal Kombat by anyone who wasn’t my pet dog, though that four-legged swine came close to beating me on a couple of occasions. The years rolled by and the Kung-Fu Wasteland was vast and unforgiving until, a light in the darkness. Square revealed they would be releasing a game called Sleeping Dogs.
Everything about this game sounded perfect. The plot revolved around Wei Shen, an undercover cop that had infiltrated the Triads with the express purpose of bringing them down from the inside. That alone was pure Hong Kong gold and had more than a whiff of Infernal Affairs about it, and then there was the gameplay which would focus more on the ass-kicking side of things than the gunplay, with interactive environments with which you could beat the hordes of bad guys thrown at you to death with. It was GTA with Donnie Yen at the wheel. However, would it be any good?
There are two things in this world I rarely do, and that’s pre-order anything or bother going for the 100% completion so you can imagine how starved I was for this kind of action when I broke the first rule. It arrived on my doorstep two days early, and from the moment I booted it up and found myself playing through the tutorial I was hooked. The way it teaches you to use Wei’s free-running skill is impressive and in no time at all, I found myself forgetting I was playing a video game. Then when I was out in the freedom of Hong Kong, everything else clicked into place. The fighting was a dream, taking the counter attacks from the Arkham series and making you feel that you were indeed a kung-fu master, and it didn’t stop there. The driving, the side-quests, the fight clubs, it was like I’d died and gone to nerdvana.
I poured hour upon hour into it, even though it seemed like only minutes, and then it was over. So I just booted it up again, and again, and again. I couldn’t get enough, and it never got boring. Then only when it seemed that I’d have to run through it a few more times they started dropping DLC. The first one saw you in Hong Kong at Halloween, having to beat up hopping vampires, and yeah, hopping fricking vampires.
Moreover, the follow up saw you go to a mysterious island and take part in a tournament to find out who was the best of the best. That’s right, they Bruce Lee’d the damn thing in all its Grindhouse glory. It was bliss, and there were rumors of a sequel in the works which made my little black heart jump for joy.
Yeah, that happened. For whatever reason the powers that be decided that not only should the follow up be an MMO but it should also only be available on PC and just like that my dreams of a series of games based in this universe were throat punched into oblivion. But why? Well, the finger has always been pointed at the sales, but by the end of September, it had already shifted 1.5 million units. No, the problem seems to lay with the publisher who has since admitted that they had put too high an expectation on the game as a whole and considered it, along with the Tomb Raider reboot, as a failure, which is a crying shame.
The fact remains that if sales were poor then there’s a fair few of you out there that have never picked up a copy of Sleeping Dogs and I cannot stress enough how much you should if you have any love for Kung-Fu movies. I also hold the company responsible for putting a stupid amount of pressure on a new IP, one that they should’ve gotten behind and pushed to the moon. You never know though, with the movie still in production and with developers loving to spring surprises on us at the drop of a hat, maybe one day I’ll get the sequel I’ve been chomping at the bit for since I first finished it back in 2012. And if not, then I’ve still got it on both my PS4 and Xbox One. Now, if you’ll excuse me, those bad guys won’t kick themselves in the balls.