Sleeping Dogs, in it's later stages developed at United Front Games and eventually published by Square-Enix, originally began life at Activision as Black Lotus, an open-world crime game with a female protagonist. However, under the belief that their predominantly male target audience would not play such a game starring a woman, management demanded that the protagonist be replaced with a man, and further tied the previously-unrelated game into the True Crime franchise. However, due to the poor critical reception and sales of the sequel True Crime: New York City, Activision aborted the development of the game twice. The first attempt was developed at Luxoflux. The project was then restarted at United Front Games. The game was initially entitled True Crime, and then changed again to True Crime: Hong Kong.
Activision cancelled the title a second time in February of 2011, and the game was subsequently picked up by Square-Enix, who made the announcement on August 1, 2011. However, because Square-Enix did not purchase the True Crime intellectual property, the game was forced to undergo a name change. On February 8, 2012, Square-Enix officially announced that development had been resumed, and that the game had been renamed Sleeping Dogs. The game was released on August 14, 2012 in the US and August 17, 2012 in Europa and Australia.
The game tells the story of Wei Shen, an Chinese-American cop who is transferred to Hong Kong to infiltrate the Triads. According to the developers, he's based off Leonardo Dicaprio's character in the movie The Departed, which was in turn a remake of a Hong Kong movie entitled Infernal Affairs. They wanted to make a hero who got hit a lot and didn't seem invincible.
During an undercover operation Wei is arrested and taken to prison where he meets an old friend (and current member of the Triads), who offers Wei a job. After a meeting with the Hong Kong Police Inspector, Wei agrees to take the offer in order to infiltrate the Triads, sinking deep into the machinations of one of the world's most notorious criminal organisations.
The game was revealed to the press at GDC 2010. In the demo given, United Front emphasized their focus on recreating the sort of action seen in Hong Kong action movies. That means that a big focus of the game will be put on melee combat and environmental moves, in combination with the game's take on parkour and free-running. The game's shooting will feature both feature a manual mode and a lock-on system, since a lock-on system will be easier to use in combination with the free-running and melee elements. Since there are former Black Box employees at United Front Games, the driving in the game will be very similar to the Need for Speed series of games.
Playing as Wei Shen the player completes various missions from both sides of the law. Depending on how you complete your mission plays a huge part on how much experience you gain from the police and triad. By completing police missions, lessening nearby environment destruction, and reducing the amount of innocent civilians killed will result in an increase to your police xp. As compared to completing triad missions and defeating your opposition in brutal ways such as environment kills will increase your triad xp. As players gain more police xp and triad xp they are given ability points which allow players to customize their players skills.
The game has on foot, free-running sequences. In these sequences, the player is chasing a criminal. As a Wei runs, he pushes people out of the way and vaults over objects. Hong Kong has been mapped in such a way that it's adapted to the game play. During these chase sequences, the player will engage in hand-to-hand combat. Wei can use his fists, as well as weapons such as knives, meat cleavers and the environment. Enemies can be pushed into TVs, have their faces run against vents and and be thrown from rooftops. The game also has a counter system where an enemy flashes red to indicate when a counter can be performed.
The melee combat is reminiscent of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City, bringing a similar timing and counter based approach to fights. The main attack button can be done in normal and heavy versions by tapping or holding to button, the counter button can (and should) be hit when an enemy is highlighted red, and the grapple button allows you to grab most enemies. Once grappled you can punch, throw, drag, or preform a variety of environmental attacks, which range from throwing in a dumpster to shoving a persons head into an incinerator. Wei also has the ability to lock onto enemies which allows for more precise and creative attack patterns. A specific side quest allows Wei to learn more combos to help him take down foes in even more ways.
The game incorporates the cell phone function that has become a feature in many open world games, most notably GTA IV. Using his phone Wei can call contacts (Triad Members, Girls, Police handlers, etc) to gain access to side/miscellaneous quests. There is also a text feature, but it always sends scripted messages that are used in the context of a mission. Wei can access the variety of CI Reports, Background info, and surveillance gatherings through the reports tab, access the social hub, and during some missions take pictures.
One of the key features of the game is known as Face. It has several passive advantages to help the player outside of combat, such as making consumables last longer, discounts, and additional contacts, but it is most obvious in combat. Dealing damage (it seems that more impressive attacks/counters will help more) will fill up the Face Meter, and once it is filled up, Wei regenerates health, intimidates enemies, and through unlocks gains additional advantages such as unblockable attacks and reduced damage. Face is upgraded through side missions and goes to level 10.
In 2009, shortly after Activision put the old True Crime moniker on it (after originally titled Black Lotus), the game was delayed through 2011. Activision's Eric Hirshberg claimed the delay would pay off, focusing on making the shooting and fighting mechanics as "sophisticated" as the driving.
In the same press event that signalled the end of Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk, Activision let it slip that the nearly finished True Crime: Hong Kong cancelled, citing fears that the game would not attain the level of quality or sales figures Activision desired. "Only top-tier games can be competitive in today's market," the company argued in a February 2011 financial call to analysts, perhaps implying Hong Kong's pre-orders or focus group testing failed to garner the spark of a Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row.
This raises a question: Why would a publisher, especially one the size of Activision, be willing to take a loss on the development cost of such a far along game, or try to sell it off to a lesser company, as opposed to making whatever decent money they could on shelves? Activision has previously avowed its disdain for games that cannot be easily spawned off into annual franchises; with its extended development cycle and (based on the final version of Sleeping Dogs) no clear sequel potential set up by the story, it is possible that Activision no longer saw the value in trying to revitalize the True Crime brand and halted the latest game in the process. By cancelling such a game in the nick of time, Activision saved its advertising budget, and freed up a calendar week and more money to promote one of its other franchise blockbusters. In other words, 300,000 sales of TC:HK wouldn't call for an investment in a True Crime 4 sequel. But an extra 300,000 sales on top of Call of Duty's 4,000,000 could be pivotal in keeping the juggernaut eternally bigger and more successful than last years' game.
Players who grappled and parachuted their way through Just Cause 2 will get a little extra when Sleeping Dogs detects a save file from that game on PS3, Xbox 360 or PC: A Rico Rodriguez-outfit that also boosts the player's ability to board and hijack moving vehicles from a distance.
The Characters are listed with their respective voice actors