The Digest

Games Of August 2012: Sleeping Dogs

We cannot tell a lie: Sleeping Dogs surprised us.

By John Teti • September 10, 2012

Sleeping Dogs Cover Art

I wanted to like Sleeping Dogs for a very stupid reason: It has really nice cover art. I mean, look at that box shot on the right there. I gather the illustrator is Tyler Stout. Tyler, I tip my hat to you. But while I was rooting for the game, I didn’t really expect to get into it as much as I did. It’s full of surprises. It has a strong sense of place and a fairly good sense of humor. Like I say in the video, I’ve never been to Hong Kong, so I don’t know how realistic the game is, per se. But the Sleeping Dogs Hong Kong feels like somewhere, rather than a functional Potemkin village of building textures applied to a 3D mass. I also appreciate the game’s mild but appealing ability to laugh at itself. Drew and I didn’t get around to talking about it, but the karaoke side game is completely wacky—thanks to a voice actor who, rather than nailing every note, instead does a perfect rendition of a sometimes-shaky, sometimes-decent amateur crooner.

In this episode, Drew and I also explain why we are enormous hypocrites. I know you’ve all been wondering.

The digestible this week is bubble tea. There’s this Vietnamese sandwich place near Gameological H.Q. that sells what seems like a hundred flavors of the stuff. So I had the interns go out and pick out a few. This was an exercise in self-punishment since I’ve had bubble tea before and know that I don’t particularly care for those little tapioca bubbles at the bottom. Still, sacrifices must be made in the name of snack science.

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  • HobbesMkii

    I, for one, cannot stand errand quests. I find them extremely repetitive. The only time I’ve enjoyed them are the ones in The Ballad of Gay Tony where the side quests are generally, “go here and kill everyone.”

    Also, nice ‘stache, Drew. I’d thought your Madden character had been enhanced, but now I see it was simply true to life.

    • Mike Mariano

      I loved you in District 9, Drew!

      • Fluka

        I was going to say hi to Remus Lupin, but I think I like yours better.

        • Drew Toal

          The Mustache That Must Not Be Named!

      • Drew Toal

        Thanks. Here’s some behind the scenes action of me with that weird alien saw gun thing: http://www.sharltocopley.org/pictures/onthejob.html

    • Fluka

      I’m always amazed that so many people deride this type of life-responsibility aspect of the Sims (Damn it, Sims!  I have my own dishes to do here at home!  I guess I’ll just fall asleep in pile of my own filth…), while happily delivering lunch for someone in a game like this, or collecting 20 whatevers in your standard fantasy RPG.  Maybe it’s because you generally only have to do it once?  Or because it’s not *exactly* the same as real life (do that laundry now vs. kill this manticore now)?  Or because somehow including the boring parts of life in an escapist imaginary world somehow makes it more immersive?  I’ve definitely had moments in Skyrim where someone has asked me to go fetch their sword, or find three gems, or go kill these bandits, and I’ve realized “Crap, I have errands here at *home* that need doing.”  Maybe that’s why I’ve never managed to get past level 20 with any character in Skyrim.  It triggers my guilt about having an unfinished quest list in real life.

      *Goes and calibrates 10 detector modules!  Fetches a travel claim form for her departmental secretary!  Receives no reward or Face.*

  • Mike Ferraro

    Drew can’t stop touching his moustache.
    Having worn a creepy moustache, I know the feeling.  And even in the moments you forget about it, you’ll find yourself talking to someone and THEY start touching their own upper lip in subconscious moustache sympathy.

    • Drew Toal

      It’s like an alien symbiote on my face that requires constant petting.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        With the giant, villainous mustache you have in your profile pic, and the regular-style mustache you have in the Digest, I’m just going to assume you naturally produce rows of redundant mustaches, much the same way as a shark has teeth.
           I suspect if I were to come up to you and tear that mustache from your face, there’d be a smaller, Errol Flynn-style mustache underneath, then a pencil-thin John Waters underneath that. 

        • Enkidum

          There’s got to be a hitler one somewhere in that sequence.

        • Drew Toal

          My real, baseline mustache is THE ACTUAL MUSTACHE I STOLE OFF THE CORPSE OF HULK HOGAN. 

          Wait, what do you mean he’s still alive?

        • Effigy_Power

           I would classify that as a slightly enlarged Poirot, clearly.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          @Effigy_Power:disqus   A Poirot reference?  Do you mean to tell me in reality, you might spend your Sunday nights on the couch catching a bit of Rick Steves before that ever-dapper Alan Cumming introduces you to Masterpiece Mystery?  And not, in fact, girded in iron plate still glowing from the abyssal forge plotting the death of of the world?
             Consider my world upside down.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia

          @andrewtoal:disqus   Don’t worry, he won’t survive long without his mustache.

        • Mike Ferraro

          You know that thing where Tyra Banks wears a fat suit in public and is horrified to discover how normal people are treated?
          I had some of the worst customer service I’ve experienced while wearing a moustache. Noticed any shifts in reality like that, Drew?  I mean, other than all conversation now converges on the topic of moustaches?

        • Effigy_Power

           @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus :
          You seem to imagine my life a bit like in Overlord.
          When it is actually much closer to Overlord 2.
          And yes, I like to watch David Suchet solve stuff while the fire-elementals are polishing my boots and the fierce tooth-goblins of Mount Gragnar prepare my sushi.
          Even abyssal empresses need to wind down.

        • Electric Dragon
  • caspiancomic

    When I first saw Drew in his half-dressed, ridiculous-mustachioed state I thought it was the stupidest I had ever seen a human being look. By the end of the video I thought he was the coolest guy in the world. I feel like someone with that kind of magnetism must have a very easy time being alive.

    Anyway, I usually don’t bother with sandboxes, since they never feel properly alive to me, so it was nice to hear the lads mention specifically that the world feels somehow “correct” in that sense. Even the supposed best of sandbox games- the GTAs, inFamous, etc- tend to bore me after only a couple of hours, and I never finish them. I think it’s a problem of shooting for sheer scale of setting, rather than the little realistic details. Things like the number and variety of people in a crowd (once you notice that there are no kids in GTA you never stop noticing it), non-human animals (people walking dogs would be nice), people doing things besides walking in a straight line to nowhere in particular (give your drones a bit of body language! A cell phone conversation, a coffee to drink, have people hail cabs or walk into buildings or something!), these things add up to give the impression or non-impression of reality. I think population size is one of the biggest giveaways- these cities always feel so empty. I guess in inFamous they had an excuse, what with the post-apocalysm or whatever that game was about, but still.

    Also, I totally understand about stuff collecting in video games. Especially when wearing the stuff makes a noticeable difference to the character. I got a lot of mileage out of Dead Rising 2 in this department. I don’t even know what the main character actually looks like- for me he’ll always be a giant Servbot in a tuxedo.

    Oh, and one last thing: if nobody makes a laboured bubble tea half-pun about Dark Ciders tomorrow, I’ll be like, “what!?”

    • WL14

      GTA: San Andreas was the culmination of Sandbox games for me. I like the cities, but my favorite thing in SA was driving through the countryside and finding all the backwoods stuff they had. Inside the cities, though, I thought the lack of people was due to all the gang wars I was starting. And always walking in a straight line was due to abject fear for their lives.

      GTA IV just didn’t do it for me – I took what’s-his-face to a strip club and a bowling alley and never played the game again.

      • ToddG

        All of the hours I spent playing through GTA IV were worth it because of a hilarious and emergent game situation I ended up in during one of the last missions.  I happened to be using the rocket launcher, and upon finishing the mission there is a cinematic wherein you have a major villain at gunpoint and threaten him into either telling you something or doing something, I don’t remember.  Anyway, it apparently just uses whatever weapon you have equipped, so in the cutscene I’m standing there threatening this dude with a bazooka  and he is, at most, ten feet in front of me, in extremely close quarters in the hold of a cargo ship.  It was awesome.

    • Drew Toal

      Like.

    • Fluka

      Toal clearly has a high enough Face level to wear his mustache, vintage-whatever jacket, and YSL tie.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         Any less face, and he’d just be another drunken high school principal.

    • Fixda Fernback

      You mention people in games hailing cabs–this reminds me of an awesome little Easter egg I found in Sleeping Dogs. If you steal one of the taxis and park near the sidewalk, eventually someone will jump in and say “Take me to blahblahblah…” and Wei says something like “Do I look like a FUCKING cab driver to you??” and the person screams and jumps out. I just happened across this randomly, and it cracked me up. Things like that definitely give the city an “alive” feel.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        This has happened to me several times. The first time, I thought I’d run into a bug because my taxi immobilized itself. But then Wei yelled at the poor guy who jumped in, and all was right with the world.

    • Mookalakai

       Dammit, I made a Dark Cider pun on the Darksiders 2 review, and if I recall correctly, I got no respect. This world ain’t just.

    • Enkidum

      GTA IV actually makes the no kids thing somewhat explicit – one of the comedians makes a joke about how there are no short people in Liberty City. It’s pretty clear why – they couldn’t have a game in which you can commit ultra violence on kids without a huge amount of backlash, and maybe rightly so.

      That being said, I’d defend the variety in GTA, at least Liberty City (haven’t played any of the other iterations). If you only played for a couple of hours, most of the city was likely still locked, and at least scenery wise there are big differences between the districts. Also, they’ve got different types of people walking the streets at different times, different vehicles, etc etc etc. Sure, it could be improved, but I think it was one of the milestones in realism in gaming.

      I suppose one of the problems is something like an uncanny valley effect – as we get more realistic cities, we notice their failings more?

  • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

    For me, what makes Sleeping Dogs feel like a real place isn’t the fact that it’s populated – although that certainly helps – it’s how it’s populated. The business district and the night market are full of people. The docks are slightly less busy. The alleyways are more or less deserted. A lot of games do this, but Sleeping Dogs gets the balance right. It never feels like you’re going from a “more populated location” to a “less populated location”; it feels like you’re going from one spot in the city to another.

  • Staggering Stew Bum

    To get into the spirit of the Digest I was eating a revolting sprinkle covered cupcake that Mrs Stew Bum bought from the supermarket. I’m sure that thing was 110% sugar — over the course of the video I had a mini sugar high that made me laugh out loud at John doing the headlock mime, but by the end of the video just felt sick, though that might have been from looking too long into Drew’s mo.

    Anyway, I’m on to you John. First I noticed the copy of Borderlands on the left of Drew’s head, and then I noticed that there were actually TWO copies of Borderlands which was purposely done to make me think about Borderlands 2. You two are drinking bubble tea with the same colour scheme of the Borderlands 2 ads. And then at the end of the segment when you said “we’ll be talking sequels” I thought “oooh, Borderlands 2!” and then I knew I had been brainwashed. In tomorrow’s Digest, I’m expecting you both to just sit there going “Na na na na na na na na BORDERLANDS 2″ for eight straight minutes.

    • HobbesMkii

      Oh my god, it’s true! The Borderlands 2 conspiracy is finally upon us! The world is not safe…the day of judgment is upon us! Lock up your women (in the event you have more than one woman) and your children and yourself!

    • Effigy_Power

       And here I thought I was paranoid. I had the same observations, although I was a bit distracted by Drew’s mustache, which certifies him as a bona fide studfiend.
      Curse my weak, womanly heart.

      • Drew Toal

        Don’t blame yourself. Blame the creepy ginger stache.

        • HobbesMkii

          The creepy ginger ‘stache has garnered itself a lot of play in these comments.

        • Effigy_Power

           If the ‘stache doesn’t get at least an honorable mention in this weeks Comment Cat, I will be surprised.

  • Kevin_The_Beast_King

    I’m about three missions away from finishing Sleeping Dogs, and there’s a feature I really like that isn’t mentioned here. The game actually has a moral system of sorts, and it’s split up in a way I found very satisfying. 

    Essentially, there’s a Cop score, which starts at full marks and takes points off, and a Triad score, which starts at zero and gives you bonuses. You lose Cop Points for doing ‘uncool’ things, like running over a pedestrian or mistiming a jump, and you gain Triad points for being ‘badass’ by getting headshots or killing people with the environmental grapples mentioned above. 

    What this does is quietly instil value in playing in a stylish fashion. In GTA you can run people over whenever you feel like it and there’s rarely a penalty, but if you knock someone over and you see a little piece get shaved off your cop score it motivates you to stay under the radar. 

    It’s never essential to do this, and you can complete the game with a cop score of zero if you so choose, but the fact that Sleeping Dogs rewards you for keeping your nose clean without sacrificing gameplay is quietly revolutionary.  
    Playing a cop is inherently more difficult than playing a gangster because to keep the story (somewhat) believable you can’t break out into wanton destruction, but the dual system gives you the option to play a good cop in a way I wish L.A Noire had have adopted.

    • Effigy_Power

      I read that part in the last paragraph as “wonton destruction” and now I feel bad about it. Thanks a lot, comedy-dyslexia.

      PS: Considering police-records from the 40s, Cole Phelps sadly isn’t that far off the brutality-mean-index for ununiformed cops, it’s just that he’s hilariously rude and nonchalant about it.

      • Kevin_The_Beast_King

        To be honest, I kind of hoped somebody would misread it that way.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      Excellent point! And agreed on all counts. It’s a smart reward system without being imposing.

    • HilariousNPC

      Kevin: This is sort of true. The problem is that you can earn/lose cop points in Triad missions, but you can’t earn Triad points in cop missions, no matter how violently you treat people.

      This isn’t really a problem until you’re trying to get the achievement for maxing out your triad score, and you realize that literally the only way to earn triad points in game is via the triad missions. The game’s actually significantly tilted towards you being a good cop.

  • ToddG

    I don’t mean to alarm you, John, but it seems some Boston Legal box sets are attempting to disguise themselves as video games and infiltrate your shelf. 

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      Will Shatner turns everything into a video game.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      I’d play the shit out of that game.

      • GaryX

        LA Noire+Phoenix Wright+William Shatner-Cole Phelps = GIVE ME

      • HobbesMkii

        “Dear ABC,

        My name is John Teti, and I am editor at an online gaming magazine…”

  • ElDan

    Hey, you guys:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/05/bubble-tea-tapioca-pearls-may-cause-cancer-study-claims_n_1856152.html 

    In other news, someone should take that bubble tea and beat whoever designed Drew Toal’s outfit to death with it.

    • http://catflesh.tumblr.com/ Matt Kodner

      soon we interns will ascend to our rightful thrones upon the peak of Mount Gameological, one bubble tea delivery mission at a time  

    • Fluka

      Whaaaaaat.

      Oh great, now I’m totally getting cancer.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       Okay, somehow I didn’t see this when I ctrl+Fed for cancer. Well, anyway, guys scroll down for a pithy Spalding Gray quote about cancer and a redundant link!

  • doyourealize

    Ah, white folks drinking bubble tea is always fun to watch, although Teti writes late that he’s had it before. Yes, I’m white, but I’ve been with my Korean wife long enough to qualify as at least Asian-by-association. I always go for the actual tea flavors and not the fruit, although Pomegranite Green Tea has become a favorite.

    Switching gears, while sandbox games have never been for me, I do have that tendency to hold off on the, say, threat of a meteor crashing down to Earth in order to win a few card games or something. In the little time I have spent with sandbox games, I always get sidetracked running errands. RPGs and open-world games aren’t too similar (a little, though), but I think this comes from the Final Fantasy-induced fear of missing something forever, a fear I know I share with others on this site. It’s not that I really want to have the yellow track suit or Bizarre Jelly tee, but I least want the option to have it, and the further into the main quest I get, the more likely it is to go away.

    • Mookalakai

       I always feel like I have to get the cool outfit, armor or uniform before I can progress in the story, because I need to look good while I do it, and I only have one chance to save this world. In Sleeping Dogs, I pretty much wore the white suit the entire time, because I figure Italian gangsters wear the black suits, so Asian gangsters should wear white. Similarly, in games like Skyrim, I go out of my way to find cool looking armor, even when it means making Parthunaax wait for me. The first time I went through Skyrim, I got to Gloombound Mine and got about 40 ebony ingots, made a full set of the armor and wore that the rest of the game.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        I wore the yellow jumpsuit for as long as possible before I got uncomfortable with the way it contoured Wei’s butt.

        Now I alternate between the Police Inspector outfit and the one of the Triad outfits so that I can get Police XP and Triad XP boosts.

        • Mookalakai

           Thank you for the link, my imagination could never have done that justice.
          I can’t believe people complain about women being mistreated in games, when female gamers are treated to heaping servings of man-ass in nearly every game. What more do they want!?

    • Effigy_Power

      My gf (also Korean, @doyourealize:disqus and I are in a complex love triangle) warned me about the stuff before it became a fad here and yet I tried it.
      If the intent was to make me feel as if I am snorkeling cold caviar through the bottom of my kitchen garbage, then it was a resounding success.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        Back in college, a friend of mine treated me to bubble tea, which I had never tried before. On my very first sip, a tapioca pearl got stuck in the straw. I haven’t had any bubble tea since.

  • PhilWal0

    Hooray! The sound on the videos is working for me again! Thanks, Borderlands 2! Never stop being wonderful, Gameological!

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      Your avatar matches up perfectly with both the tone and content of your post.
         To maintain this, all your future posts must be about sound issues and spoken enthusiastically.

  • Craigilicious

    The real question is: Why don’t you have a pork bun in your hand?

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      A man who never eats pork buns is never a real man!

  • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

    ALARMIST BUBBLE TEA NEWS!!!!

    In other words, as Spalding Gray put it “Everything causes cancer, and everything else is a cure for it.”

  • hcduvall

    This game was the perfect size for me. I have enough interest in sandbox games and compulsion in me that I usually do all the errands far past the point of enjoyment, but I did enough that the game didn’t seem too small. I mean, I’d have like more stores, or a easy way to find some of the street events, but I can easily imagine a version of the game where the developers would fill it to repetition. There’s always a point in these games where I catch myself driving and think, “God, I’m commuting. My game is making me commute.”–and I find it a most horrible feeling. I used cabs quite a bit in this one (I wish you could call them), but it wasn’t as bad as all some of the GTA. Maybe a bit small, but better a bit small than too big. leave us wanting more and all that.

    The romance dates as gameplay were pretty weird–I thought the photo stuff was dumb–and I wondered what the resolution of each one was, but if you read your little phone entries after I think you can extrapolate the rest of the events. For example, you probably didn’t see Amanda(?) again and that’s alright, it fits in nicely to the storyline. The collection missions via the phone did this best, a quick variety of missions, a little dollop of story, not vital but character filling. It’s a very linear game, and has a better story for it.

  • http://twitter.com/SeannyBoy Sean Smith

    Tyler Stout rules.

  • http://www.emizr.com/ Masuduzzaman Suhail

    Yes, we are wondering Teti ! The name of  game is pretty good as well as the nice view it contains. Nice Job !
    http://www.canatechglobal.com