I Want More Sleeping Dogs

I Want More Sleeping Dogs

I know, I know, I’m late to the party. I finally beat United Front’s amazing Triad story, Sleeping Dogs. Our very own Tina Amini gave the game a glowing review and I’d have to agree; the game is spectacular, however upon completion I got to thinking. Why aren’t there more games like Sleeping Dogs, or rather why aren’t there more open world action adventure games set in modern China?

In the last few years games such as Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days and Army of Two: 40th Day have set themselves in China, in this case Shanghai (Disclosure: I’ve yet to play either of these games). Modern Shanghai with it’s high rises and alleyways makes it a great location for an urban shooter, and most recently Sleeping Dogs proved that the cityscape of Hong Kong proved to be a great location for an action game. However most importantly Sleeping Dogs’ success proves that a modern China (here, Hong Kong) can be a great setting for an open world action adventure.

In my opinion a game set in a modern China would help the players understand a little more about the Chinese. I don’t mean understand China, it’ll take years and years and loads of courses from Jonathan Spence to even begin to scratch the surface of what is China, but a game set in modern China can really give players a look into what life is like in Middle Kingdom and help lead to modern world set games that could one day take place in Beijing or Chongqing.

Sleeping Dogs made the point of incorporating and pointing out how important face is in Asian culture, particularly Chinese culture, it also set the tone of China — that guns aren’t common. A game based in modern China should take what Sleeping Dogs has established and run with it. The game could be hyper violent without guns and have interesting plot elements where the player finds a gun.

Cities like Macau, Taipei, and Hong Kong, are also sprawling metropolises. The dense construction and population can make for a great setting. Taipei in neighbouring Taiwan, for instance, has night markets and temples galore littered across the city. Macau has casinos built right into the urban city. The cityscapes of these places make great locations to race in (Macau was featured in Project Gotham Racing), and they also make great locations for free running. Imagine running from rooftop to rooftop in the housing projects of Shanghai.

On top of that, using the settings of modern Hong Kong, Macau and Taipei, we can easily move into China proper. The Triads, while based outside of the Chinese mainland, operate in China. Storylines can include elements such as human and drug trafficking between the Chinese mainland and the autonomous regions.

Our own Evan Narcisse pointed out five movies that made a case for Hong Kong as a setting for a police drama, and I couldn’t agree more. It is in my opinion that there are loads of stories which game developers can draw inspiration from coming out China, particularly from Hong Kong and Taiwanese crime stories. Evan left out a few good ones, but stories like Election 1&2 take place both in Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. A Better Tomorrow takes place in Hong Kong and Taiwan. These are all stories that can be translated for a western audience and can be used to inspire great games.

Sure, many of the games I envision set in modern China can be called Grand Theft Auto clones, heck even clones of Sleeping Dogs but the stories and settings that locations such as Taipei, Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and even Beijing can be as rich and rewarding as any Liberty City.

Top photo: Eric Jou/Kotaku


  • I’d definitely like to see more sandbox games that don’t take place in the US, or some fictional derivative. Not just Asia (I’m guessing this article focused on China because Yakuza pretty much has Tokyo locked down), but European cities. Why not a Cold War era espionage thriller that takes place in Moscow? I know we’ve had a few games set in Germany but they all involve killing Nazis.
    Why are all the crime sandboxes in the US anyway? Are cities like New York just that synonymous with gun crime?

    Anyway, more diversity in sandbox locations is good. More Sleeping Dogs specifically would also be great. Waiting for DLC!

  • Sleeping Dogs was utterly fantastic. I don’t generally like sandbox games and didn’t even finish GTA IV even though it was pretty good, but this one was different. It had all the right elements. Modern classic. Can’t wait for the next one!

  • Sleeping Dogs was interesting, and while I loved it, I felt because of the lack of gun violence there was far too much emphasis put on the fighting aspects (the fighting itself being excellent) – but it’s like… when the hell does he get tired? Seems he’s fighting physically 24/7 and never needs a break. It’s a little immersion breaking when it’s so full on as it was.

    If you want a hard hitting story set in asia try Ghost in the Shell, specifically the second season. Even though it’s set 20 years in the future the backdrop for it is an increasing political, economical and social turmoil as a result of a 3rd and 4th world war, resulting in an influx of refugees to Japan and the pressure the government (the prime minister) is getting to deal with that.

    Immigration is something we see in the US and Australia quite often (both in the real world and entertainment), but it’s never been on such a scale as seen in Ghost in the Shell (where they wanted to become an independant state – though this move in itself was leading to much bigger issues).

    Desus Ex: HR was also set in a futuristic Shanghai, but I don’t think it captured the… “asian-ness” of it (it was a bit TOO hi-tech).

    In terms of setting you have to kind of remember two things: audience and context. If you’re going to have a shooter, or any kind of game with gun violence, and you want it to be believable you have to have it in an appropriate setting. No where but America really fills that role. Even if you get the context down you have to remember audience, and it’s unlikely a large American audience is going to care too much about some european town they’ve never heard of in a country they didn’t know existed. In Australia we’re used to it because Australia isn’t that exciting. Or least, when we portray gun crime in a realistic manner here it’s made clear it’s not really that exciting (for entertainment). 2 drive bys in one game just can’t compete with American style gun drama where you do 20 drive bys a day.

    I forget my point. It doesn’t really matter. >.>

  • I’d love to see a Sleeping Dogs 2: Shanghai.. a current day Shanghai though.. with people speaking in both Mandarin and the Shanghai dialect.. Shanghai is definitely big enough for a sequel and has a gritty city feel as well as a high-tech city feel depending on which part you’re in.. when I first heard of Sleeping Dogs, I was hoping it would be set in the mainland.. but even set in Hong Kong, it was still outrageously awesome and surprisingly refreshing.

    Side note.. that photo was taken from Captain Hostel on Fuzhou Rd (near “The Bund”).. I know because I have several pictures taken from that exact spot myself 🙂 Oh and would have had to be taken in the last couple of years because in 2009, that “twin tower” looking building was not built yet (HSBC building) and was completed by the next year I was there 🙂

  • I completely agree. I have been blown away by sleeping dogs on so many levels, one being the location. If it was released at the same time as GTA 4 we wouldn’t even be referring to GTA in open world conversations it woud all be about sleeping dogs. But as far as place and context. Assassin’s creed is a great example of taking an open world game to a location that isn’t America. But then they did with 3. I still would’ve loved to have sen an Assassins creed set in Early Japan/China. But I am actually looking forward to 3. Sleeping dogs should see me thru tin then and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that AC goes East for the next series.

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