The unexpectedly great 2012 open-world game Sleeping Dogs has gotten a remastered "definitive edition" for new-gen consoles and PC. Is this new version of an old game worth the price of admission? It depends.
The Hong Kong crime caper surprised us when it first came out two years ago. What could've been a run-of-the-mill Asian-themed GTA knockoff was instead a surprisingly soulful game that managed to wear a ton of different hats without messing up its hair. Among those hats: It's a slow-burn crime drama with a terrific protagonist and a well-written supporting cast. It's a solid kung-fu brawler. It's an open-world crime game that actually improves on Grand Theft Auto in a few cool ways. It's a surprisingly nuanced exploration of Asian and Asian American cultural identity. It's a great bit of virtual tourism. And it's got a hell of a soundtrack.
The new "Definitive Edition" is similar to what publisher Square Enix did with their 2014 re-release of Tomb Raider. This time around, the PC has gotten a definitive edition along with consoles, and each version upgrades the visuals while integrating a copious amount of post-release downloadable content directly into the game, including the Year of The Snake, Nightmare in North Point and Zodiac Tournament expansions. The PC version is actually already out; the console versions drop tomorrow.
I've played a fair chunk of both the Xbox One and PC versions of the game -- I haven't gotten a PS4 copy yet, so I haven't had a chance to check that one out. Both versions are pretty much the same game, though both look very good, with a noticeable visual improvement over their predecessors. Neither version plays particularly differently from the original, nor do they address the original game's weak spots -- the parkour is still a bit squirrely, shooting still isn't great, the driving camera is still crazy and the driving itself is still erratic.
Unsurprisingly, the Xbox One version looks much better than the Xbox 360 version did. Other than its lower 30fps(ish) framerate, it looks more or less like the PC version on its highest settings. As for the PC version, that's less of a clear-cut thing.
The PC version is easily the most "definitive" option, particularly since it has the capability of running at 60fps. The game costs $US30 on PC, half the price of the Xbox One and PS4 versions, and it's only $US15 if you already have the original game in your Steam library. But Sleeping Dogs looked good on PC back when it first came out, and until I placed the two versions side by side, I barely noticed any difference.
Once I began switching back and forth between the two, the differences became clearer -- the definitive edition has fog everywhere, improved character models and lighting effects, and much more "action" going on in the game's open world. There are more cars on the street and more people walking around the sidewalks and markets. It's all cosmetic, but taken together it makes the game feel richer and more atmospheric. (And of course, the menus have been improved in a small but welcome way.)
Those new visual bells and whistles do come with a performance cost, however. My PC has an i7 4770k processor with two GTX770 GPUs; it can run the original game at max settings without a single framerate drop, but it was taxed by the definitive edition. I found that by dropping antialiasing and ambient occlusion down a notch I was able to get solid 60fps performance, but players with older rigs might want to be aware of the increased requirements.
Eurogamer's Digital Foundry has done an in-depth comparison between all three versions of the game. It sounds like, from their findings, both the PS4 and Xbox One versions are almost on par visually with the PC version, and while the PS4 has the better performance of the two, both console versions suffer from occasional sub-30fps framerate drops. In my brief time with the Xbox One version I did notice some framerate dipping, which was a bummer, but in general the game played fine.
The big question now is, is Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition worth picking up? I'd say that depends on you. Here are some specific recommendations:
If You Haven't Played Sleeping Dogs: Yes, definitely! It's a prettier version of a really good game, and the DLC extras are a lot of fun.
If You've Already Played Sleeping Dogs on Console: I'd say wait until there's a sale or something. If you never played the DLC or really want to re-experience the game, that's worth doing, but $US60 is pretty steep for what amounts to a graphical face-lift and some folded-in DLC.
If You've Already Played Sleeping Dogs on PC: Nah, you can skip the definitive edition. The PC definitive edition does look better than the original, but the original remains a fine-looking game on PC. That said, if you never played the DLC and really love the main game, $US15 isn't such a bad price to get all of that in a more integrated package.