Hong Kong saved Sleeping Dogs from the vaporware bin

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A couple of years, the True Crime franchise was readying itself for a then-gen debut on current consoles, taking the core gameplay of it’s cops and robbers ideas and updating it for new platforms.

And for a while, it looked like the next True Crime game was going to be a blast to play, as it mixed undercover cop action with blazing gun battles and presumably high levels of kung-fu. Production was moving along quite well that is, until Activision decided to pull the plug and cancel the project, over fears that True Crime would be a financial and critical failure with gamers.

Fortunately, Square Enix has picked up the ball that Activision has dropped, apparently due to the new publisher falling head over heels with the Hong Kong setting.

“For Square, that proposition was exciting for them. They said ‘First time in Hong Kong; sounds amazing,’” United Front Games Senior Producer Jeff O’Connell told AusGamers.

There’s not a lot of cop games, so the original in that respect sounds amazing. And the guys that came off Just Cause and Arkham and saw our mechanics, they loved that as well. So for them, there wasn’t a whole lot of need to change elements,” he added, speaking of the Square Enix production team now overseeing of Sleeping Dogs.

O’Connell said that several other publishers had also passed on the game before Square Enix bought the rights, over fears of how the open world of the now renamed “Sleeping Dogs” looked apparently messy and unorganized in previews, something which O’Connell says is due to such genre games always being in such a state in the early stages of development.

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“We’ve worked on a lot of these games, we have very experienced staff and we knew that these games take a long time to come together in the end because they are so complex,” O’Connell said.

They’re system-driven and the system is essentially building a world simulator and that doesn’t really play nicely together until near the end when all the systems are in place. The thing about Square is that they kind of understood that and they understand about how these game come together.

A while ago and it looked like one thing; today it looked like an entirely different thing and part of that is just a maturation process of these systems as they get developed.

Square Enix seemed to be the only distributor who understood this though, as the publisher was keen for the slightly different take on open-world games, especially with the Hong Kong setting.

This isn’t the first time that UF has worked on a sandbox game, as the studio has previous experience with titles such as Need for Speed, Bully, Skate, Prototype and Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, which they were involved in.

“For us, the cornerstone of the game is the fun piece. You can have a great story and you can have a great city, but unless the game is fun, it’s just not great,”O’Connell said.

You see people going back and forth between fighting, shooting, vault-shooting, getting on a bike as you saw in the demo and shooting,all of those things don’t seem modal, it seems natural, that ability to seem like a Hong Kong action hero, and have a very, very short learning curve.

I’m personally looking forward to a sandbox game where I protect people instead of causing untold amounts of mass destruction for once, and even though it’s not a True Crime game in name, Sleeping Dogs will still hold a special place in my heart, as a spiritual successor to that rather excellent game that I had back on my purple Gamecube several years ago.

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Plus, I’m a sucker for anything that has stereotypical kung-fu fights in a kitchen.

Last Updated: February 23, 2012

Darryn Bonthuys

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