Monday, October 28, 2013

I Finally Started Sleeping Dogs Nightmare in North Point

It's been a while since I played Sleeping Dogs properly (admittedly, I have tossed it in here and there to re-enjoy some of its virtues), so with Halloween just around the corner, it seemed like a good time to hop into what was definitely a Halloween-themed DLC pack.  It also just seemed like a good time to play Sleeping Dogs again aside from the whole "I have 20 other games that I haven't even opened yet" thing, but, you know, small, petty details and such.  Which is also ignoring the fact that any time is a good time to play Sleeping Dogs, which is something that I alluded to in the past and still feel is true now.  And even with the different framing of Nightmare, Sleeping Dogs remains Sleeping Dogs.

Admittedly, that's both a good thing and a bad thing in some different ways.  Sleeping Dogs had one real flaw with it, and that was the story-telling aspect of it, which did not improve with Nightmare, at least not at the start.  Indeed, "tongue-in-cheek" is what I'd use to describe what Nightmare in North Point cobbles together and calls a narrative for the story framing that it uses to set itself up.  They don't attempt to sell you the premise, but instead agree with you that it's ridiculous by its own merits (because Jiang Shi, or 'Hopping Vampires' have overrun Hong Kong thanks to Big Scar Wu, aka Smiley Cat, who has escaped from the underworld) and just run with it, which isn't a bad thing.  I just wish, like Sleeping Dogs proper, it had been fleshed out more, since it seems like I'm just fetching things and running around just because.  However, that's a flaw in the narrative's structure more than anything.

You see, Nightmare in North Point is supposed to take place in a single night (or so it seems), thus you're not really expected to play the game like a sandbox game, which is really weird since it -is- a sandbox game and they put things all around the map as a Sandbox game does.  The urgency is set up to max, making you want to play each story mission after another and doing that robs you of a little enjoyment that the game can realistically offer you with the free-roaming and exploring of the city.  As stated, there's at least three types of things scattered around the city - Hell Shrines, Energy Sources and Yaoguai - that encourage you to get around, but if you follow the narrative, you're merely concerned with chasing down Big Scar Wu and putting a stop to his shennannigans.  As a result, I suppose you -could- save all the extra bits for the part after you're done with the story, which might even be 'thematic' depending on the conclusion, but I think treating a sandbox game like a completely linear experience is an exercise in frustration.

However, all the good things about Sleeping Dogs come back in aces and spades because it is still very much Sleeping Dogs at its core.  After putting some time into Grand Theft Auto V (which I have yet to sit down and really write about in any real fashion, something that will be fixed soon enough) coming into another sandbox game is different, and I find that I've had to break myself of habits that GTA V ingrained into me, but it's honestly been a breath of fresh air.  It's surprising just how many facets of Grand Theft Auto V are just out-dated and, quite frankly, bad when compared to other games of the same genre.  It has everything to do with evolution, as so many of V's mechanics are just straight-ripped from games that we played on the early days of the PS2.  We have, indeed, evolved beyond furiously tapping X to sprint faster, and we have, indeed, evolved beyond the almost non-existent amount of ownership the game allows you to have on all things that are not simply your character and their actions (i.e. material possessions, really), but you wouldn't know it, simply playing GTA V.

Doing things in Sleeping Dogs is practically refreshing with the experience in San Andreas under my belt, and I'm honestly taken back by that.  Driving is, ironically, a big complaint for just about any Grand Theft Auto game, V included, and it's just so much easier in Sleeping Dogs, even if it is a bit arcade-y I imagine.  Combat is no question - Sleeping Dogs was built around it and it shows, where Rockstar's latest barely attempted to upgrade the piss-poor system from IV.  I'm even a little partial to SD's gunplay, but that is admittedly more because of my opinion of the system in general than me feeling it 'should' be one way or another - I really just like the slow-mo John Woo stuff over 'proper' cover-based shooting because I get that enough everywhere else.  One is also reminded of SD's evolution of the 'Collectible' aspect of sandbox games in terms of "being able to unlock the goddamn locations on the map" (other games have done this too, admittedly), which is something V also failed to join us with.

Basically, the point is that I'm really enjoying Nightmare in North Point because it's more Sleeping Dogs and Sleeping Dogs is really great.  The new variety of enemies is nice - Jiang Shi and Yaoguai both fight differently than the combatants the game already sported which are still present (as possessed people and/or spirits) - and the general aesthetic adds a new flavor to the game.  I'm not sure if there's been other additions aside from a slightly altered moveset (for when you fight Jiang Shi, since slapping a paper talisman on a thug's face might not really do a whole lot) and the obvious stuff, but it feels good coming home to my favorite game of 2012 in the way that I'm doing it.  Especially since I have something else to weigh my experiences against to make my favorite game from 2012 seem all the better.

some of the stuff is pretty bad like, "All chinese magic is based on Antifreeze!" because what the fuck

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