Set to be released on August 14, 2012, Sleeping Dogs is the new video game from Vancouver based developer United Front Games and published by Square-Enix. The game has you playing as Wei Shen, an undercover cop, who originally was born in Hong Kong but moved to America at a young age. Eventually he returns to Hong Kong to try and infiltrate and take down the Traids.
The game has you doing numerous illegal activities to try and work your way up through the many organizations in the city but also without blowing your cover. From the preview videos and screen-shots that have been released, the game appears to be an open-world third person action adventure game, similar to games such as Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row. While in Grand Theft Auto you played a set protagonist and in Saints Row you were able to create the protagonist, Sleeping Dogs has the notable exception of a protagonist and a majority of the characters hailing of Asian descent.
The game’s story according to its creators is influenced heavily by many different action and detective films, the most notable being the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, which lead to the Martin Scorsese remake of The Departed.
The development of Sleeping Dogs is an interesting side note to the game itself. For a lack of a better phrase, Sleeping Dogs has been in development hell with numerous problems and issues plaguing the game from almost the beginning. Initially, the game was known as Black Lotus and was being developed by Luxoflux and published by Activision, the largest game publisher today. Black Lotus maintained the open world aspects found in Sleeping Dogs, however its protagonist was to be female. Activision, decided to scrap the name Black Lotus, change the protagonist to a male and have the game be developed and tied under the True Crime franchise.
Luxoflux was eventually shut down and development shifted to United Front Games. Activision eventually decided to cancel the game in February of 2011, however Square-Enix picked up the rights for the game. Because Square Enix did not purchase the True Crime intellectual property, the game was forced to change its name yet again. On February 8, 2012 Square-Enix announced development had resume on the game now known as Sleeping Dogs. With all this turmoil associated with this project its a minor miracle that this game is actually shipping in a completed state.
Regardless of how good the actual game is and how well it does sales wise, I think its important to highlight certain aspects of the game. The attempt to authentically create the streets of Hong Kong is no easy task. Even more interesting is the amount of Cantonese spoken in the game. The game is obviously made with an English speaking, western audience in mind, and characters that speak English for the most part tend to speak with broken-accented English. However, from the few previews videos I watched, a lot of dialogue from side characters is spoken in Cantonese and as well, there is a lot of Cantonese words being used when your fighting and doing different activities. There is an abundance of Chinese text used throughout the game from the menus and user interface to the various street signs throughout the re-created Hong Kong.
The most important aspect I wanted to point to is the principle cast of the game. All the main characters are played by Asian actors such as Will Yun Lee, Edison Chan, Parry Shen, Lucy Lui and Ron Yuan just to name a few. It’s a Western game that has a predominately Asian cast with the game being set in Hong Kong. These different aspects are extremely rare and would probably never happen in a Hollywood film.
What was more shocking to me is that the game also has actors such as Tom Wilkinson and Emma Stone playing Caucasian characters in the game! The developers didn’t try and shoe horn them into playing Chinese characters and instead actually got decent actors that happen to be of Asian descent and who shockingly have command of the English language. I for one am happy that Sleeping Dogs, even after such a lengthy and troubled development will be released and I hope it proves to be a success.
Why do you think a video game is able to have a majority Asian cast and its exceedingly rare to see it in a Hollywood film? Does the cast/location added to the appeal of the game? Or that stuff doesn’t really matter?