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Hands-on Preview of ‘Sleeping Dogs’ Game Shows Lots of Promise

Video game publisher Square Enix held an exclusive preview of its forthcoming title Sleeping Dogs in San Francisco this week, giving Mashable a hands-on look at one of this summer’s most anticipated open-world games.

Basically, Sleeping Dogs looks awesome.

Here’s the basic premise of the game: Players operate as Asian-American detective Wei Shen, who is assigned to infiltrate and take down a violent Triad crime ring in Hong Kong. It’s a nice setup because it allows players to be the good guy while still doing lots of bad guy dirt. Sleeping Dogs is slated for release on Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 this August.

While Square Enix is publishing the game, it’s being developed by United Front Games (UFG). UFG executive producer Stephen Van Der Mescht said his team watched and re-watched Hong Kong action films for inspiration and ideas. That shows in the entertaining plot line of Sleeping Dogs. The interstitial scenes that move the story forward between gameplay sequences are shot like a film and feature fun noir dialogue. Coupled with the game’s excellent graphics, the bits that we saw could have passed as the outline of a decent cartoon TV show.

Van Der Mescht said in an interview that making Sleeping Dogs the first open-world game set in Hong Kong was an easy choice.

“In open-world games, the city is often your central character, it’s what you interact with most, and Hong Kong offers so much variety,” he said. “It’s also perfect for an open-world game because it’s an island, so it has a natural border.”

The hands-on gameplay was loads of fun as well, even for this very casual (at best) gamer. Despite its open-world format, the game was easily navigable with signposts, reminders and distance meters to move the action along. The controls are all straightforward and pretty intuitive. One feature straight out of an action flick is how props such as dumpsters and gates glow red to indicate especially gruesome ways to dispatch enemies.

Another cool thing is how different parts of the game have completely different feels and create their own experiences. Kung fu sequences feel almost like a different game from the parts where Shen picks up a gun and sprays bullets. A street race sequence introduces even more unique variety.

That combination of quality and diversity will be key to Sleeping Dogs succeeding in the competitive open-world genre once the game hits the market.

“I think each of the core pillars are going to be competitive or exceed people’s expectations,” Lee Singleton, general manager of Square Enix London Studios, told Mashable.

Sleeping Dogs actually had a bumpy road to Square Enix. It was originally titled True Crime: Hong Kong, as a third installment of the True Crime Los Angeles and New York editions, and set for publication by Activision. But Activision dropped the game a year ago, reportedly because they thought it was “just not good enough” to compete in the open-world genre. Square Enix picked up the rights in August.

But from what we saw this week, Sleeping Dogs will bring gamers plenty of outstanding action and storytelling, even if it goes a little light on the online and social options with just simple leaderboards. Whether that all translates to financial success is tougher to predict.keep up with the newest technologies and contemplate about how these will be used in the future. On this blog I'll share my thoughts about the future of technology, based on the high Tech Road Show Blog inventions of today.

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