Okay, I finally got this game to work, with no help whatsoever from United Front or Square-Enix. I downloaded Catalyst 12.11 Beta 4 and now the game works fine. So if you have a ATI 7700 series video card and haven't been able to get the game to work, that may provide a solution but I make no guarantees.
Anyway, now for the review: This game was originally supposed to be the third game in the 'True Crime' series, well known for being a Grand Theft Auto clone, which isn't necessarily a bad thing if done well. The first two games were... okay, IMHO, not terrible but nothing really special. Rental fare at best. Then the third game was dumped by Activision/Blizzard and seemingly dead in the water but it was resurrected by Square Enix and retitled Sleeping Dogs.
As with the previous True Crime games you play a cop, this time undercover cop Wei Shen, who is attempting to infiltrate the Triad Sun On Yee and cripple it from within. This game's plot basically features every cliché from every cop movie ever made, including several Hong Kong movie stables as well. They even blow up a gas station at one point. Not to say the story is bad, just very predictable and well-worn. Perhaps I've been spoiled by Bioware's games where I have more control over the direction of my character and story, but I found myself wishing more than once that I could make different decisions that some of the ones made in this game.
As for Wei Shen himself, he seems to flip-flop between showing hints of genuine complexity only to resort to tired, foul mouthed, angry cop on the edge clichés whenever he meets with his police handler. Don't get me wrong, he's a far more interesting and likeable character than Nick Kang, thank god for that, I just think more could have been done with him and that his internal torment seemed more rehearsed than genuine at times.
The interface of the game was a bit clunky for me, though part of that may be because I used a keyboard/mouse and perhaps it's a little less so with a joystick. Still, there were some aspects of the interface that could've been a bit smoother for my tastes. For example, your phone periodically sends you updates about people you're investigating, and while there's a icon that appears next to 'Reports' when a new one shows up, when you click on it, you have to search carefully through the report to find the newest file because there is no icon in that menu. There are other little annoyances like that that I wish could've been made more user friendly.
This game borrowed a lot from previous games as well, though again a lot of it is implemented well. The combat takes a cue from Rocksteady's excellent Batman games, There's a few action sequences taking cues from a Uncharted game, and so on. To be fair, Sleeping Dogs has a few new tricks of its own and some of them are good in concept but underdeveloped in execution. The whole spot the drug dealer minigame, as Yahtzee already pointed out in his review, is ridiculously easy and could've been so much more interesting. You can also sing karaoke and thankfully, it's not a quicktime event so the interface was comfortable enough that you could sing as well or as badly as you like.
The graphics in this game are very nice indeed, especially the rain effects with the high-res patch. Hong Kong is exaggerated, of course, but that's pretty much the case with any Hollywood medium and it was very pretty to look at. It wasn't as much fun to explore as Stilwater or Liberty City, mind you, but it was still pretty. The music was good too with a surprising amount of Chinese content but I was disappointed there was no custom radio station option, as blazing down the streets of Hong Kong while playing the theme song from 'Police Story' would've made my day. ;P
Finally, it must be said, that the ending credits are one of the most boring credit sequences I've ever seen, to the point where they added a fast forward button and it STILL took me ten minutes to get through them all AND there was no bonus epilogue when it was all said and done. Just sayin'. ^_^;
And now, here's a few things I learned playing this game:
1) A man who has never eaten a pork bun is never a whole man.
2) Killing civilians is perfectly okay unless you're on a mission, in which case you get... DEMERITS!
3) Stopping illegal prostitution is important but engaging in illegal massages is cool, especially if you're a cop.
4) Are your clothes soaked with dirt, blood and possible brain matter? Just take a nap and when you wake up, they'll be crisp and clean again.
Overall, I did have fun with this and enjoyed playing it. It could've been better and more polished but I've definitely played worse. I'm glad I got it for half price though. Assuming there's no bugs on the XBOX 360/PS3 versions I'm unaware of, it's definitely worth a rental.