What began as True Crime: Hong Kong has evolved into one of the most impressive open world games at E3. Sleeping Dogs will allow players to immerse themselves in all aspects of the Hong Kong underworld, going deep undercover as Wei Shen, who’s out to take down the Triads. The game offers a trio of explosive gameplay options, including vehicular combat, martial arts and assorted guns and weapons. Jeff O’Connell, senior producer on Sleeping Dogs at United Front Games, talks about the new open-world action adventure in this exclusive interview.
Game On: What did you learn from traveling to Hong Kong that you applied to this game?
Jeff O'Connell: The biggest thing that we learned when we went to Hong Kong is that all your cliché notions of Hong Kong that you might have got from movies like Big Trouble in Little China, which is a great movie in its own right, are not to be believed. Hong Kong is an amazing city. It’s a complex city. It is more Chinese than people might think and I mention that because obviously it’s in China, but the British influence there isn’t as strong as you think. Most people speak Chinese; the cab drivers don't even speak English. It’s the little things like being on the streets in the game. You’ll hear more Cantonese. The radio stations in the game don’t play Western pop, but Asian music. We’ve really tried to make things like that in the game and make it feel authentic. It also helped with understanding that the relationship between the cops and the Triads goes back almost 200 years. We’ve used the stories we’ve heard and the people we’ve talked to to try and build a really authentic story.
How does the John Woo Hong Kong-style bullet time work in your game?
The way that our system works is as you go out of cover you can vault out of cover or you can descend off an object. By holding the left trigger as you do that you’ll engage into that slow motion mode where you have more time to target. The more successful taking down guys in that mode, that time will extend. So you can go through entire sections of gunplay in that slow motion mode, and we’ve tuned all of the effects and reactions to look good as you’re in slow motion.
Can you give us some examples of open world options what people aren’t on missions in the game?
Even though we’ve got an incredibly strong story flow, there is a lot to do in the open world. Just to name a few things, there’s additional content that’s opened up as you gain respect or what we call “face” in the game. These characters who will now talk to you because you have a certain face level will give you quests or jobs to do and that will unlock more content. There are bike races, car races, boat races. There are karaoke mini-games, which is very cool unlocked through the story flow. There is cock fighting mini-game. There are safe houses to own, clothes to buy. There’s a real wealth of content in there besides the main story flow.
In addition to a closet you also get access to a garage. What kinds of outfits and vehicles are in the game?
There are a number of outfits in the game that you can acquire that are also inspired by Hong Kong cinema, Bruce Lee, Tony Jah, John Fat, all of these icons; we’ve created our own outfits reminiscent of things they wore in their films, so that’s a fun way to play the game if you want. Being an undercover cop, it didn’t feel quite right to have carjacking every three to five seconds, so in the real Hong Kong there are these parking garages everywhere. It was a perfect connection for us to actually put them in the game and as Wei acquires vehicles, he can access all of them through these parking garages.
How do you guys deal with the fact that Wei is an undercover cop within the gameplay?
The story has a few instances where Wei is almost found out, or actually found out, and then in the missions you have to do certain things to advance the story so that he isn’t found out. It’s not branching, but from a dramatic point of view, it was really important for us to model some of the scenarios after the tension that you see in films like The Departed or undercover cop movies.
What are you most proud of when it comes to all of the content packed into the game?
I think the fact that we’ve spent a tremendous amount of time on the action mechanics and how those action mechanics integrate to make you feel like an action hero, and not a super hero. Wei isn’t somebody who can climb up buildings, but he’s a real ass-kicking action hero who can fight, move from that fight into a gun fight, onto a motorbike and be in a vehicle chase and take down cars and have them fly and explode over your head. The whole game has the feel of a linear action game even though you’re playing an open world game. That kind of experience is what makes the game unique. It’s what we’ve spent most of our time on and I think the benefits are there.