Strategy

9

Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs is an open-world crime game for busy people. It’s not an experience padded with multiple cities or the obligatory “slow living” town at the outskirts of the world map. Compared to recent game versions of Los Angeles in Grand Theft Auto V and Chicago in Watch Dogs, the dense depiction of Sleeping Dogs’ Hong Kong lends itself well to all-business efficiency, where it doesn’t take long to get anything done, whether it’s a story mission or a stress-relieving brawl that you pursue. As one of the better open world games of the last two years, this rerelease is not unexpected. Yet, as the second of Square Enix’s “Definitive Editions,” this enhanced version of Sleeping Dogs does not exhibit the same level of care as this year’s Tomb Raider re-release.

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United Front Games’ vision of Hong Kong isn’t the largest urban game world, but like the real city itself, it makes the most of its limited space. It’s a city of countless, well-placed distractions, from street races to gang hideout infiltrations. You might be on your way to start a story mission, only to see an exotic car a client wants drive by. Distractions in Sleeping Dogs work because the game mixes passive diversions with dynamic ones, and just because activities are close to each other doesn’t mean that Hong Kong is a city bereft of challenges. Even if you’re just yards away from a hidden collectable, it might take you 10 minutes to find the one route to reach that treasure. Thanks to the city’s tight design, it’s not unheard of to reach 100 percent completion–and 100 percent satisfaction–in less than 25 hours. With all the post-release content added to the Definitive Edition, you’re looking at an additional five hours. The two downloadable side stories–one involving Chinese horror myths, the other recasting protagonist Wei Shen as a traffic cop–excel by being lighthearted in tone, a fitting contrast to the tension-heavy story of the main game.

For over a decade, I’ve longed for a group of games to carry on the brawling legacy of Streets of Rage and Final Fight. We got it from the Batman: Arkham series, Yakuza, and to some extent, Assassin’s Creed. Sleeping Dogs belongs in this camp as well, and strikes a happy balance between the fundamental differences of combat between Batman and Yakuza. In other words, Sleeping Dogs succeeds for having an absorbing counter-intensive battle system while still offering incentives to go on the offense whenever you so choose. Wei Shen’s superhuman ability to fight like he has eyes in the back of his head elevates the game to the level of a martial arts movie. Sleeping Dogs’ responsive controls make it easy to depend on counterattacks, thus making the the game’s melee combat a perfect example of how great defense can be the best offense. You do not want to forget about the Yakuza-inspired, context-sensitive finishing moves, however, which act as impactful rewards for the more assertive player. Whether you want to electrocute a thug on a neon sign or grind a gangster’s face in an outdoor generator, most every combat environment has objects to violently interact with. Contextual possibilities, combined with Wei Shen’s Hong Kong cinema-level martial arts, complement–rather than conflict with–the more realistic elements of Sleeping Dogs.

9

Dishonored Release

A cadre of conspirators helps you escape imprisonment, and you find out that they are plotting to bring down the very men who wronged you. These characters embody familiar archetypes–the dutiful admiral, the egotistical nobleman, the cheeky servant–but Dishonored is not content with one-dimensional portrayals. An excellent voice cast (which includes a number of notable actors) and stylish character design help bring these people to life. As you listen to them talk (you remain mute throughout), read their journals, eavesdrop on conversations, and learn whispered secrets from an arcane, psychic item you acquire, you come to know the characters and the world they live in. This kind of knowledge is engaging, so even when the main plot follows some well-trodden paths, you’re always interested and eager to press on.

Exploring Dunwall is another one of Dishonored’s great pleasures. The city prospered from the whaling trade in the recent past, but has fallen on hard times since the influx of a deadly plague. Brick walls and wooden beams loom over alleys crawling with rats, while granite facades and metal barricades block off the cobblestoned plazas of the wealthier neighborhoods. Dunwall evokes a British city in the grip of the industrial revolution, but painterly coloring and slightly exaggerated proportions give the place a unique feel. The lovely artistic design shines on the PC, bursting with detail and making Dunwall an immensely appealing place to inhabit.

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Figuring out how to move through the environments is an enjoyable pursuit, and one of the first powers you get allows you to teleport a short distance. The quick pop and blurry whoosh of this power provides a nice audiovisual accompaniment to the thrill of defying natural law, and if you choose to supernaturally augment your jumping ability, your range of locomotion is drastically increased. Though you’ll likely have some awkward moments as you try to go places that the game won’t let you, Dishonored’s level design is consistent enough to make such moments easy to avoid once you get the hang of things.

In addition to these superhuman movement abilities, you can choose the power of possession. Slipping into the skin of a rat or the scales of a fish allows you to navigate small tunnels and reach new areas, and when leveled up, you can even possess other humans for a short while. Acquiring and improving your supernatural powers requires runes, though, and there aren’t enough for you to max out every power. There are no bad choices, thankfully, though some clearly favor lethal or nonlethal approaches. Pacifists will appreciate the ability to stop time, for example, while assassins might favor the power that instantly turns corpses to ash.

10

GTA 5 Reviews (PS3)

Grand Theft Auto V is also an intelligent, wickedly comic, and bitingly relevant commentary on contemporary, post-economic crisis America. Everything about it drips satire: it rips into the Millennial generation, celebrities, the far right, the far left, the middle class, the media… Nothing is safe from Rockstar’s sharp tongue, including modern video games.

Overview

It’s not exactly subtle – he literally has the word “Entitled” tattooed on his neck, and the in-game radio and TV’s outright piss-takes don’t leave much to the imagination – but it is often extremely funny, and sometimes provocative with it. Grand Theft Auto’s San Andreas is a fantasy, but the things it satirises – greed, corruption, hypocrisy, the abuse of power – are all very real. If GTA IV was a targeted assassination of the American dream, GTA V takes aim at the modern American reality. The attention to detail that goes into making its world feel alive and believable is also what makes its satire so biting.

 

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Gameplay

Whether you’re evading the police in a rickety junker or a road-hugging sports car, the handling in GTA V is great, and the fact that vehicles feel so different from each other means there’s a real reason to store the cars you like in the garages at your characters’ homes or in ones you can purchase in the city. Driving is so much fun that you’ll likely enjoy crossing even great distances in the game’s large world, taking in everything from the artwork on buildings along Vespucci Beach to the setting sun reflecting on the Alamo Sea. Should you tire of commuting across Los Santos, however, you can call a cab and warp to your.

When shooting breaks out, as it often does in the lives of these criminals, you have a terrific variety of weapons at your disposal that you can customize with suppressors, scopes, flashlights and other doodads. By default, your aim snaps to enemies. This makes picking them off quite easy, but gunplay is a lot of fun despite the ease of aiming, because you’re regularly fending off so many attackers and you still need to make good use of cover to stay alive. If you’re looking for more challenging shooting, you can switch to an aim assist option or to free aim at any time.

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Conclusion

It’s not exactly subtle – he literally has the word “Entitled” tattooed on his neck, and the in-game radio and TV’s outright piss-takes don’t leave much to the imagination – but it is often extremely funny, and sometimes provocative with it. Grand Theft Auto’s San Andreas is a fantasy, but the things it satirises – greed, corruption, hypocrisy, the abuse of power – are all very real. If GTA IV was a targeted assassination of the American dream, GTA V takes aim at the modern American reality. The attention to detail that goes into making its world feel alive and believable is also what makes its satire so biting.

GODSANDHEROES

Rome Rising is a mature, full-scale, action-adventure, massively multiplayer online role-playing game that immerses the audience in Roman mythology.

Players strap on gladiator armor, lay waste to monsters and command minions while seeking favor from the gods.

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