Sleeping Dogs: The Zodiac Tournament Hands-On Preview – Enter the Dragon
Written Friday, December 14, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Enter the Dragon is a stone cold kung-fu classic, so United Front's decision to make the next Sleeping Dogs DLC a smart homage of the 1973 Bruce Lee movie seems like something of a no-brainer. The entire narrative for The Zodiac Tournament add-on is practically ripped from Enter the Dragon wholesale, taking the core premise of a martial arts master entering the titular contest on an island in the middle of nowhere. The organiser might not have a claw for a hand like the nefarious Han, but a facial scar does the job. Clearly, he's a nasty piece of work.
There's no hiding The Zodiac Tournament's retro kung-fu flick style, riffing on high-kicking 1970s classics with funky music in the original Lalo Schifrin mould, and a liberal smattering of film grain and filters over cut-scenes. Divided into several fighting arenas, The Zodiac Tournament is set to be a bite-sized piece of content, although it's something that'll pit Wei Shen against some formidable opposition. You'll face a Muay Thai master, an MMA expert and other opponents who are the best of the best in various arenas, with a variety of constraints and obstacles to make life harder for you.
Following a 70s-style opening cinematic in which we rock up to the island in a boat with the other entrants, the tournament begins once Wei Shen has acquainted himself with the competitors he'll be facing later on in the island's fight arenas. Naturally, there's new environmental hazards to exploit, starting with a rather grisly stone furnace in the centre of the initiation arena that can be used to cook the faces of your rivals. Shoving a foe's head into the fire causes dirty big vents in the floor to erupt with flames, meaning you can ignite several enemies at once. We make short work of the qualifying initiation fight then, grilling almost all-comers.
En route to the next arena, we grab a few collectible fire opal statues, discovering all 11 of which will unlock Muay Thai and MMA outfits for Wei Shen, as well as new moves and a damage bonus. The path to the cliffside arena is fraught with spiky bamboo traps that you'll have to be quick to avoid, while in the arena itself, Wei Shen finds himself pounced upon by a legion of fighters. Here, you can impale enemies on spikes or shove their heads into a strategically-placed gong. Once the little guys have been dispatched, our first proper opponent emerges, and the Muay Thai fighter brazenly steps in.
He'll help you fight off any stragglers before going toe-to-toe with Wei Shen, at which point you're in for a hard-fought battle. The Muay Thai master is savage and quick, meaning you'll need to stay on your toes to take him down, breaking out of his grabs and knee attacks with quick button presses. It takes us a few attempts to take care of him, at which point we head to the beach arena where we're given special tea to drink by female fighter, Little Fu. Lesson quickly learned: never accept tea from a stranger. It's poisoned, and sends Wei Shen into a purple-hazed hallucinatory trip, as he's ambushed by thugs.
The next fight is a cage event on the beach, against a brash MMA pugilist named George. It's a fair one-on-one battle here, although the poison coursing through Wei Shen's body makes throwing punches and kicks far more difficult than usual. Again, quick reactions are required to counter George's arm locks and fast punches, and despite the poison-induced weirdness, we're able to take the MMA expert down pretty quickly. Hopping on a boat following the fight, we make a beeline for the antidote to the poisonous tea, which is where our hands-on demo ends. Will Wei Shen make it to the antidote in time? You'll have to find out for yourself.
Positioned as a smaller, bite-sized piece of downloadable content for Sleeping Dogs, The Zodiac Tournament nonetheless integrates a new island with a new set of story-driven missions and a few collectibles to gather, which should keep you occupied for a couple of hours or so. It's part of United Front's strategy to provide more content at a lower price, and that's fine by us. As fans of Enter the Dragon and kung-fu movies in general, The Zodiac Tournament stands up as a neat homage, making this latest DLC a short but sweet kung-fu treat for the holidays.
Sleeping Dogs: The Zodiac Tournament is coming to XBL on December 18th. Pricing has yet to be confirmed. There's eight new screenshots from the upcoming DLC in the gallery.