Sleeping Dogs: Year of the Snake DLC Hands-On Preview – Snake Charmer
Written Friday, March 08, 2013 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
After all that Triad business in Sleeping Dogs, it's weird to see Wei Shen busted down to the comparatively menial role of a street cop, walking the beat on the streets of Hong Kong, writing tickets, dealing with petty squabbles, waving in traffic. The Sun On Yee seems like a distant memory in the Year of the Snake DLC, but it's not long before Shen is springing back into action to foil a not-so-intricate terrorist plot, involving a bizarre cult that believes the world will end when the Chinese New Year rolls around.
Of course, the Chinese New Year has been and gone, meaning we're in the Year of the Snake right now and the world keeps on spinning unabated. But that doesn't mean we can't still have fun chasing down some fanatical cultists and bringing them to justice, right?! And Year of the Snake is good fun, placing some new toys into Sleeping Dogs' sandbox for Wei Shen to play with. These come as a logical part of Shen's standard-issue HKPD tools, so include the electroshock pistol (a taser) for subduing suspects and the teargas grenade launcher for dispersing crowds.
Shen's latest adventure kicks off as he's writing a ticket and spots a suspicious member of the Cult of the Snake up to no good. Giving chase, you'll need to apprehend and arrest the suspect, taking him back to HQ for questioning. You immediately know what you're dealing with when the cultist talks about his leader Master Chu, who foresees the end of the world and his unwavering belief that “unbelievers will be cast down into hell.” There are hundreds of these maniacal cultists all over Hong Kong, and it's up to Wei Shen to end their reign of terror. It seems that Hong Kong's supercop just can't catch a break, or indeed take a break.
Year of the Snake essentially casts Wei Shen as John McClane in Die Hard With a Vengeance, chasing bomb threats around the city in numerous forms, whether they're on buses, in suspicious parked cars or strapped to the insane cultists themselves. During the first part of the DLC, Shen finds himself figuratively putting out fires all over the city, before he dons SWAT gear and leads a squad in bringing down some of the higher-up cultists who are a bit more aggressive and equipped with gas masks. Tear gas? It'll obviously have no effect on the gas masked nutters, although you can still knock them down with a well-aimed gas grenade to the chest.
Between story missions, Shen will report back to the Hong Kong Police Department's mobile HQ, unlocking new police outfits, a police car and police motorbike along the way. If you've already bought the Law Enforcer DLC, you might be kicking yourself a bit while playing Year of the Snake.
As we play our way through the DLC, we spend a good few hours trying to complete as much of it as we possibly can, giving us the impression that Year of the Snake might be comparable to Nightmare in North Point in terms of missions and content. You're given the entire city as it is in the full game with an array of new cop missions to complete, as well as new favors and bomb threat missions to tackle. There's a good-sized chunk of content to sink your teeth into here then, covering all of the bases that made playing through Sleeping Dogs' campaign so enjoyable in the first place.
There's plenty of opportunity to break out your martial arts moves, using the taser to electroshock the apocalyptic cultists into submission, while there's also the odd shootout to be had too. The opening section where Shen finds himself in the middle of the New Year festivities is bold, colourful and visually striking, and the missions we've played thus far prove to be almost as compelling and involving as the full game's main missions, albeit without the tension and drama inherent in Wei Shen's role as undercover Sun On Yee.
Year of the Snake adds more challenges to the Social Hub too, so frying X number of enemies with the taser, gassing people with gas grenades, arresting suspects (or random bad guys, or innocent members of the public) and collecting evidence bags scattered around the city is the order of the day. You can also blast your police car's siren to make the traffic move, which is another award you'll need to earn, and Shen's powers as a cop enable him to commandeer vehicles without being penalised by the law. Go on a rampage and a killing spree, and the law will still come down on you like a ton of bricks, but as a cop, Shen has a little more wiggle room when bending the rules.
Sleeping Dogs' Year of the Snake add-on looks to continue Square Enix and United Front Games' smart DLC strategy to provide quality content at a fair price. It's the first of the game's add-ons to pick up where the end of Sleeping Dogs left off, providing fans with a sort of epilogue to Shen's undercover work as a member of the Triad. In short, Year of the Snake is shaping up to be the best Sleeping Dogs DLC yet, giving us the opportunity to kick ass all over Hong Kong once more.
Sleeping Dogs Year of the Snake DLC is out next week and will be priced soon.