Ever since Grand Theft Auto, there has been a gaming fascination with underworld crime in an open urban environment. What happens when you take Grand Theft Auto and move it to Hong Kong, China? You get Sleeping Dogs, a wild game featuring fast cars, Kung Fu smack downs, drug busts, and a regular hankering for Chinese Food (seriously!).
Today, we get to test and review Sleeping Dogs in stereoscopic 3D on AMD's HD3D native format, Nvidia 3D Vision, and DDD's TriDef Ignition drivers.
NOTE: Since AMD's native HD3D does not yet have a means to record stereoscopic 3D screenshots, we were limited to using Nvidia's 3D Vision output to show what the game is capable of (with the exception of DDD TriDef). The results are nearly identical except for some points outlined in the review below.
Heavy on story, you play Wei Shen, a San Francisco Police Officer shipped off and accepted to the Hong Kong Police Force. You're an undercover cop, and as a member of the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau, your mission is to infiltrate and take down the local mafia.
While Sleeping Dogs is very much an open environment, much of it is still on the rails. Each segment of the game is broken down into days of events to complete. The first segment of the game has you accepting missions or jobs from either the Triad boss (Winston AKA "Dog Eyes") or the local police department. As the game progresses, you earn the trust of your peers and meet new characters, live in better quarters, and get new abilities.
Even though this isn't a criticism of the game itself, parents should be warned that Sleeping Dogs' storyline only pretends to have a semblance of right and wrong, and the heroes always go about things in a way your mom wouldn't approve. There is heavy swearing and graphic violence right through, and this game just isn't for kids. That said, it's understandable because there really is no other way to tell the story.
What makes Sleeping Dogs work is they don't put a gun in your hand right away. In fact, it takes several hours of play before you start looking at weapons seriously. Instead, you will have to rely on your bare hands. Your opponents will start off as being simple goons, and as you get better, they will gradually arm themselves with crowbars and butcher knives. I really struggled at the beginning because I kept dying too easily. I later realized that to regenerate your health, it's better to defeat single enemies rather than take out the entire pack at once. For example, if you are facing five angry dudes, you need to defeat at least one of them before you get some health back - so it's often wise to concentrate your efforts.
As you complete personal requests by your martial arts master (e.g. return stolen statues from his temple), you will learn new moves to hold your own on the street. It takes a lot of practice though because the combinations require memorizing which keys to press and how long to press them. I know that after a few Kung Fu fights, my hands and wrists were really hurting from stressfully pressing on the keyboard too hard!
To say that you are unarmed isn't completely true either. There is a lot of grappling in the game, and once you have a goon in your hands, you can throw him into a wall, over a ledge, into a dumpster, and so on. There is usually a limited number of environmental weapons you can use in a scene, but it's important to take advantage of everything you can. I find that the unarmed goons are prone to grappling, the big thugs (you'll know them when you see them) are most vulnerable to getting repeated boots to the head, and the armed guys need to be disarmed first before you can deal with them effectively. When you do get a knife or crowbar in your hand, don't get too excited! You only get a few stabs here and there before you lose the advantage.
When you eventually do get a firearm, it's very easy to run out of bullets and get yourself killed. As big an ego as this game may impress upon you, you aren't Rambo, and it's better to hide and shoot than to attack straight on. Depending on how advanced you have become, there are instances where you get bullet time sequences that shows the game in slow motion to make it easier to shoot enemies with.
A huge element of the game is driving around the city. It's really cool to see just how big the city is and how the style changes as you drive through it. When you start the game, you have a personal motorcycle, and you can either buy or get assigned new cars to add to your repertoire. Or, if you really just want to get someplace, you can hijack or hotwire pretty much anything on two or four wheels. Just be careful because if the cops spot you, you will have a high speed chase on your hands.
Speaking of high speed chases, you can either run away, or ram people off the road. Ramming is more fun, of course! To keep things interesting, it will eventually become necessary to capture other moving vehicles by jumping from yours into theirs. For those that are old enough to remember, it's like a scene from TJ Hooker!
TJ Hooker, Baby!
As an undercover cop, you are playing both sides of the street. For the Triads, you usually have one-off missions like giving an opposing boss a shakedown, making deliveries, or just doing errands. For the cops, you have friendlier undercover missions like entering street races, drug busts, and hacking cameras so you can remotely arrest criminals in the act (from your apartment, would you believe?).
From the point of view of game play, Sleeping Dogs does a great job of breaking up the monotony by adding new elements as you progress. For example, I'm still playing, and the latest twist is having to trace phone calls by driving to a central antenna range, pinpointing where calls are routed, and getting where you need to be fast enough before a mission fails.
So here is the big question: how is Sleeping Dogs in stereoscopic 3D?
AMD 1090T 3.2Ghz Patriot DDR3 1333Ghz RAM Windows 7 64 Bit Samsung S23A750D 23" Monitor Catalyst 12.7 Beta
AMD's rendering of sleeping dogs is native, which means that there is no stereoscopic 3D driver extrapolating what the game is supposed to look like, and is instead 100% dependent on what the game developer chose to do with it.
While the game's 3D results are a bit rough around the edges, it's not bad. You have the flexibility to have combined depth and pop-out experiences if you want them, and the diverse environments make for a positive 3D gaming experience. It's not perfect, though.
First, I don't think the game developer really understood what the heck separation and convergence are. While the menu settings are there, they didn't behave the way I expected, and it took several tries to get the mix I was looking for (and I can't tell you HOW I did it exactly).
While the crosshair only becomes prominent when you are armed with a gun, it's rendered incorrectly. Your bullets don't go where they are supposed to go, and the only way you can aim is by looking to see the crosshair turn red before shooting. It's not THAT big a deal, but it's annoying.
Finally, you will have to turn the blur effects off because they are only rendered in one eye during car races (races, not necessarily chases).
I wasn't sure about the navigation markers. Most of the nametags are rendered in stereo, but the navigation markers are in mono. I didn't deduct this in GameGrade3D because I think it was an artistic choice.
I found that the stereo 3D settings in the game versus the cinematics didn't behave the same way, so it was harder to get a good mix that worked for both scenarios. I didn't deduct for inconsistent camera angles in GameGrade3D because even though the mix of separation and convergence can get a bit clumsy, you can find a setting that works for the whole game - it's just a little harder to do.
You are probably thinking that these bugs don't sound that serious. Did AMD end up scoring well? I'm afraid not. More to share with our Nvidia results...
Maingear X-Cube Intel Core I7 Processor 2.66GHZ 6GB RAM GTX 580, GTX 275 (PhysX) Windows 7 64 Bit NVIDIA 306.22 Stereo Driver ASUS VG278 27" 3D Display
Similar to AMD's HD3D native platform, Nvidia's result was 100% based on their quad-buffer support and had little to do with a stereoscopic 3D driver extrapolation. The stereo settings recommendations are identical for both platforms, and the related benefits and problems are nearly the same.
The one exception is the game's crosshair. Even though it is rendered incorrectly and doesn't let you aim properly when using a gun, you can use Nvidia's laser sight add-on to compensate for this, which gave Nvidia a modest advantage in GameGrade3D.
When I got the game set up on the Nvidia platform, I was expecting the depth flexibility to be very limited as some of our members have complained about this. However, unless you're looking to separate the images to opposite sides of the room, I really don't see a problem. It's a bad idea to allow images to diverge the eyes for health reasons, and either I'm not experiencing what others are experiencing, or certain gamer expectations just aren't in line with safe 3D viewing.
This is where things get...unfortunate...for both the Nvidia and HD3D outcomes. There is an inconsistency in the effectiveness of the 3D. As the left and right images are separated, there should be increasingly pronounced differences in how the objects look because both the camera perspectives are changing. For example, even though there is plenty of separation in the above picture between the left and right views, the imagery isn't different enough from each other, and it's these differences that make 3D look interesting!
In this case, if I were to take a 3D photo editor or viewer like sView, and overlap the left and right motorcycle, it would be a nearly perfect match. It's as though the images are offset from each other, but there is very little separation between the cameras. This is a very similar problem to what we faced with Deus-Ex Human Revolution, though that was much worse. With Sleeping Dogs, the problem is mainly pronounced while driving and certain parts of the game play. Square Enix should take a close look at this because it could explain why some gamers think there isn't enough depth in the game.
Now compare to the above image! This is what the game SHOULD look like right through. Even if the settings aren't to your liking, if you run this picture through an editor, you will see that there are clearly two separate camera perspectives happening here.
DDD has the potential to be the dark horse that wakes Sleeping Dogs up in the 3D world, but they definitely aren't there yet.
While some gamers have expressed reasonable game play from DDD, I'm not seeing it yet. There are scenes where too much of the detail and ambience is scraped away and replaced with a dark shadowy film, the shadows are forced off (and it's best to turn them off anyway), and several lighting effects are removed. As shown above, there are instances where you can turn the 3D on and off in the driver, and it's very apparent what is being missed out on.
However, out of all three choices, I think DDD's 3D offering has the most potential with Sleeping Dogs. First, similar to Nvidia, it has a laser sight option and the dominant eye functionality works, so you can aim properly with your gun. The game's clumsy convergence and separation options are replaced with a consistent and easy to adjust DDD version. I also expect that DDD's camera separation will be more realistic than what the game is currently offering, so that should make for a more rewarding experience as well. If DDD can do with Sleeping Dogs what they did with Sniper Elite V2, I think everyone will be happy.
While Sleeping Dogs is definitely violent and features more salty language than Gordon Ramsey at a dinner table, Square Enix does a good job of avoiding a monotonous game by carefully adding new dynamics as the story unfolds.
The stereoscopic 3D definitely complements the game when it is properly done, but there are also huge segments that need fixing - especially the camera disparity. While the 3D settings options are also a bit clumsy, once you do find the right balance, you're good to go.