As humans, we all make bad choices and, as such, companies do as well. For some reason, the decision makers at Activision decided to pass on what was then known as True Crime: Hong Kong, but has since been renamed and released as Sleeping Dogs. However, the important thing is that the game was released, and that we’re currently able to play it, because it truly is a fantastic experience. In fact, it’s easily one of the best games of 2012.
When Halloween passed us by at the end of last month, it brought with it United Front Games’ first story-based add-on for its critically-acclaimed sandbox-action title. Referred to as Nightmare in North Point, the miniature campaign is now available for approximately seven American dollars. Unfortunately, despite the fact that those of us who loved the core game waited a while for the referenced pack to become available, it’s not worth its price tag.
Nightmare in North Point begins by displaying a shot of a gigantic billboard advertisement for a campy horror movie. Moments later, the camera shifts to display Wei Shen and his girlfriend, who decided to take in the featured spook show while out and about on a date. It’s rather routine stuff, but something happens. Just as the couple starts talking about how absurd their celluloid experience was, a ghostly figure appears. Now, this isn’t your ordinary boo ghost. Instead, it’s a motivated apparition, as it happens to grab hold of Wei’s date before he can even react.
Following a chase that lasts for close to two miles, Wei realizes that something abnormal is afoot. The figure which he was chasing is revealed as a translucent green spirit, and it just so happens that all of the market-grazing citizens have turned into white eyed and possessed creepers. So begins what is a rather brief and forgettable campaign, which must be launched from the start menu, instead of through a core save file.
Once the surprise wears off a bit, it’s revealed that the evil, cat-faced apparition, is that of Big Scar Wu. A former member of the Sun on Yee, his plans to overthrow his own people lead to a gruesome execution. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, his remains were carted off to a local cat food plant, where they were ground into chow. Now known as Smiley Cat for obvious reasons, the former criminal has returned from Hell to seek vengeance upon those who took his life, and has chosen Wei Shen as his first victim.
All of the above surely sounds absurd to you, but that really is what Sleeping Dogs‘ Nightmare in North Point DLC is all about. There’s more to take in, namely familiar faces who have returned from the grave to either help or hurt Wei, but that’s about it. The player is essentially trapped inside of a cheesy B-movie, wherein the bad guy steals the girl and the hero ends up doing anything in his power to save the beautiful lass. It’s relatively interesting, but I must admit that I was hoping for something more substantial from the game’s first single player expansion.
Throughout the one to one and a half hour-long campaign, players must battle against the undead. It’s as simple as that, because there’s next to nothing to this 800 megabyte download. You go from point A to point B, fight some zombies or possessed triads, then rinse and repeat. Collectibles, along with several optional side objectives, are available. However, the latter list item is incredibly basic, because all of its scenarios employ the exact same mechanics that the core missions do. In fact, playing through the side missions makes the story more repetitive than it already is, which shouldn’t be the case.
During the side missions, you’re tasked with saving kidnapped citizens, putting an end to enemy spawn holes or taking out the same demon over and over again. All three options require hand-to-hand combat, utilizing the same punch, counter, grab system that the core experience employs. There’s nothing wrong with the combat mechanics, but the lack of variety quickly becomes apparent.
The core quests mix the aforementioned elements in together, and occasionally throw in a final boss in the form of someone who Wei previously knew. It’s a neat take on the B-movie motif, but it lacks a lot of depth. You will find yourself interested for a short period of time, but will then wish for things to end. It’s unfortunate, especially for those like myself who spent a lot of time anticipating the pack’s launch date. Really, the only noteworthy addition to be found is Wei’s super powered punches and kicks, which must be activated by filling his face metre. That happens to be the only way to take out demons and ghosts.
As far as replay value goes, there isn’t any. That is, unless you end up liking the second campaign enough to start over from scratch. Some players may jump back in to play side missions, but they’re easy enough to complete during your first play through. They only add about twenty minutes to the experience, and aren’t difficult to find, because this DLC pack only utilizes one section of the game’s map.
Of course, Nightmare in North Point is running off of Sleeping Dogs‘ employed engine, meaning its visuals are similar to what you’d find in the core game. To create a campy horror effect, coloured fog was added in, and all of the citizens’ eyes were turned white. The effects don’t add a lot to the experience, and the same is true of the enemy models. The ghosts look OK, but the demon and zombie foes are all exactly the same. They have the same haircuts, dresses and everything, though each one’s clothing features a different shade. That’s it. Thankfully, the audio received more effort, with over-acted lines tying into the joke.
In the end, it’s tough to recommend this expansion, because it truly isn’t worth your time or money. It’s easy to find much better things to spend seven dollars on in today’s gaming industry, but it’s too bad that what could have been a blast ended up being a bore. Hopefully the game’s next add-on will be a lot more entertaining.
This review is based on an XBOX 360 copy of the game that we were provided with.