Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sleeping Dogs: The Zodiac Tournament review


    Enter The Dragon is one of my favorite movies of all time. It is the best remembered of Bruce Lee's few films for good reason. There's something fundamentally primal about a martial arts master being invited to a brutal tournament where only the strongest warrior will walk away alive. There's a reason it's the basis for virtually every fighting game ever made. It thus feels natural that Sleeping Dogs would do an extended homage to the movie.

    The premise of the game is the best martial artists in the world have been invited to the deadly tournament of Doctor Zhang. The Hong Kong police, not approving of death matches, sends Wei Shen to infiltrate the tournament. Doctor Zhang may or not know Wei Shen is an undercover cop but doesn't care either way. Why? Because one look at the guy and you'll know he's not going to let you walk away with the tournament's winnings.

The villain goes so over the top, he reaches space. Which is entirely appropriate.
    From the moment you step on the boat to reach the island, everything switches to a grainy 1970s movie feel. From the moment the tournament begins, Wei Shen is surrounded by some of the deadliest fighters in the game. He doesn't have any friends on the island either, the good competitors think he's a Triad stooge while the bad ones, well, are bad.

    The DLC advertises there is a "new island" to explore but this is somewhat misleading. The island for the adventure is almost entirely railroaded-in, taking you everywhere you might want to travel during the adventure itself. Aside from a quest to get Fire Opal Statues, which don't do anything until after you've completed the DLC, there's not much to do around the island.

The visual homages to EtD are everywhere.
     Despite this, the DLC is still fun. The tournament doesn't just include your typical melee brawls but several twists I'd be remise in spoiling. There's also free-running sections through trap-filled zones that are incredibly fun. The other fighters aren't tremendously deep characters but some you genuinely mourn when the fights turn deadly while others you just want to ring the life out of yourself. That's good writing, right there.
The free-running sections of the tournament are some of my favorite.
    There's not much to say about this DLC other than it's fun, entertaining, and filled with surprises. The only thing I regretted about it is the final mission, which stupidly introduces a timed-mechanic when the rest of the game is mercifully without. I still haven't beaten it despite literally dozens of tries. The fact it's the last level only makes it doubly frustrating.

    One thing which separates The Zodiac Tournament from the rest of the Sleeping Dogs DLC is that it can be played as a part of Sleeping Dogs proper. This is a major boon as it makes the tournament seem part of the narrative. Unfortunately, you can't bring any of your cool toys or outfits to the island, which means it might as well be a separate storyline. I was looking forward to beating the island as Monkey.

    In short, I heartily recommend The Zodiac Tournament but it's not without flaws. If you had been allowed to bring along your melee-enhancing outfits or the timed-mission wasn't so punishing, I'd have given this a full ten. Instead, I'm going to have to give it a nine.

9/10

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