on 19 August 2012
Since receiving this game on launch I have been hooked!
This game has been beautifully made, it is well detailed throughout, has really good animations, really good story line and fantastic voice acting.
I have seen in numerous places people either trying to slate it or saying they refuse to purchase it just because it was originally supposed to be the new True Crime from activision, but then Square Enix purchased it after activision ditched it several years into its development. It`s a good job Square Enix did this to as the game is a real gem.
Yes the game does have some little bugs, for example there is the occasional texture pop up, you see the odd pedestrian stuck in a wall, and the biggest one I have seen yet is after I bet on a chicken fight I won, however after claiming my cash I was stuck, unable to move and unable to get the "Place bet" off screen. I was forced to reload a previous check point. However these issues are made tiny when shadowed by how stunning the rest of the game is.
Of course with this being a "Sandbox" game you can essentially do what you want, when you want, and there is a lot to do! There are street races, drug busts, various collectible items (loads of them in the various areas of the map), shops to buy clothes, food and vehicles ranging from casual to sports cars and bikes. Mini games requiring you to hack security cameras, gambling on chicken fights, karaoke.....the list goes on and on. So needless to say there is more than enough to keep you busy in the game, and that`s before we even get to the main story missions.
We play as Wei Shen, an undercover cop tasked to get in with the Triad empire and take them down from within, however as he delves in deeper he is forced into positions that lead him into murder, robbery and other illegal activities. The story is very well done and very enjoyable to see unfold, all the voice acting is professionally done with a mix of English and Cantonese (English subtitled) which makes the characters believable. The story is more serious than GTA, but still has a way of being fun with the mass of side missions adding to the fun.
The game allows you to earn XP based on 3 types, Face (earned through helping people), Triad (completing Triad missions and completing criminal missions), and finally Police (busting criminals, completing police missions etc). All these allow you to earn skills which enhance your combat, strength and ability.
Combat in the game is a simple button system, O to grapple, X to sprint, Square to attack, L2 to lock on and Triangle to counter attack. Don`t be fooled by this simple system though as it allows for more variations than you would think, particularly as you learn new moves. Different button combinations result in all kinds of moves making for very satisfying martial arts combat. You can use most of the environment advantage, for example you can smash your opponents into walls, tables, break their backs on railings and more. There are also environmental kills too, when grappling an opponent you may find things in the environment highlighted in red, drag them there and hit circle to do some brutal and often amusing things such as hanging them on butchers hooks, sticking their heads into fans, throwing them into bins, and even setting them on fire, it`s all great fun and you earn bonus XP for doing this.
All the vehicles that you see in the game can be stolen, driven and smashed. Each vehicle has its own handling characteristic, and while being arcadey they are all fun to drive. With the use of the Square button you can ram cars which is handy when the police are chasing you, just like in GTA you can hang your gun out of the window and shoot (taking out tires on bikes and cars in high speed results in them crashing out spectacularly). It is thrilling stuff.
Gun play works well too, you can take cover behind objects using L1, shoot over and jump over which then results in brief slow motion sequences allowing you to take precise aim and shoot out several enemies at once. However unless in a situation where your against a large number of gunmen you would likely get your hands dirty with your kungfu where you can disarm them.
The radio in games is pretty good, making use of authentic Chinese music aswell as having rock and hip hop stations available.
Sound effects are suitably punchy and detailed and sound perfect in every part of the game.
Overall this really is a huge surprise, the game is great at everything it does, the only reason I marked it 4 stars out of 5 is that it does have its minor little bugs but nothing serious, and I would have loved online multi player features, maybe Square Enix will inroduce them in the future (fingers crossed). Overall though this game is fantastic and I highly recommend it!