Thanks to a playable demo in San Diego Comic Con, I was sure to keep my eyes out for this one with the multi-platform game’s release mere weeks away. You play as undercover cop, Wei Shen, in Hong Kong as you try to take down the Triads from the inside. The sandbox world of Hong Kong is highly detailed, lively, interactive and populated. You scramble through crowds, pivot over counters, and hop fences as you try to catch your targets. The characters themselves are thorough in appearance and presentation, especially with what we’ve seen from the voice-acting of the star-studded cast: Will Yun Lee (Wei Shen), Emma Stone, Lucy Liu , Kelly Hu, Tom Wilkinson, Parry Shen, Robin Shou, Terence Yin, James Hong, Tzi-Ma, and Yunjin Kim. This cast helped build a solid, flawless and enjoyable plot to keep the player stuck to the screen and away from soon-to-be much needed sleep.
The gameplay is quite engrossing. A huge chunk of hand-to-hand combat scenes allow you to use Wei’s martial arts skills to take out large groups single handedly. Also, there are “environmental” attacks that demonstrate how interactive your environment can be.
In an auto-shop? How about violently finishing off your opponent by dropping a crane on him.
In the restroom? Slam your opponent’s face into a toilet, and clean him out. (I had to go there, sorry.)
To add a bit of realism, the martial arts display was a product of collaboration with MMA champion, Georges St-Pierre . And of course, in a cop game you have to see gun-play. Your character can hop over cover triggering a slow-motion sequence where you can pull off those fancy shots you see in movies. Car and boat chases are nicely blended in to the fray to enhance the already theatrical cinematics. And you can do all of this in style with clothing and vehicle (in-game) purchases that suit your tastes.
Missions judge your actions in Cop and Triad ratings, which allow you to rank up in those categories to upgrade your character. Cop actions are based on your resilience and control such as in not assaulting innocents or crashing into objects while driving. Triad actions are centered around degree of violence; Some include style of melee, headshots, explosions, and probably most notably, the aforementioned “Environmental” actions. Such upgrades include improving your gun recoil, gaining resistance to various melee attacks, increasing your evasion in police chases, and so on. Kung Fu lessons help add to your hand-to-hand combat arsenal. There is also a large variety of side quests and missions to keep you busy and help boost your character’s stats. These include but are not limited to: illegal street racing, underground fight clubs, drug busts, and well… karoake – probably the only eyebrow-raiser in my opinion. While I appreciate its injection into the game to add to the Hong Kong flavor being served, its not as entertaining as every other well-developed aspect of the large sandbox world. Imagine singing with an analog stick (or arrow keys for the PC version).
The game adopts a common melee, grab or counter mechanic seen in most games today. The movement of your character and the success of your parkur moves is determined by your ability to maneuver through the crowds and your timing of the A button (the “run and jump” of the Xbox version). Counters are exciting when pulled off and are unique to each enemy attack animation. Just about 5 to 10 percent of the time, your pressing of the counter button is casually ignored and the expected counter is replaced with, let’s say, a pipe to your face.This may lead to some players trying to overcompensate by standing idly as they try to counter early instead of being aggressive – a speed bump that will flatten over time. Vehicle control, with and without gun-play, would be flawless if it wasn’t for a camera annoyance that is evident every time you transition between forward and reverse. Also a forgivable nuance given the polish of the rest of the game.
When you are not busy controlling your character, you are most likely enjoying story scenes that show you the fruit of quality voice actors and plot. This story can stand on its own as the plot alone pulls you in, and has no trouble keeping you interested. Sure, some foreshadowing might telegraph some of the climatic parts, but what (good) movie doesn’t do that nowadays? And this is one of the most exciting be-in-the-movie experiences that has been released in a long time. It’s clear that true effort was put into this game and makes it a must-have game of the summer.