At first glance, the DLC list for Sleeping Dogs looks extremely generous, featuring over twenty-five packs of extra stuff to play, drive and wear. Compare this to Skyrim’s three and it’s a veritable cornucopia of gameplay. However, upon closer inspection much of this content reveals itself to be out of place, out of character and for my money, out of its mind.
First of all, a few of the packs just give you experience and other items that could otherwise be unlocked through standard play. While I understand the point is to let you play and dress like a badass right from the game’s beginning, to me it just feels like paying more money to play less of the game.
Second come the clothing packs. The former let you dress Wei Shen as a cop, various famous martial artists and even characters from other Square Enix games. Many of these come with stat boosts, such as extra melee damage, or change some of your fighting moves to a different style such as MMA. These packs can be extremely hit and miss, and their worth largely comes down to how much you want to look like Bruce Lee or wear a pig on your head.
I quite like the Retro Triad Pack that gives you a sweet ‘80s look and armoured van so you can cruise the streets in style. On the other hand, the Gangland Style tattoo pack is pretty much a waste of money. I figured when I bought it that the three new tattoo designs would be applied under Wei’s clothing, rather than instead of his clothing. The Yakuza tattoos do look awesome, but I’d kind of like some pants and a shirt to go with them, instead of being some blue, nearly nude ink monster running around Hong Kong.
Tied up with the clothing packs are the unlockable vehicles and weapons. These give you a garage load of police vehicles, a respawning assault rifle and other such tokens of badassery. These are fine, but forgettable. Having access to a gun at your safehouse is definitely handy, but you still lose weapons as easily as before and can’t take them on missions, so its benefits are limited. Also, story-wise, it doesn’t make much sense for Wei to be driving around in a cop car when he’s supposed to be undercover.
But these are all what’s known in Sims parlance as “stuff packs”. The real meat of any DLC list is new missions, and Sleeping Dogs provides those too. Such missions include equipping a spy car with twin miniguns and blowing up waves of pursuers, beating up a limitless supply of monks, responding to emergency situations in a SWAT van, banishing a vengeful spirit and his horde of vampires, competing in an island fighting tournament shamelessly reminiscent of Enter The Dragon (with an even thinner story), and trying to stop a doomsday cult. What a perfectly normal to-do list.
Okay, so they’re a bit silly, as many of the missions feel like they couldn’t possibly be canon. But I found a certain level of cheesy charm in places, such as in the Zodiac Tournament’s grainy cutscenes and seeing Wei relegated to being a traffic cop. My main gripe with these missions is that as fun as they can be at times, most of it feels extremely incongruous with the story and spirit of Sleeping Dogs.
In fact, all of the DLC feels a bit out of place. The base game was a grim, serious journey of a man torn between conflicting loyalties. The DLC is more like something out of Saints Row: big and goofy with little thought or explanation. These packs are not expansions; they’re diversions. And while what-if and wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if scenarios can be fun, it’s not the kind of fun upon which Sleeping Dogs was built.