Sleeping Dogs isn’t the most original game out there. It’s open-world, released at the height of Assassin’s Creed’s popularity and the year before GTA 5. You play as Wei Shen, a Chinese-American cop who must go undercover in the Triads. The only catch is that many of Shen’s friends and even family are Triad members, and he must – dun dun dun – choose which side of the law his loyalty lies on.
Like I said, not the most original. The Departed (itself based upon a Hong Kong cop saga in Internal Affairs) is the best modern example of the undercover cop story, but it’s a narrative that goes back beyond 1949’s White Heat, bypassing Reservoir Dogs, Prince Of The City and even White Chicks, which as we all know is White Heat’s long-awaited sequel. It might not have anything particularly unique at its core then, but it nails one aspect of its story to the floorboards, in a way that many games since have tried and mostly failed to replicate: duality.
Morality and choice in games is very in vogue right now. Perhaps it’s because, burdened by student loans, long hours for minimal pay and a skyrocketing divide between the haves and the have-nots, our real lives often seem devoid of choices. Maybe it’s because social media makes us all so angry that there are so many bastard-coated-bastards out there and we’re so desensitized to shooter violence that being bad just feels so cathartically good. Maybe it’s just fun. Maybe it’s Maybelline.