How Accurate Is Hong Kong in Sleeping Dogs?

How Accurate Is Hong Kong in Sleeping Dogs?

In the quest for realism in games, just how accurate did the developers of Sleeping Dogs make Hong Kong? It is very accurate, but then again, not so much.

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Thinking about your description I was thinking about that other Ubisoft games with "Dogs" in the title. I've only been to Chicago once, and only got to know the downtown area (although doing it by foot certainly gives you a better notion of the layout). How much did Watch_Dogs faithully recreate of Chicago and Chicagoland in their game? I haven't played it either, so I'm not sure if it's miles ahead of Sleeping Dogs, or just about the same size.

Thanks for the article, it was very interesting. Sleeping Dogs has a special place in my heart, I enjoyed it tremendously and was always curious of how close it mirrored Hong Kong. It certainly felt right but I had no way of knowing if it translated to a realistic depiction. I'm glad the verdict was very positive overall and I too wish for a next-gen-sequel (unlikely as it may be due to Triad Wars).

I remember getting excited about the game almost solely for its visual design, because my first exposure was through the tie-in map commissioned for Team Fortress 2, Kong King. The idea of a city so dense and complex that its exterior ended up being multi-story was endlessly fascinating to me, and I loved that I could buy an open-world game set in such a place. What I found was actually a bit of a letdown; the Soho district that Kong King was apparently based on seemed to be the only place that remotely resembled that map, and even that was stripped down to just a couple of flights of stairs. I never did find out of the maker of that map was inspired by a preview of the game or real life.

Here are my thoughts on this game's depiction of my hometown:

-I'm forgiving of the geography since the devs did't have the manpower to create a sprawling city on the level of GTA's Liberty City, so they added as much depth as they could into whatever they had. The result isn't the best game ever, and I was disappointed at some of the differences (the Peak was so not what I thought it would look like), but it did capture a lot of the overall feel of Hong Kong. They definitely nailed the building's architecture and all its little signage and details. I wish I could've installed in on my laptop while I left for college; it could've helped with the homesickness.

Having said that, it's obvious that this is a pretty Western portrayal of Hong Kong. There's elements of Chinatown in points of the game like the Golden Koi restaurant (which looks more like a Chinatown restaurant than a teahouse or cafe you'd find here), the adverts for restaurants and shops in the radio stations (doesn't happen here), and the random rows of lanterns hanging over streets (the most stereotypical way you could show a place is set in China, unless it's during Chinese New Year or the Lantern Festival). The Aberdeen floating restaurant is not that big of a deal with people in Hong Kong, so it's the most touristy landmark in the game.

-For a city with no second amendment, there certainly is a fuckload of car chases and gunfights in the middle of the streets. Then again, this is a game based more on Hong Kong action cinema than on reality, and there are local movies just as ludricrous when it comes to having mass shootouts and chases in broad daylight.

-I felt United Front could've at least have hints of land outside of Hong Kong island, even if they do make it unreachable. It's weird seeing no Kowloon across from the waterfront in Central. Though I'm surprised they did included the Soho area into the game, and in terms of atmosphere it did look accurate to real life.

-The alternating use of Chinese and English by some characters is weird. Not that it doesn't happen here in Hong Kong, but usually people would use just cantonese speech with a few english words thrown in. I think they should've just had each character stick to one language and used subtitles for any cantonese.

-I'm not sure why they can't include the actual Hong Kong flag in-game instead of a weird flag with six white triangles arranged in a circle.

-I saw the in-game billboard adverts of Ghost Pig, and I immediately thought of McDull. Nice one, United Front.

-Oh, if only Hong Kong had as many english language radio stations as in this game (high quality stations no less). There are two AM radio stations in Hong Kong that I regular on, and they only play either oldie songs or adult contemporary. One of them used to be hosted by a guy with an imaginary co-host that he voices himself (calls himself Spaz-Mac I think), and he'd have random conversations with himself between songs. And then occasionally, Michael Jackson (also voiced by the same guy, though very poorly) would come in to utter a word or two, but then it'll be followed by a frying pan sound effect and Michael groaning in pain, usually also followed by something along the lines of "Shut up Michael!".
It sucks whenever our car goes on streets with tram wires as it screws up the radio reception.

Maybe I'll get to see Kowloon after all.

I wouldn't really count on it. Having seen the gameplay footage of Triad Wars, it looks as if they're using the exact same map. I really hope it was just for beta testing and that they'll eventually have a new expanded map, but if not, I'm probably not going to get that game.

Ldude893:
Here are my thoughts on this game's depiction of my hometown:

-I'm forgiving of the geography since the devs did't have the manpower to create a sprawling city on the level of GTA's Liberty City, so they added as much depth as they could into whatever they had. The result isn't the best game ever, and I was disappointed at some of the differences (the Peak was so not what I thought it would look like), but it did capture a lot of the overall feel of Hong Kong. They definitely nailed the building's architecture and all its little signage and details. I wish I could've installed in on my laptop while I left for college; it could've helped with the homesickness.

Having said that, it's obvious that this is a pretty Western portrayal of Hong Kong. There's elements of Chinatown in points of the game like the Golden Koi restaurant (which looks more like a Chinatown restaurant than a teahouse or cafe you'd find here), the adverts of restaurants and shops in the radio stations (doesn't happen here), and the random rows of lanterns hanging over streets (the most stereotypical ways you could show a place is set in China , unless it's during Chinese New Year). The Aberdeen floating restaurant is not that big of a deal with people in Hong Kong, so it's the most touristy landmark in the game.

-For a city with no second amendment, there certainly is a fuckload of car chases and gunfights in the middle of the streets. Then again, this is a game based more on Hong Kong action cinema than on reality, and there are local movies just as ludricrous when it comes to having mass shootouts and chases in broad daylight.

-I felt United Front could've at least have hints of land outside of Hong Kong island, even if they do make it unreachable. It's weird seeing no Kowloon across from the waterfront in Central. Though I'm surprised they did included the Soho area into the game, and in terms of atmosphere it did look accurate to real life.

-The alternating use of Chinese and English by some characters is weird. Not that it doesn't happen here in Hong Kong, but usually people would use just cantonese speech with a few english words thrown in. I think they should've just had each character stick to one language and used subtitles for any cantonese.

-I'm not sure why they can't include the actual Hong Kong flag in-game instead of a weird flag with six white triangles arranged in a circle.

-I saw the in-game billboard adverts of Ghost Pig, and I immediately thought of McDull. Nice one, United Front.

-Oh, if only Hong Kong had as many english language radio stations as in this game (high quality stations no less). There are two AM radio stations in Hong Kong that I regular on, and they only play either oldie songs or adult contemporary. One of them used to be hosted by a guy with an imaginary co-host that he voices himself (calls himself Spaz-Mac I think), and he'd have random conversations with himself between songs. And then occasionally, Michael Jackson (also voiced by the same guy, though very poorly) would come in to utter a word or two, but then it'll be followed by a frying pan sound effect and Michael groaning in pain, usually also followed by something along the lines of "Shut up Michael!".
It sucks whenever our car goes on streets with tram wires as it screws up the radio reception.

Maybe I'll get to see Kowloon after all.

I wouldn't really count on it. Having seen the gameplay footage of Triad Wars, it looks as if they're using the exact same map. I really hope it was just for beta testing and that they'll eventually have a new expanded map, but if not, I'm probably not going to get that game.

Pretty much agreed. The use of simplified characters rather than traditional rubbed a few people the wrong way too, especially given current events. Mostly I didn't want to get too nitpicky because... well, if I did this article would be 10,000 words long and mostly be about laughing myself hoarse after seeing a nightclub bathroom as big as an apartment.

Having said that, I *was* genuinely disappointed in the cemetery. I was glad they put it in there, but it really didn't give you the sense of scale you get from standing in, say, Happy Valley or Chai Wan and feeling surrounded by the dead. I think that's the main problem, the game lacks the illusion of expansiveness and majesty that, say, Far Cry 4 pulled off so well.

Still, it feels pretty well done when you're strolling and not thinking about it too hard.

Edit: You know, I didn't notice the flag. Thanks for pointing that out.

So we get all these articles about games development being too expensive as developers make games too big for any possible return (sleeping dogs lost millions) and now it's criticising the game for being to small in scale as a developer tries to keep the budget under control.

Almost did, Sleeping Dogs, if you fix that god awful voice acting. I am not complaining about the English part, but the Cantonese voice acting. It felt like I am in Vancouver or San Francisco every time someone opens his fucking mouth. Can't they hire VO that's actually from HK, or doesn't sound like they just read the IPA definition of the Chinese words?

//edit: No, Edison Chen is technically HK the same way our Jim Sterling is technically American.

shiajun:
Thinking about your description I was thinking about that other Ubisoft games with "Dogs" in the title. I've only been to Chicago once, and only got to know the downtown area (although doing it by foot certainly gives you a better notion of the layout). How much did Watch_Dogs faithully recreate of Chicago and Chicagoland in their game? I haven't played it either, so I'm not sure if it's miles ahead of Sleeping Dogs, or just about the same size.

I can help here, since I live just across the northern border and thus have been to Chicago a few times. The main districts feel pretty close to the real thing, though it is disappointingly missing a few landmarks like The Chicago International Airport, Soldier Field, The Shedd Aquarium, and The McCormick Place. However, it pulls a similar trick to Far Cry 4 in feeling very authentic, if in miniature. The Willis tower, The Chicago Theatre, Lower Whacker drive and all of the tunnels that come with it, and more are there. Hell, the Chicago river area is probably the most street-accurate area in the game. The vehicles in the game are also generally accurate, with mostly American makes and models, though European and Japanese style models are present as well. The police vehicles are also generally accurate, with proper livery and similar models to the real deals(Dodge Charger, Chevy Caprice PPV, Ford Crown Vics, and Ford Taurus Police Interceptors) though the cops there tend to like Chevy Tahoe PPVs and Ford Explorers over the Dodge Durango-inspired SUV that they use ingame. The interpretation of Chicago in Watch Dogs feels pretty authentic overall.

However, Pawnee is nowhere near where Pawnee actually is(which is south of Springfield, IL), and it's a lot more rocky and mountainous than the real deal. The reason being the creation of natural-feeling borders to a city that is much more connected to land than your average game city, so it's excusable. However, it does feel like your average fishing town up north, like my general area (Wisconsin). If anything, it reminded me most of Silver Lake, in Southeast Wisconsin.

Hope that helps!

an annoyed writer:

shiajun:
Thinking about your description I was thinking about that other Ubisoft games with "Dogs" in the title. I've only been to Chicago once, and only got to know the downtown area (although doing it by foot certainly gives you a better notion of the layout). How much did Watch_Dogs faithully recreate of Chicago and Chicagoland in their game? I haven't played it either, so I'm not sure if it's miles ahead of Sleeping Dogs, or just about the same size.

I can help here, since I live just across the northern border and thus have been to Chicago a few times. The main districts feel pretty close to the real thing, though it is disappointingly missing a few landmarks like The Chicago International Airport, Soldier Field, The Shedd Aquarium, and The McCormick Place. However, it pulls a similar trick to Far Cry 4 in feeling very authentic, if in miniature. The Willis tower, The Chicago Theatre, Lower Whacker drive and all of the tunnels that come with it, and more are there. Hell, the Chicago river area is probably the most street-accurate area in the game. The vehicles in the game are also generally accurate, with mostly American makes and models, though European and Japanese style models are present as well. The police vehicles are also generally accurate, with proper livery and similar models to the real deals(Dodge Charger, Chevy Caprice PPV, Ford Crown Vics, and Ford Taurus Police Interceptors) though the cops there tend to like Chevy Tahoe PPVs and Ford Explorers over the Dodge Durango-inspired SUV that they use ingame. The interpretation of Chicago in Watch Dogs feels pretty authentic overall.

However, Pawnee is nowhere near where Pawnee actually is(which is south of Springfield, IL), and it's a lot more rocky and mountainous than the real deal. The reason being the creation of natural-feeling borders to a city that is much more connected to land than your average game city, so it's excusable. However, it does feel like your average fishing town up north, like my general area (Wisconsin). If anything, it reminded me most of Silver Lake, in Southeast Wisconsin.

Hope that helps!

Aaaah! Thanks for that. I was genuinely curious about that, since I liked the city and almost bought the game for it, though a bunch of other considerations stopped me in the end. I guess Ubisoft is better at miniaturization than United Front (Paris, Venice, Kyrat, Chicago) but then again, they much more resources to burn.

shiajun:

an annoyed writer:

shiajun:
Thinking about your description I was thinking about that other Ubisoft games with "Dogs" in the title. I've only been to Chicago once, and only got to know the downtown area (although doing it by foot certainly gives you a better notion of the layout). How much did Watch_Dogs faithully recreate of Chicago and Chicagoland in their game? I haven't played it either, so I'm not sure if it's miles ahead of Sleeping Dogs, or just about the same size.

I can help here, since I live just across the northern border and thus have been to Chicago a few times. The main districts feel pretty close to the real thing, though it is disappointingly missing a few landmarks like The Chicago International Airport, Soldier Field, The Shedd Aquarium, and The McCormick Place. However, it pulls a similar trick to Far Cry 4 in feeling very authentic, if in miniature. The Willis tower, The Chicago Theatre, Lower Whacker drive and all of the tunnels that come with it, and more are there. Hell, the Chicago river area is probably the most street-accurate area in the game. The vehicles in the game are also generally accurate, with mostly American makes and models, though European and Japanese style models are present as well. The police vehicles are also generally accurate, with proper livery and similar models to the real deals(Dodge Charger, Chevy Caprice PPV, Ford Crown Vics, and Ford Taurus Police Interceptors) though the cops there tend to like Chevy Tahoe PPVs and Ford Explorers over the Dodge Durango-inspired SUV that they use ingame. The interpretation of Chicago in Watch Dogs feels pretty authentic overall.

However, Pawnee is nowhere near where Pawnee actually is(which is south of Springfield, IL), and it's a lot more rocky and mountainous than the real deal. The reason being the creation of natural-feeling borders to a city that is much more connected to land than your average game city, so it's excusable. However, it does feel like your average fishing town up north, like my general area (Wisconsin). If anything, it reminded me most of Silver Lake, in Southeast Wisconsin.

Hope that helps!

Aaaah! Thanks for that. I was genuinely curious about that, since I liked the city and almost bought the game for it, though a bunch of other considerations stopped me in the end. I guess Ubisoft is better at miniaturization than United Front (Paris, Venice, Kyrat, Chicago) but then again, they much more resources to burn.

No problem. And I'd recommend you pick it up at some point if you're into open world games or stealth, since it's pretty decent at hitting both of those targets. It may not be as pretty as it was at E3, and Aiden might have the depth and character development of a cardboard box, but it's still pretty fun and good at what it does.

As for Ubisoft vs. United Front, I'd say you're pretty much right, though consider the fact that Ubi also has much more experience with open world games compared to UF. Hell, to date UF only has a single open world game to its name, and it's Sleeping Dogs. Pretty good for a first shot, I'd say.

Also, fun fact about the Watch Dogs Chicago map: the forested area north of the Mad Mile district actually lines up pretty well with the area presented in the introduction level of Hitman: Absolution, which takes place in a villa outside Chicago. Makes me kinda want to hack the level geometry to add the mansion into the Watch Dogs map :3

To be honest, I've only been to Hong Kong a couple times in my life, and not for very long (despite both my parents working, and meeting there). But I think the devs did a fine job. The scale of the game, obviously can't reach the levels of GTA5 or even GTA4 by any stretch. So they had to play with what they had, and although there are a few disappointments (the Peak, for one), they managed to capture the details and stuff that mattered. With such a scaled-down version, it's the details that matters anyway, which the article pointed out was done well enough. Of course, truth be told, no "mainstream" game engine in existence today could power the crowds of people in that place, it's pandemonium out there.

We all know what happens when you try to almost recreate a city in a 1:1 scale. We get AC: Unity.

ksn0va:
We all know what happens when you try to almost recreate a city in a 1:1 scale. We get AC: Unity.

Not really. The actual city in AC:U was really pretty good, it was just everything else that was broken. Given that the people designing the environment probably aren't the same ones programming people's faces to turn inside out, reducing the scope of the playable area probably wouldn't have helped much.

Thanks for the article. I had always wondered how accurate Sleeping Dogs was to the real Hong Kong and your article essentially stated what I expected. Even to someone who has never set foot in Hong Kong it's clear that the scale of the map in Sleeping Dogs could never compare. I'm surprised you estimate that it covers even close to 7%. However this boils down to the limitations put on the developers and the fact driving around a full scale model of Hong Kong, while being cool, would likely not be the most convenient gameplay wise.

Here's the thing about the Hong Kong in Sleeping Dogs: unlike most open world games like GTA and Saints Row, Sleeping Dogs actually feels like a well-designed level with varied nooks and crannies that make exploration novel and interesting (as opposed to having a bunch of buildings slapped together on a large, flat map the way most open world games do). Kyrat in Far Cry 4 might have the scale but it lacks the variety of Sleeping Dogs and... well... any semblance of deliberate design, really. It's what I appreciated the most about Sleeping Dogs and the reason I like it more than most open world games.

So I'm understandably not bothered by the fact that it's been scaled down compared to the real thing, if that's a sacrifice they had to make to introduce a more structured, more deliberate and concise map, I'm all for it.

That being said, it's still interesting to see how it compares to the real city. Good read.

 

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