Sleeping Dogs: Nightmare in North Point DLC for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
It may not have exactly been a revolution in gaming, but last year’s Sleeping Dogs was a really solid, fun experience, a great way to close the chapter on GTA4 influenced games before the launch of GTA5 and it’s inevitable imitators. Since Sleeping Dogs was heavily influenced by Hong Kong gangster cinema, the creators decided to base their DLC on other schools of Hong Kong cinema, horror films in the case of the first release, Nightmare in North Point. This was perhaps a better idea in theory than it manages to be in reality, and sadly this doesn’t really work.
This DLC, as the name suggests, takes place entirely in the ‘North Point’ region of Hong Kong. This isn’t really a problem, as this was by far the best area of the main game anyway, and the most fun to explore. It’s certainly nice to see the area again, but it lacks the giddy thrill of seeing familiar areas grown monster-fied that Red Dead Redemption’s Undead Nightmare had, as the only real changes are in the scary glowing eyes of the passers-by and the odd inexplicable explosion. There’s nowhere new in this DLC, as it simply takes you through a tour of areas visited in the main game, and doesn’t do enough to make these areas feel new, as Undead Nightmare did.
Nightmare in North Point opens with Wei on a date with one of his girlfriends, Not Ping, because Emma Stone is too expensive to bring back, when a strange demon by erupts from the ground and kidnaps her. The kidnapper is Smiley Cat, a former Sun on Yee gangster formerly known as Big Scar Wu whose corpse was ground into cat food by his mob bosses as punishment for recklessness. For entirely unexplained reasons, Big Smile Lee has been able to raise an army of Jiang Shi and Yaoguai, demons from Chinese folklore. For further unexplained reasons, plenty of other dead people have risen as well, including some old allies of Wei’s to help him, as well as those he killed during the main game.
It’s all very lightweight and Nightmare in North point never really engages convincingly with the setting. There’s a fun thrill in seeing dead characters again, but the actual story is just so utterly lazy and boring. Smiley Cat is a disappointment as a villain; the fact that he’s dead doesn’t even seem relevant to the story, he’s just another jerk gangster with a grudge in a game filled with them.
Even worse, Nightmare in North Point actually plays less satisfyingly than the main game; the challenge of DLC is to offer something new and exciting enough to justify the price of re-entry, with the maintenance of the gameplay quality of the main game sort of being a given. This DLC fails at that first hurdle; you will spend most of this DLC fighting the Jiang Shi and Yaoguai demons and they are simply not in any way fun to fight. They must be fought in a slightly different way to the living enemies, but this difference removes any of the satisfying flow that made Sleeping Dog’s combat the best in the genre. There’s nothing else really to do in this DLC than to fight; sure there are a few chases, on foot and in cars, and one gun battle, but it’s all so brief and lazy that it’s hard to really care.
However, one thing that Nightmare in North Point does nail is it’s aesthetic. Smiley Cat looks great, as do the Jiang Shi and Yaoguai, and the world looks appropriately darkened and sinister during the whole thing. The voice acting is up to the quality of the main game, with the return of many characters both living and dead. It’s pretty clear that United Front took their time with working on the visual and audio design of this DLC, but then found themselves up against their Halloween 2012 deadline to actually give you anything fun to do.
Nightmare in North Point may be worth a go if it pops up on sale, if only for it’s cool aesthetic, but before then I can’t really recommend it. It’s not particularly long, although there are some boring side missions, but worst of all is that what you do in this DLC isn’t actually fun at all.