I suspect that this is going to be the last Sleeping Dogs DLC, and thankfully it’s the best (and largest) so far. The DLC series for Sleeping Dogs hasn’t been nearly as disastrous as it has been for many games (I’m looking at you Darksiders II), but it also hasn’t exactly been particularly awe inspiring either, rarely raising above mediocre. Year of the Snake is certainly an improvement over Nightmare in North Point and The Zodiac Tournament, but is nonetheless a rather bland experience, which doesn’t live up to the potential for wacky fun that it offered.
Sleeping Dogs, unlike the proceeding two DLCs, picks up shortly after the main storyline of the original game. Wei Shen’s superiors, somewhat peeved at the death and destruction left in the wake of his take down of the Sun on Yee, have demoted him to the position of a standard beat cop. It’s not long however before an apocalyptic cult start to launch attacks around Hong Kong in preparation for the New Year, and it’s unsurprisingly up to Wei Shen to stop them.
Year of the Snake, unlike its brief, but fun, predecessor The Zodiac Tournament, doesn’t add anywhere new, instead returning us to Hong Kong for a whistle stop tour of major locations from the main game. It’s a bit of a shame not to see anywhere new, but this DLC wasn’t really about that, and manages to make up for it in other ways.
The plot is something of a disappointment. It’s initially quite fun to see Wei Shen, badass kung-fu supercop, reduced to giving parking tickets and chasing down muggers and flashers, but the eventual plot returns us to predictable territory. It’s a shame really; the DLC seemed to be leading towards an amusing self aware look at how incredibly inappropriate Wei Shen’s actions as a cop are, and the vast body counts of collateral damage he must have caused along the way. The plot is entirely forgettable, and lacks even the silly themes of the proceeding two DLCs. This is the best DLC so far in every other way, but in terms of the plot it’s easily the worst.
There’s a slight tweaking of combat mechanics in this DLC, with the addition of a taser and the ability to arrest people mid combat offering subtle, but fun twists on the ridiculous ultraviolent fun of Sleeping Dog’s combat. The combat in Sleeping Dogs is still leaps and bounds ahead of its rivals in GTA and Saints Row, and never really stops being fun. Since Year of the Snake is very much about recapping the best parts of Sleeping Dogs, we get to do a bit of everything in this DLC, from some fun car and boat chases, to fist fights to gun battles. It’s nice to have a bit of variety, something lacking in the previous two DLCs. This is also the most substantial DLC so far, with a decent number of story missions and a fair bit of side content giving this release good value for money.
The voice acting was never the strongest element of Sleeping Dogs, but it reaches new levels of ridiculous here. Whilst Wei Shen is still convincing, the voice acting for the villainous cultists is hilariously terrible. Whilst this actually contributed to the silly stylised charm of The Zodiac Tournament, it only serves to weaken this somewhat more grounded instalment.
All in all, Year of the Snake is an enjoyable, if disappointingly conservative release for Sleeping Dogs. There are a few really cool ideas floated which don’t really come to anything, which is a shame, and this release really is just more of the same. Maybe that’s what you want though? If it is, Year of the Snake isn’t a bad little purchase, and if you only buy one piece of Sleeping Dogs DLC, make it this one.