Sleeping Dogs is easily going to make my top games of 2012. It came out of nowhere after a rough development cycle, and managed to move the genre forward while retaining its own personal charm. When they first announced story mode DLC for the game was coming I was excited. Any excuse to jump back into the game was enough for me. Nightmare in North Point is a secluded side-story that focuses on paranormal activities in the world of Sleeping Dogs, which, as ridiculous as it sounds, ends up working within the fiction.
The premise of the DLC is wacky to say the least. Once again you take the role of Wei Shen as the area of North Point has been overrun by ‘Jiang Shi’ or Chinese vampires. The main villain referred to as ‘Smiley Cat’ is actually former Sun On Yee member Big Scar Wu. Now, as legend tells, Big Scar Wu became such a problem for the Sun On Yee that he was eventually stabbed 42 times and ground up at the Smiley Cat cat food plant, thus literally becoming meals for feline locals. In Nightmare he has returned to North Point to wreak havoc because he never received a proper burial; and he is taking Wei Shen on personally by stealing his girlfriend.
Yeah, it is a lot to swallow, but if you have played Sleeping Dogs, you know that the game has a loose sense of humor to it, so this works. It is worth noting that if you have not completed the main game’s story, you might want to hold off. There are a few spoilers involving character deaths in this DLC; just a fair warning. It is also worth noting that the DLC stands apart from the core game. Once installed you are greeted by an option in the main menu for whether you want to play the core game or Nightmare in North Point. This means any side missions you haven’t completed are not available, but that is OK because Nightmare has its own set to keep you occupied.
The DLC consists of around 2-3 hours of gameplay depending on how much of the side stuff you decide to do. If you rush through the main story portion, you can finish it in under two hours easily. While I really enjoyed the narrative, the mechanics wear out fairly quickly. The DLC focuses on the combat portion, which shines in Sleeping Dogs, but also was only part of it. A lot of the cool mission structures and side parts are absent here.
To compensate, they have changed up the combat a bit. Early on, you discover a new enemy type that requires Chinese magic to take down. Once you find the ingredients and drink the potion, you gain a new meter that basically turns your fist into blue flames of punching power. This is a mechanic that gets old, because you have to fight regular enemies to build up the flames which are the only thing that can take down the larger enemies. You constantly get mixed up in the chaos, swinging at the large enemy, which in turn causes you to dodge and leaves you open for attack.
This wouldn’t be so bad if the DLC mixed things up a bit. Unfortunately even some of the side missions require you to close portals with the same mix of combat, making Nightmare feel entirely one dimensional. The collectibles scattered around the city are shrines that increase your chances of setting enemies on fire with your blue fists of fury. There really is a focus on this one mechanic, that sadly takes away a lot of what makes Sleeping Dogs so much fun.
I don’t want to sound like a downer on the DLC. There is still a lot to love. The dialogue is once again amazing, and kudos to the team for the Michael Jackson reference at the end of it. Truly epic. It is also an excuse to boot up Sleeping Dogs, which for me is always a good thing. The combat is solid, even if it gets overused a bit in this DLC. Nightmare in North Point is a nice compliment to the core game, and I hope they continue to support it in the coming months. The price tag for what you get here feels just a bit steep, but if you are like me and simply love playing around in the world of Sleeping Dogs, I think you will definitely enjoy it.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.