Oh Sleeping Dogs/Black Lotus/True Crime: Hong Kong, what a story you have to tell. Back in 2009, it was getting time for the wildly prestigious VMA’s, and abruptly, Activision releases a 15 second teaser trailer. The trailer shows only an Asian fellow but was immediately met with rampant speculation that the teaser was for a new True Crime game, that speculation was quickly killed as it was then revealed that it was for a new Activision product titled Black Lotus. Black Lotus was set to be an open world game set in Hong Kong, and while the development was originally started by Treyarch, they dropped the product to begin work another Call of Duty game.
Shortly after the Block Lotus name floating up, Activision decided to do what the rumors had suggested, entitling the project True Crime: Hong Kong, noting that they thought attaching the name would generate better sales. Which seemed to be questionable statement as the first two True Crimes didn’t tear the world up in any way, be it through sales or just pure quality.
The first in the True Crime series, True Crime: Streets of LA, received mostly positive reviews upon its initial release but has since garnered a pretty strong negative reputation. The opinion now obviously had nothing to with the sales back then as the game sold a solid 5.5 million copies. The drop off came with the release of the sequel, True Crime: New York City. Reviews were mixed, mostly shading towards the negative category, and sales fell off drastically. True Crime: New York City struggled to sale even one million copies, proving that people wanted GTA to fill their open world needs, not True Crime.
While there wasn’t much revealed while True Crime: Hong Kong was being developed, some basic story ideas came out, along with the developer, United Front Games (of Modnation Racers fame). The story elements released were rather bland, but ultimately better than nothing. You are detective Wei Shan and you must infiltrate notorious Hong Kong Triad syndicates, along the way you’d run into “visceral, fast-paced martial arts combat and explosive gunfights, along with high-octane driving sequences and acrobatic free-running chases as they go deeper and deeper undercover.” You infiltrate from within, taking a new job as a thug from one of the Triad syndicates. Bland may not be the best word as there did seem to be some interesting ideas setup, there was just not enough to immediately put True Crime Hong Kong on peoples radars.
Like I mentioned earlier, there wasn’t much info released during Hong Kong’s development. That came to a head on February 9th, 2012 as Activision announced they had cancelled True Crime: Hong Kong. COO Thomas Tippl said: ”While we believe that True Crime would have been a good game, we do not believe that it would have ranked as a top title in the competitive open world genre. Unfortunately, despite significant investment, True Crime was not on track to compete at the highest levels. Given the market dynamics described above, where only the very best titles succeed, we decided to stop development and allow the organization to focus on the many opportunities which lie ahead of us and require our full attention in 2011.
While that is clearly just business speak, attempting to show respect to United Fronts and the True Crime series while also stating the game just wasn’t good enough. Soon after, CEO of Activision Publishing, Eric Hirshberg, said the following: “On my second day at the company, I stood up and said that we want to focus this organization around creative excellence. The decision to stop production on True Crime is based solely on that focus.” This statement is bit more of a shots fired saying than the previous and things didn’t get better as he continued to talk, stating they (Activision) needed to ‘take a clear-eyed look at the reality of this game’s potential.” Later he simply said that True Crime: Hong Kong “just wasn’t going to be good enough.”
Square Enix, however, begged to differ as they picked up United Fronts now nameless project soon after Hong Kong was cancelled. Shortly after the acquisition, the name Sleeping Dogs was born. Since that acquisition, not much has emerged about Sleeping Dogs and since the game is now only two weeks away from release, it’s clear that Sleeping Dogs/True Crime: Hong Kong was near completed when Activision pulled the plug.
The biggest news that has surfaced here lately is that MMA Superstar Georges St-Pierre will be lending his talents (hitting guys?) to the development on Sleeping Dogs. It has never been fully revealed what exactly St-Pierre’s role is, Square has only stated that “St-Pierre is working on an ongoing basis with Sleeping Dogs, consulting on elements in the game as well as sharing insights with the public on the game’s progress.” My guess is he’s showing them how to hit guys real hard.
While it’s something that has never seemed one hundred percent likely, I can safely say that Sleeping Dogs/Black Lotus/True Crime: Hong Kong will come out. Will the game’s quality refect its cumbersome development process is the current question. While I may be getting excited for a failure, I can’t wait to play Sleeping Dogs and see how the game ultimately turns out. We’ll be finding out here soon as Sleeping Hong Kong Lotus releases on August 14th.