SLEEPING DOGS Wait. This isn't a sequel to Nintendogs?

IMAGINE A VIRTUAL HONG KONG where you can steal cars, beat up thugs, and flee police cruisers. Imagine that this world offers a melee fighting engine that rivals the best beat-'em-ups ever made, and that you're routinely given the chance to impale foes on swordfish heads or slam some jerk's face through a million-gallon fish tank. Imagine that you then pick up one of the fish and proceed to beat the next guy to death with it. This, in sum, is what Sleeping Dogs is all about.

The game—which had been canceled two separate times by Activision before Square Enix decided to publish it—unfortunately bears the scars of its troubled development. United Front Games attempted to pare down the game from its original, more high-concept iteration, but players will still readily notice plot threads that go nowhere, characters who should play a bigger part in the game, and the occasional physics glitch. Normally this would be enough to sink a game, but despite its flaws Sleeping Dogs is incredibly fun and stylish. Did I mention that you can hijack moving cars by leaping from the driver's seat of one onto the back of another? Yeah, that's totally in there, and further impresses upon players that instead of attempting to meld Grand Theft Auto with John Woo, the developers of Sleeping Dogs were hoping to create a virtual Hong Kong action flick, with all the theatricality and over-the-top machismo that might suggest.

If it weren't for the game's technical flaws, I'd easily put it above Grand Theft Auto IV. I'm still convinced that Saints Row: The Third is the most entertaining open-world game available, but Sleeping Dogs just offers so many cool and novel things to do: Swiping cars is old hat, but swiping a cop's gun as he's pointing it at you and leaving him bound with his own handcuffs? Unless you're Jackie Chan, that's new. And undeniably awesome.