I've finished the game including the DLCs a week ago and I would give it an overall mediocre impression it.
The best part about the game, for me, comes from the Cantonese voice acting that started off strong but then the slid off half way to almost weak later. I can somewhat feel the Hong Kong vibe when the Cantonese is spoken about 40-50% in dialogues during the beginning but it almost stopped and dripped in here and there at the end of the game. It's almost as if the writers only had the dialogues ready but didn't have enough time to know where to swap out the English. I would much rather have the Cantonese spoken 99% time with English dripped in but I guess it would be tough for developers, probably predominantly English, to assess the quality of the spoken dialogue especially when there might be some what of a time crunch as the game finishes up. However, for where it is spoken, it was spoken with native accent and those sounded genuine with quality voice acting to go along. Too bad, this is probably the best part from the presentation. All else, such as the city landscape, Hong Kong traffic, the buildings, produced what I thought was mediocrity. Sure the shop vendors, the small alley ways, and towering apartments give a local sense, but I think nearly all of them can be done better. The crowds can be crowdier, the traffic should give you the sense of that it should always be there (not so much that it prevents the player from driving through) and not be empty roads at times, and the city noise wasn't exactly city noise. Everything just felt painted on and should be only observed from a distance or with a picturesque snapshot. Everything feels like it could just be better.
The 2nd best part, I'll give it to the story. It gave the movie vibe from Martin Scorsese's Departed (2006 imdb 8.5) or a native Hong Kong film that it was based on, Internal Affairs (2002 imdb 8.0). I'm not too much of a movie watcher, but I think the story's premise is one of the unique aspects here. Play as native Hong Konger, Wei Shun, who moved to the US and returned, act as an undercover agent for the Hong Kong Police Department (HKPD) to infiltrate local gangs in attempts to bring down the big guys. While this was found to be in both films, what's unique is that at some point of the infiltration Wei Shun's climb in the gang's organization had both HKPD and himself wondering about where his loyalty lies. It didn't help when the gangs were composed of some childhood friends he cared for too. Although this presented itself as a fork in the road, the developers didn't allow the players to choose sides. The story just played out, and I don't think that's a bad or a good thing.
Overall, the story was intriguing enough for me to continue the game, but I felt like it was missing so much potential. The childhood friends had little to no backdrops to feel Wei Shun's history. They were just told that they were friends and the game had Wei Shun bonded to them like magnets snapping together. Joining and gaining the local gang's trust as well as the sense of unity felt extremely fast paced. You just physically follow your childhood friend's footsteps with ensuing dialogue, and voila, you're in! Do some missions and climb the gang ladder to meet newer characters, and drop the old ones. No time to feel the bonding with your initial characters, and income the newer guys that had you wondering Who's this guy and why should I care?
The character of Wei Shun on his own should be changing along, but didn't feel like it. The game had him struggling with new events while he operated with them, but everything felt unblended. For example, the game has these "dreams" as he wakes up. They were just some replay of past in-game dialogues right before he shook himself awake. I think the devs were trying to add to Wei Shun's sense of stress and danger. However, after we wakes up, everything is fine as the day before. Wei Shun's conversations within story hasn't changed, and he goes about his missions like any other day. Another is when Wei Shun meets up with his HKPD guys to update or get updates. The great voice acting presented great increase in drama in each subsequent meeting, but after those cut scenes, the same thing remains. Wei Shun is fine, time to continue the missions. It's almost as if all these dramatic moments were just dropped in, acted out well, but once they end, they don't change Wei Shun in any way. His voice show no tiredness, apprehension, nor doubts. He maintained an almost too good of a poker face with the gangs, and felt static in a world of extreme transience.
The gameplay is what I'm most ambivalent about. It introduced the combat to be intuitive, fun, and environmentally interactive. The restrictive Hong Kong/China law makes the firearms short in supply so you make use of your appendages mostly. Attacks can be augmented with dangers all around you such as mushing a guy's face into a ventilation fan or swinging a guy's back onto a hook. However, they get tiresome even as you unlock more moves. At these brawls, I just find myself to do as much environmental damage for 1 hit kills as possible to shorten the time spent doing these fights. Too bad, not all environments have enough of these for every one of the people you fight, so you'll have to end it with your fists. I didn't find it to be that fun. When you unlock guns, it's pretty much the same shooting mechanics but worse. You can't change your camera angle to the top left or right. Even picking from cover to the left some times has the camera bugged such that you're staring at the your cover from the right shoulder. Beyond these you have some car chasing, foot chasing, and boat chasing. They're nothing to write home about except that you sometimes have to shoot at enemy car/motorcycle tires while driving just to watch waves and waves of upended vehicles, or hijacking another vehicle while hopping out from your own. In my opinion, even as I got used to the controls later on, they're still one of the worse controls that I've ever utilized. I hate driving so much that I do everything possible to catch a taxi so that I can fast travel, and even catching one of them can even be a pain in the ass. I hated driving.
Lastly, if I didn't accidentally phone one of those "date" missions, I wouldn't have found so much hate for the UI. Knowing how much I hate driving and love to use the fast travel taxi services, I discovered that you can't actually fast travel to your destination outside of the main/secondary missions. I phoned this Amanda girl in game and I was supposed to climb this mountain of a drive up to find her at some closed off carnival or something. It didn't have an icon for me to click on to fast travel from the taxi! I had to drive up this winding, twisting bullshit of a mountain for me to go up there and take pictures for her blog. The date was only memorable from how much I hated driving there. This alone made me really angry about the game. Don't do that mission.
I would say that this game had all the ingredients of a great story with interesting characters, but it wasn't cooked well. If that it was, I would've forgiven all else even the driving. I would recommend it to those who wants to get some feel of a GTA at Hong Kong, but don't get your hopes up. From all those >90% Steam reviews and 4.5s GOG reviews, I was left only with an Okay impression. As for those DLC missions, if you don't like the game play but are intrigued by the story, don't play them.
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