Welcome to this week’s article of The Good, Bad, and What The?, where we took a good, long look at characters in movies, video games, anime, and books and put them on the judgement table to see if they are worthy to be in their respective stories. I strongly believe that well developed characters are more important than anything else in a good story, so I always judge them hard. At the end of every character’s evaluation I will give them one of four ratings: Good for those characters that are developed and deserve their place in the story, Bad for those characters that have no place being made or interacting with anyone else in the story, What The for the characters I just can’t figure out, and then the characters who are dull as dishwasher will get the rating of Sack of Potatoes. Today on the judgement table: Wei Shen, the main character of the open world game “Sleeping Dogs.”
“Sleeping Dogs” takes place in Hong Kong, where you as Wei Shen infiltrate the triads and go under cover. Your mission is to become good buddies with the triads’ higher ups and basically destroy the triad known as the Sun On Yee from the inside. As you weave through their ranks things, go south, and fast. People get murdered, arrested, shot, tortured and things slowly go into more and more chaos. You must try to fight through this chaos and stay focused on your mission while also not being expected as a cop. On top of this double life, Wei has a rough history.
Early in the game, you learn some back story to our Asian kung fu police warrior. On side note, hey, we got a non white main character that’s something.
Editor’s Note: Representation is hella and I love it.
Anyway, we learn that Wei was a Sun On Yee when he was younger while living in Hong Kong. He and his sister get into some bad trouble with the Sun On Yee and their mom decided to move to America. Wei’s sister got into a bad situation with a gang member called Dogeyes. Dogeyes was giving her heroin and taking advantage of her as payment for said heroine, so Wei’s mom hoped moving to the states will solve Mimi’s problem. Mimi however ends up dying from heroin anyway and for whatever reason Wei moves back to Hong Kong and becomes a cop. And that’s it. That is all the backstory you ever get on Wei, and it doesn’t really affect much. It gives Wei a vendetta on Dogeyes but you kill him pretty early on, so after that there is very little that is affected by Wei’s backstory. They also never explain why Wei actually came back to Hong Kong or why he is a cop. Unless I totally missed something, I saw nothing talking about it beyond the initial information and that was really depressing. There was room for them to make some interesting flashback cutscene or missions or maybe even have him talk to an old friend something along those lines but none of this happens. The only person who asks about Wei’s past in his kung fu teacher and Wei usually answers with something along the lines of “I don’t want to talk about it” and then his teacher replies in some stereotypical movie based kung fu master proverb nonsense. So you sit there getting annoyed because the game actually teases about Wei’s life and then you get a big plate of nothing. So they missed the chance with background information so let’s look ahead at how he is as an undercover cop.
To put it simply, Wei Shen is the worst undercover cop in the history of law enforcement. The amount of people you murder, gun down, steal from, beat the life out of, and just generally rip apart is ridiculous. Now, this is an open world game and the player is free to murder, beat up, run over, as much as they want like “GTA”. I get that. I’m not talking about the free roaming chaos, I’m talking about the mission based story stuff. In the beginning, you don’t have fire arms you are mostly just fist fighting guys with your kung fu skills. You aren’t really doing anything super wrong, you’re just playing your part and acting like a triad member. At a certain point though your triad buddies want to see you kill people to prove yourself, so you get a gun and you do so. After that, it is totally fair game. There is a huge number of missions where you simply gun down massive amounts of enemy triad members. Using the special environmental attacks, you can do things like drop a car motor on a man crushing his entire chest cavity and killing him instantly. Alright maybe that could all be just argued of as “it’s just game mechanics they don’t count toward the story.” Normally I would agree with that argument, however, there are a few reasons I can’t here. First off, the other characters recognize all of the people you kill they talk about it. The better part though is that in the final mission two of the main enemies you kill in a rather brutal way and these are story relevant. One guy you shove his own machete into his chest and stomach multiple times which is better but the last game of the game is the worst. You throw the guy into an ice chipper and stand there as he literally gets shredded into mince meat.
Okay, so why do I have problem with the fact you are a cop that commits awful huge crimes? Well, because after it all, you are still a cop! Wei has no qualms with the things he did, nothing like PTSD, and he keeps his job no problem and gets praised for success in taking down the Sun On Yee. This makes no sense at all for his character or the story! You also do things like vandalism, breaking and entering, and high speed robbery just to add to it. All is good, though, Wei, you can keep your job. It’s no biggie. This had me flabbergasted. So mentioning the fact that Wei had no mental issues from this I think I should talk about his mental state.
There are several scenes where Wei wakes up freaked out cause he had the words of other people running through his head. They try to make him appear like this is all shaking him up big time. They even mention Wei has some mental stress issues. However, at the end of the game, all of this is out of the window! Wei is perfectly fine, no issues or mental strain, no trouble physically nothing. He is happy old Wei having done a good job in his massive murder and triad take down. It makes no sense and basically contradicts original points made about his character. There is also the fact he is a supreme human being who can take a shotgun shell to the shoulder and then proceed to parkour chase a man down and beat him up. He also after getting tortured horribly pulls out some kung fu and beats up a ton of thugs. It is supposed to make him seem cool, but really is just ridiculous that someone could be that super human and yet is supposed to be just a regular human being.
Basically the game tries to make itself very over the top and crazy and tries to really make you feel like an awesome undercover warrior while still having a sensible story with an interesting main character. Instead, the game created a main character that contradicts himself and confuses you.
So Wei Shen’s verdict…yeah it’s Bad. He was character that did not get built up or developed and basically was just there for the sake of violence. He was a character that felt more like a conduit for your emotions rather than a character of his own. It’s clear they were trying to do a story about a descent into madness, but it feels like they didn’t commit that fully. I did have some feels during the game, but none at all for Wei Shen. I wouldn’t mind a character like this if they didn’t try to make him appear serious and have a reason for what he was doing. Don’t give a meaning to all of the crazy violence if you can’t give meaning to it well and don’t try to make me like a main character when you clearly have no intention of filling him in with interesting story or development. All that aside, the game itself is very good and very entertaining and I actually kind of liked the story. If you just take out Wei Shen and pretend he is just a machine of murder there are some good points in the story line.