I’ve played through Sleeping Dogs more than a half dozen times and have plowed my way through hordes of goons with the virtual fists and feet of Wei Shen, undercover cop. So take it from me, knowing the ins-and-outs of fist-to-fist (or foot) combat is as necessary as knowing when to pull the trigger. In order to get you better prepared for your first foray into the seedy underworld of Hong Kong, I’ve put together a primer on hand-to-hand combat in Sleeping Dogs.

Gaining Face

Whenever you're forced to practice street dentistry on some thugs, your 'Face' factors into every move. Early into the game, you unlock a Face Meter, a measure of just how intimidating you are. Landing a series of punches, or grappling and pounding someone face-first into the street builds Face. When the Face Meter fills completely, you gain special bonuses that are based around your overall Face Level, and also intimidate nearby thugs, which can prevent them from attacking you while they temporarily cower in fear. 

Note: Face also builds up rapidly during gun battles and can confer significant advantages there.

Starter Techniques

Wei's offensive skills can be essentially divided into two sets: Strikes and Grapples. Additionally, Wei can Counter nearly any incoming attack. The balanced breakfast for any group of thugs you encounter should include all of these.

Strikes: Wei has two types of Strikes, Light and Heavy. Light Strikes can be rapidly delivered, up to five hits in a single combo. Heavy Strikes are slower, more powerful attacks, but can be more easily evaded than Light strikes. Many special techniques you learn throughout the game are executed using combinations of Light and Heavy Strikes. For example, two Light Strikes followed by a Heavy Strike executes the Charge Knee Stun special technique once you've unlocked it.

Grapples: For thugs who can block or evade Strikes, use Grapples. Once you've grabbed onto an enemy, you have some amount of control over them, and can drag them around an area. You can either deliver a few punches, throw them into obstacles or other enemies, or you can combine the two. Later in the game, after unlocking special attacks, a Grappled enemy is almost guaranteed to be a dead one in short order. Wei can unlock special Grapple techniques that involve different bone breaks that stun victims and frightens their friends into inaction. Not only that, but a Grappled enemy can be dragged toward any flashing red object in the vicinity to execute a brutal environmental takedown. Trash dumpsters, security gates, and even table saws can all be turned on your enemies. Be careful though, as some enemies cannot be grappled without being stunned, weakened, or disarmed first.

Counters: Whenever an enemy is about to land a melee attack on Wei, pressing the Counter button just before impact will allow Wei Shen to catch or avoid the attack, and deliver a punishing rebuttal. You can Counter enemy attacks even when in the middle of a basic Strike combo, so always be alert for those opportunities. Attempting to counter too early or too late only results in taking a hit, so your timing has to be precise. Counters are especially important, as they allow you to disarm opponents wielding melee weapons. Take this into account any time you see enemies approaching with weapons.

Free-running and Sprinting

There are a number of Strikes and Grapples that can be executed from a sprint, dealing pretty good damage to your targets. You can instantly disarm enemies by tackling them as you use a free-running Action Vault over a piece of cover to bring them to the ground, or you can sprint into a nearby wall lash out with a vicious kick.

Advanced Technique and Upgrades

Wei Shen is an undercover cop, so as you may expect, he’s had a great deal of martial arts training. As you go through the game, however, you can unlock many special melee attacks that enhance his overall effectiveness. The nice thing about the upgrade system in Sleeping Dogs is that you've got some freedom to pick which techniques you want to unlock first. Here are a few suggestions for getting off on the right foot… or fist.

Leg Break: This move can inflict high damage, stun the victim, and force nearby enemies to cringe at sight of a victim with a broken leg. It’s a great, all-around upgrade that can often give you an intimidating advantage in battle.

Stun Strike Follow-Up: A perfect compliment to the Leg Break, this lets Wei unleash a powerful kick into a stunned opponent. There are plenty of situations where this can be useful, so this is a special technique worth unlocking as early as possible.

Surprise Exchange: This move lets you flip over the backs of your opponents to get in a few good shots to their back. 

Melee Weapon Sprint Attack: Melee weapons can change the dynamic of any brawl, but this upgrade turns them into exceedingly powerful items in Wei's hands. This attack can flatten almost any thug it hits.

Bringing (or taking someone else's) Guns to a Gunfight

If you want to use a firearm, you have to find it in the field or in the hands of criminals. Sometimes, you may start a mission unarmed, and this goes well enough until you run across a group of enemies who are packing heat. You can't Counter or Grapple bullets, so keep your eyes open for a foe toting a gun to even the playing field.

Gunplay in the game is fast-paced, and still incorporates elements for the melee combat system, particularly with disarming enemies and the use of free-running elements. Take this into account during firefights. You can play it safe behind cover - and many times you will need to – but always look for an opportunity to incorporate hand-to-hand techniques in a gun battle. Not only will you save bullets, but you’ll make full use of all of Wei Shen’s combat abilities.

Upgrades for Gun Battles

Fast Disarm: Sometimes you need a gun quick, or maybe someone else has a better gun than you. This lets you acquire it much faster. Spend an upgrade point on this early on.

Slow-Motion Follow-Up: This allows you to not only take the gun from an enemy, but immediately puts you into bullet time so you can blast him and any of his buddies nearby.

Action Dismount: This move allows you to leap out of a speeding car and immediately aim your gun. You'll slip into bullet time, and your next shots are automatically aimed at the car, which causes it to explode. 

Hopefully this gets you combat-ready for Sleeping Dogs, while also giving you some idea on what to expect when the game finally hits your preferred gaming platform. In my next blogs, I'll cover the various upgrade trees for melee and ranged combat, and how you can go about earning the experience points needed to unlock those upgrades.