Right off the top, I have to tell you Sleeping Dogs is a big game. Like many open world/role-playing games, the side missions aren't totally necessary but the developers at UFG have made exploring all there is to do in Hong Kong very compelling. And that's to say nothing of the stuff that's just fun in and of itself that you'll want to do on your own. As you'll see below, beating up people easily falls into this category. Is it sadistic? Maybe. But don't blame us for what UFG did in making fisticuffs so fun.
With all of that in mind here are a few things that you'll want to do in Sleeping Dogs as you make your way through Hong Kong. There's a lot more, to be sure. This is just the stuff we've identified, early on, that will help you the most as you balance Wei Shen's criminal enterprises and police work.
Stealing for Tran: Tran is going to be your car guy in the city. Call him up whenever you have a clear schedule (no pressing missions for HKPD or your crew) and he’ll tell you what kind of car he wants you to boost and even where to find it. This is a very lucrative business in Sleeping Dogs. Even the raggedy hatchbacks will net you $35000 for just a couple of minutes’ worth of work. All you get is cash for these tasks but there’s nothing wrong with that, right?
Control Your City: Both the Drug Bust side missions and the randomly encountered groups of thugs are good ways to practice your fighting skills and get your upgrade points up without running missions. The Drug Busts come with additional work where you have to use the hacked surveillance cameras to identify drug traffickers. This gives you something to do in your apartments and allows you to keep an eye on shadier parts of town with those closed circuit TV cameras. The random groups of thugs scattered around town are usually “guarding” some lockbox nearby. These boxes have varying amounts of cash in them which is extremely valuable early on. Once you clear them out of an area though, you’ll notice more thugs reappear in those same areas, and they're just itching for another beating.
Become the Master: Find as many of the Jade Statues as you can, as early as you can. Returning these statues to your kung fu instructor lets you upgrade your melee attacks and you will need those new moves to get by. Generally speaking the upgrades are divided between strikes and grappling moves. Following the striking upgrade path you’ll get combo moves that will dispatch of a regular enemy if you land all four to six moves in the combination. This is important because Sleeping Dogs keeps you surrounded with enemies throughout the game and being able to confidently take one guy out with one combo does wonders for you confidence. Seeing a mixture of enemy types (oh yeah, not all thugs are the same) lined up seven or eight deep isn't as daunting when you have upgraded fighting abilities.
Use Your Face: Building up your Face level and your Face meter might be the most important mechanic of Sleeping Dogs. Your level of Face enhances Wei Shen as a man about town. Hitting a certain Face level means the food you eat will offer an even bigger advantage to your damage, health or damage resistance. Your Face level also determines what kind of clothes you can buy (and the upgrades that come with them) and the cars you can buy. Essentially the difference between being a thug, a gangster and a kingpin is your Face. You will be kept looking scrubby and driving common cars if your Face level isn’t high enough.
The biggest advantage that we’ve seen with the Face meter seems to be twofold. First, on things like counter moves, you’ll get fancier looking sequences if your Face meter is high. That is, the same thug can attack you from behind but with a high face meter, your counter move will likely look better and should put the guy down permanently. Second, with your Face meter high enough, bad guys will simply run away after you bash one of their buddies. It’s common for another six or seven thugs to run up on you after you dismiss an initial batch. With a high Face meter you can beat the hell out of one guy in that new group and, if the move is devastating enough (like the leg break combo), the rest of the thugs will simply run away, the fight will end and you’ll get your rewards.