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Sleeping Dogs review: Mole-playing

The line between hero and villain is wonderfully blurred in the action role-playing game Sleeping Dogs.

As undercover mole Wei Shen, you are tasked with infiltrating the Sun On Yee triad in a fictionalized and fantastically rendered version of Hong Kong. This simple premise sets up a series of moral dilemmas: Can you push yourself to the limit to gain trust and rise in the triad's hierarchy? Or will you waver and risk blowing your cover?

The role-playing elements consist of upgrades that fall under both police and triad skill trees. The more police tasks you complete, the more experience you gain to improve those skills; the same for triad tasks. This design forces you to choose certain skills at the expense of others, but you also need to maintain balance to throw off suspicion on both ends.

You can travel to various martial arts schools scattered throughout the city to fight, join the street racing circuit or just drive around listening to one of several radio stations.

There is money to be earned betting on cockfights, and you can visit a massage parlor to, um, ease the tension. (Yes, this game is rated Mature.) And then there's a hysterical karaoke minigame: Let's just say there's nothing like a heavily tattooed mob enforcer belting out Air Supply's "All Out of Love."

RATING M for Mature

PLOT Enter the world of the triads

DETAILS Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $60; for PC, $50

BOTTOM LINE It's got some bite

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