After playing Sleeping Dogs for a few minutes, it's hard to believe that it had a troubled development, even being cancelled at one point.
It seemed like the title - a spiritual successor to the ho-hum True Crime franchise - had every obstacle thrown in its way.
Nevertheless, we're happy that it's finally seen the light of day, because it's a strong contender for game of the year.
The main protagonist, Wei Shen, is an undercover cop trying to infiltrate the Chinese triads of Hong Kong – by any means necessary.
The storyline is one of the better yarns we've encountered, charting Wei's story as he tries to balance his triad life and real job.
The narrative is helped enormously by the people you'll encounter, such as your old friend Jackie, your police handlers and triad boss Uncle Po. The admirable voice-acting also helps to elevate the characters above being shallow avatars.
Once you've completed the prologue missions, Hong Kong opens up to you, and boy, does it look pretty.
With loads of neon lights, detailed interiors and busy sidewalks, Sleeping Dogs certainly looks the part.
The rain effects also stand out, often resulting in a variety of kaleidoscopic reflections as you muck about the city. There are some other nifty touches too, such as blood stains on Wei's clothing after a fight. It all comes together to create a very gritty, distinctive style.
But of course, there's more to Sleeping Dogs than gorgeous visuals, and the title has gameplay in bucketloads.
The King of (Hong) Kong
Owing to Hong Kong's ban on guns (yes, that's been taken into account), there's a huge emphasis on hand-to-hand combat, being inspired by the Arkham titles. It's incredibly satisfying and brutal, with players stringing together light attacks, heavy attacks and grapples to deal damage.
The ability to counter at the touch of a button, is another integral part of fighting, triggering some spectacular animations. And it's a simple feature too, with enemies glowing red a second before hitting you.
Another innovative aspect is the use of your surroundings to deal damage. The environmental attacks vary wildly, from ramming enemies into a wall to tossing a thug into a fan, red mist spewing everywhere (yeah, this game can get bloody).
Players can also bring statues to their sensei, unlocking new moves in the process, such as a violent leg break and other brutal attacks.
Fear not though, as there are also loads of opportunities to open fire and waste some low-lives, with a few pistols, shotguns, assault rifles and sub-machine guns at your disposal now and again.
There's also your requisite cover system in place, and, while it's nothing special, gets the job done anyway. One neat trick is the ability to slide over these obstacles, stylishly popping baddies in the process or disarming them.
The only downside is that the guns can't be bought anywhere. So, you seldom hold onto weapons for very long. Sure, we understand the whole gun ban, but it would've been convenient if we had a gun stash or an illicit arms dealer around...
Taking its cues from Hong Kong and Chinese cinema, on-foot action is the call of the day, with players free-running across rooftops, hopping over railings and sliding over cars.
While it's no Assassin's Creed in this regard, the proceedings are smooth enough anyway, with players rhythmically tapping a button to negotiate obstacles.
These sections often culminate in a punch-up with some baddies. Not that there's anything bad about that – the fighting is that addictive.
That's not to say the driving side of things is neglected, featuring a variety of cars, bikes and boats. Controls are responsive, while the driving mechanics are firmly rooted in arcade territory.
Police chases are loads of fun too, with players able to comically ram other cars off the road at the touch of a button. Is it realistic? No. Was it satisfying as hell? Sure!
The same applies to the street racing missions, with players encouraged to ram other competitors off the road. The car chase sections are just as fun too, with players able to lean out of their cars and shoot at other cars, resulting in a pretty fireworks display. It's all pretty slick, with the game going into slow-mo as you open fire.
Once you've completed the lengthy storyline, there are still side-missions and spot quests dotted throughout the world. It's by no means as comprehensive as that of Red Dead Redemption or Skyrim, but it'll keep you busy yet.
While Sleeping Dogs doesn't have any traditional multiplayer modes, players can take on each other to break records. For instance, I found myself spending more than a few minutes trying to beat the record for longest bout of clean driving. It's oddly addictive, bringing to mind the "just-one-more-go" nature of the Trials series.
Yes, Sleeping Dogs is inspired by many titles, but the sum of the game is easily better than its individual inspirations.
United Front Games has done a fantastic job resurrecting Sleeping Dogs, and Activision must surely be kicking itself for selling the game's rights to Square-Enix.
Score: 9 out of 10