When a game’s trailer opens with a huge Chinese cleaver entering the frame, you know things are about to get ugly. That they are, and giant cleavers are only the beginning.

Sleeping Dogs is the game in question, and its new trailer is ostensibly designed to get potential players up to speed on the gameplay possibilities it will offer this August. Along the way, viewers are treated to one scene of brutally horrific violence after another. Plus, karaoke and, naturally, “ladies.” Welcome to Sleeping Dogs 101.

United Front Games, miles away from its kid-friendly work on ModNation Racers and the upcoming LittleBigPlanet Karting, brought in mixed martial arts champion Georges St-Pierre to help with Sleeping Dogs‘ combat. I may not be up on current MMA rules, but I’d hazard a guess that crushing an opponant’s head with an engine block is not allowed, so we’ll assume that GSP didn’t contribute that particular move to the game. Nevertheless, engine-block-head-crushing is on full display in the new Sleeping Dogs trailer.

In fact, the game seems to take special delight in the trauma it allows players to inflict on the craniums of their foes. Heads in the trailer get bludgeoned with payphones, slammed in car doors, hacked with cleavers and, finally, set on fire. By comparison, Sleeping Dogs‘ cockfighting (!) seems positively quaint.

If you’ve yet to check out the Sleeping Dogs 101 trailer at the top of the page, now would be a fine time to do so. For a less gruesome look at the game, check out the collection of screenshots below.

“For extra impact, use objects — as you would in a real street fight.” Priceless.

Sensationalized though it may be — and captured with some suspiciously dynamic camera work — the combat in Sleeping Dogs does look leagues more interesting than the bare bones brawling open-world titles usually offer. Whether it will have the same impact, visually or otherwise, for players actually working through the game remains to be seen, but the promise of a fully fleshed out set of combat mechanics is intriguing — almost like a hyper-violent take on Shenmue.

For that matter, United Front Games’ ongoing history with racing titles makes me awfully curious about that aspect of Sleeping Dogs. ModNation Racers this clearly is not, but as with combat, the developers have an opportunity here to really elevate an element of open-world games — in this case, driving — that, in many titles, barely qualifies as adequate. Is United Front Games up to the challenge? What do you think?

Sleeping Dogs releases August 14, 2012, for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

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