I wasn't a fan. -I did like how they handled the navigation while driving.-I did not like how all the combat felt like pointless button mashing.
Spot on the hand to hand fighting was awful, my fingers just ached, the gun fights were sparse aswell ,and the cops were worse than GTA...
It defintely wasn't button-mashing. There was definite button combos with counter attacks. And you could move, counter and it was fast, responsive and rewarding.
As for the gun-fights, I think it was welcome that they were sparse. Although the game isn't realistic, I think it was more realistic that in the sense that the likelihood of gun shootouts is minimal. Feuds and street brawls normally get resolved with combat, especially since half of the time you are a cop. When it came to gun violence, you had limited ammo and you never keep a cache of weapons on you like in GTA. I don't mind carrying a mental amount of weapons in GTA, I can suspend my disbelief of carrying multiple big guns on me but Sleeping Dogs map was smaller, more interactive and the hand-to-hand combat, coupled with it's deep martial arts fighting system, enticed you out of your vehicle and it complimented the story and map.
In GTA, some missions fighting gangs and completing objectives, can be done by never leaving your vehicle. Disputes are rarely settled by the fist of some non-gun weapon. This was a welcome change for me in Sleeping Dogs. It was like these beautiful set-pieces reminiscent of the films it's influenced by.
Sleeping Dogs is more like an open-world evolution of the game The Warriors than a competitor to GTA. Although if it was a GTA, I think it's more comparable to GTA IV than anything else. Smaller map, more detail in regards to fighting and not being in a vehicle or travelling great distance by vehicle to compete objectives. It had more hand to hand objectives and relies of face to face confrontation than anything else.
Having said that, I know people on here have wanted more of that style in GTA. But I like GTA being vehicular-centric but I do wish GTA would focus on advanced combat over, "drive here - kill X and Y". I would like a more detailed city where I'm enticed out of my car to get in to some fights and maybe the cops don't come shooting so quickly.
As for the driving, yes, it could have improved. I think of it like this: GTA is vehicle-centric as so missions can be completed as so. Hand to hand combat is cheap in GTA. It's not it's best feature. SD is the opposite. Hand to hand is encouraged and vehicles are a means of transport and interactive to beat your opponents are you street brawl.