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Chinatown: Videogames versus reality

Thanks to the likes of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, as well as certain films - Chinatown and Blade Runner in particular - every action game/film is practically required to feature a Chinatown. It’s not usually the Chinatown you see in real-life - a thriving community and marketplace built upon a delightful hybrid of Chinese and Western culture – no, it’s all neon signs and gangsters, dragon statues and tile roofs. A lot of tile roofs. And it's usually in the future or something.


Above: Blade Runner, influencing everything remotely sci-fi, dystopian and neonoir since 1982

I don’t mean to imply that the real thing is devoid of any of that – it just isn't necessarily the essence of "Chinatown." But, to welcome the release of GTA: Chinatown Wars, we're taking a look at these cultural microcosms through the lens of videogame fantasy - and possibly offending the majority of the world's population in the process. Herah!

Revenge of Shinobi

This Genesis (and now Wii Virtual Console) classic is well-known for its stellar soundtrack and general absurdity (including an appearance by Hattori Hanzo himself, Sonny Chiba!). You are Joe Musashi, and by Round 6 you've battled samurai, ninjas, soldiers, and attack dogs - now it's time to take on the gangs of Chinatown.


Above: Chinatown: it's full of red signs that say "China."

Everything's going great. There are lots of red signs and canopies (which, if you've seen any kung fu movie, you know are great for catching you when you fall from tall buildings)...

And then this happens:


Above: WTF Batman?

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare DLC

CoD 4's downloadable map pack contains a recreation of San Francisco's Chinatown - uncharacteristic for a game primarily set in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the map does a decent job of capturing the feel of SF's famous district, if not the exact layout.


Above: CoD's interpretation isn't quite glowy enough, but it's not bad. Not sure why a bunch of soldiers are teabagging each other in downtown San Francisco though. (Photo by liangjinjian - Flickr)

Dead to Rights

Dead to Rights is like Max Payne in pretty much every way, excepting that Max Payne didn't have enough Chinatown to be a proper noir crime drama. After a rather nasty car wreck, our gruff hero heads to Chinatown to stock up on weapons (because Chinatown is naturally full of weapons - not just the lame replicas in souvenir shops). Check out the sweet dialog:

25 comments

  • Ravenbom - March 19, 2009 12:14 a.m.

    Real Life Side Note: Don't eat anywhere in the LA Chinatown. You're better off going to Panda Express. The San Francisco Chinatown has much better food. (Some of the best I've ever had, in fact) I've lived in LA 10 years and I've had better Chinese food in Alaska than I have here.
  • JoeMasturbaby - March 18, 2009 9:13 p.m.

    no tony hawk's proskater?? that was an awful chinatown, so bad it deserves a mention.
  • oryandymackie - March 18, 2009 7:25 p.m.

    "babo_u_da", I thought that at first when I saw the "latest article" box, but this isn't about the GTA game, it's just a stereotype in literally every game out there
  • babo_u_da - March 18, 2009 2:13 a.m.

    @TylerWilde: well that makes much more sense now, thx for explaining
  • MoChilla - March 18, 2009 1:14 a.m.

    yeah cracka, woozy and the casino
  • mastereper - March 18, 2009 1:11 a.m.

    I like Call of duty s Chinatown alot, I thinks its cool facing off against some friends in an urban envirorment, also I believe more urban maps should be created for the upcoming call of duty (if there is one).
  • cracker33 - March 17, 2009 11:20 p.m.

    What about Grand Theft Auto San Andreas? It had a Chinatown area.
  • xFnKxTaLeNtx - March 17, 2009 11:15 p.m.

    good article seems that game china towns are just as unsafe as the real ones
  • ToughGuy - March 17, 2009 11:12 p.m.

    Although completely irrelevant, I thought that Call of Duty, did a good job recreating Chinatown, but what do I know?
  • babo_u_da - March 17, 2009 9:47 p.m.

    i wonder why a ds game is a 360 feature?
  • Defguru7777 - March 21, 2009 9:08 p.m.

    I LOLed at the Madworld Asiantown. That's what they called it in Family Guy.
  • MoonPig - March 19, 2009 9:39 p.m.

    "OMG! Oxymoron!" LOL, ROFL and, oh the hell with it, LOL!!!!
  • WonsAuto - March 19, 2009 5:10 p.m.

    I actually used to have Jackie Chan: Stuntmaster. I enjoyed it back then, I loved using giant, stiff fish as weapons, lol.
  • noobeater - March 18, 2009 8:35 p.m.

    True Lies = Great film but never knew there was game based on it loled at the oxymoron thing good article tho i too am left wandering why GTA wasnt mentioned oh and lol at the chuck noris reference
  • Monkey - March 18, 2009 12:30 p.m.

    WTF Batman?
  • the_real_fluke - March 18, 2009 8:32 a.m.

    I can't believe that GTA is unrepresented here
  • FistfulofPelican - March 18, 2009 8:29 a.m.

    Wasn't there a Chinatown level in Gex? Surely that's less obscure than Jackie Chan: Stuntmaster. Still, I can't fault an article for not having enough Gex.
  • TrIp13G - March 18, 2009 3:46 a.m.

    No One Lives Forever 2 had a whole level in kind of a Japanese village, however it could've been mistaken for a Chinatown in certain aspects. Except for the dirt roads. And the abodes. And the Ninja-Ladies. Alright, maybe it's not the best example, but damn it, at least I tried.
  • understudybass - March 18, 2009 1:45 a.m.

    the CoD map is just a remake of Carentan from CoD 2 for anyone who's interested.
  • NAVI310 - March 18, 2009 12:02 a.m.

    yea wat about like every GTA

Showing 1-20 of 25 comments

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