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:


  • Cyberninja - March 17, 2009 9:46 p.m.

    great article and first,second,and thrid
  • RebornKusabi - March 17, 2009 9:48 p.m.

    Fun fact- The China Town boss fight in Revenge of Shinobi WAS ABSOLUTELY a fight between you vs. Batman and Spider-Man. The game was re-released a year later after Sega obtained a licensing deal with Sega so they could legally have Spider-Man but the re-release took out Batman and made it to look like what is on that screen shot on this article. Aside from Wikipedia, I know about this because I got the original game through... certain means 4 years ago. I have already taken up too much time so I will just say that if that piques your interest, I would look into getting the original version of the game on Ebay or Amazon- aside from this cool fact, you also fight GODZILLA AS WELL! Good game :)
  • RebornKusabi - March 17, 2009 9:56 p.m.

    Oh hey! The Wilde-Thing wrote this article, sweet! You write the most interesting articles on this site in my opinion. I'm not saying this because you sent a friend request to me but I have been on this site for 2 years now and your articles are actually very interesting (In a good way) to me. Love it man! Keep up the good work.
  • GamesRadarTylerWilde - March 17, 2009 9:59 p.m.

    @babo_u_da: Features that are not about one specific game are generally tagged to all platforms. This feature, for example, references games on several platforms - Genesis, Xbox, PS2, Wii, etc. - not just GTA: Chinatown Wars. @RebornKusabi: I was going to include a screen of Spiderman, but realized I was beginning to make half of the article about Revenge of Shinobi... there's just so much to talk about with that game. Also, my captcha was "by Norris." Chuck Norris just prevented spam.
  • Unoriginal - March 17, 2009 10:46 p.m.

    I pressed play on the Dead to Rights video. "Something smelled fishy, and it wasn't the sushi bar" I got couldn't make it farther than that. Ive never been in a Chinatown outside of video gaming, there arent many around where Im from:(
  • NAVI310 - March 18, 2009 12:02 a.m.

    yea wat about like every GTA
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • the_real_fluke - March 18, 2009 8:32 a.m.

    I can't believe that GTA is unrepresented here
  • Monkey - March 18, 2009 12:30 p.m.

    WTF Batman?
  • 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
  • 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.
  • MoonPig - March 19, 2009 9:39 p.m.

    "OMG! Oxymoron!" LOL, ROFL and, oh the hell with it, LOL!!!!
  • Defguru7777 - March 21, 2009 9:08 p.m.

    I LOLed at the Madworld Asiantown. That's what they called it in Family Guy.
  • babo_u_da - March 17, 2009 9:47 p.m.

    i wonder why a ds game is a 360 feature?
  • 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?
  • xFnKxTaLeNtx - March 17, 2009 11:15 p.m.

    good article seems that game china towns are just as unsafe as the real ones
  • cracker33 - March 17, 2009 11:20 p.m.

    What about Grand Theft Auto San Andreas? It had a Chinatown area.
  • 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).

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