Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Objet trouvé: Message in a Bottleneck

"Hit Start when you're back on the streets, then go to System, then arrow left to New Game."

Synopsis Sophomore Jet Li meets Hymon Roth and gets pixelated for tiny screen. Space opera without up. Campbell's condensed car chases. I Love Lucy Liu, without Lucy Liu. Crouching hidden tiger dragon bobbleheads. No discernible sex. The nightmare everyone's had, helpless and lost in a maze of unfamiliar streets in an unrecognizable city. (Oh, sure, the minotaur you hear creeping up on you is your own beating heart, but we'll leave that for Psych 102.)

I can usually tell in 15 minutes whether I'll like a particular game, but Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars had me groping for the reset button in 15 seconds. This sucks! How do I start over!!?? Where's my @$%#! INVENTORY??!! Where's the REAL instruction manual?? Universal experience, evidently, getting sucked into profanity. Is there nothing to like?

First, I like the Chinatown angle, not so much the Chop Socky ethnic cliches. Second, I think it's odd that nobody talks about the game, only about the game interface — the controls are hidden, but complete, maybe (where's that inventory?!) No hand holding! Is there a conspiracy of silence, or is everyone just reamed out about how thick this load really is? My theory is, Rockstar deliberately chose a 1980's style of human interface guidelines to filter out intelligent young adults with modern expectations, before they're propositioned by the allegedly ubiquitous hookers.

I suspect this Nintendo DS money loser (released 2009) may be trading on its pennyweight of infamy on other platforms.

But wottheheck... I got GTA: Chinatown Wars for $5 less than zero, on trade-in at Video Games Etc., so we'll see. As Alexander Pope said, nobody breaks a butterfly on a wheel. But I wonder, what's the attraction? Obviously, a guy thing... (What is this "female demographic" of which you speak?)

The trope is simple. Anarchy destroys itself. Power abhors a vacuum. If there is no khan, the strong devour the weak. To preserve his own hide, a khan must rise and establish hegemony — to extend the benefits of law as widely as possible. War is lawless. War is fought to decide who gets to lay down the law. Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun.

Huang Lee's lost treasure is a fake heirloom sword, Yu Jian, stolen by thugs who killed his father. Huang must retrieve it, and give it meaning. Is Yu Jian worth dying for? Is revenge? To make a real heirloom out of worthless junk, Huang must build order in Liberty City's anarchy, starting Kung Fu-like within himself.

Lotsa verbiage for an urban burn shootout...

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