Gang warfare has been a hot subject for video games ever since the success of Grand Theft Auto 3. Rising through the ranks to become a powerful crime lord fits perfectly into the power fantasy that most games provide.  With Sleeping Dog’s success we now have the spinoff game called Triad Wars from the same development team United Front Games.

From the start Triad Wars gets combat down right. Borrowing a page from the Batman Arkham games, most combat only requires two buttons though an added grapple mechanic spices up an otherwise weary formula. If getting your hands dirty isn’t your thing you can always run and gun, but it doesn’t feel nearly as satisfying. There’s a management aspect that could’ve given this game a leg to stand on, but its where the free-to-play model rears its ugly head. As you develop your turf you can add side businesses like cockfights or counterfeiting. These shady dealings bring in money at certain intervals with the option to pay real money to speed up the process. Its not terribly detrimental but feels closer to an annoying bug flying around your face, constantly demanding your attention.

Asians may be the main focus of the game, but their portrayal is nothing less than offense. Characters talk in embellished accents as well as make cracks about Asian culture, such as after the first mission where the protagonist’s uncle tells someone that their ancestors can “kiss his ass.” This permeates throughout the moderately decent game bogging it down with an awkward sense of irony. If that doesn’t make you uncomfortable the controls certainly will. Buttons seemed to be mapped randomly besides the usual WASD with no hope of remapping or controller support. Context clues allow you to progress without looking at the control screen every five minutes but this crutch makes it difficult to feel competent in the game. (Editor’s note: Triad Wars does contain controller support)

While you can certainly enjoy Triad Wars there are games in the same vein that don’t need to rely on free-to-play or racist caricatures to bring the fun. There simply isn’t enough content to warrant any real commitment to this game, especially when its framed by a rise to the top story that has been done so many times before. For a game that’s all about becoming a powerful gang-lord, it ends up coming off as a pathetic poseur that tries too hard to be cool.