Silver Sable Sucks

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Mar 31, 2020

Filed under: Column 107 comments

Like I said the last time I talked about this game, I love Marvel’s Spider-Man Colon This Game Needed a Subtitle. It was my favorite game of 2018. But no game is perfect, and for me the most not-perfect part of Spider-Man was the character Silver Sable. And I want to make it clear this is the version of the character I’m going to be criticizing. She’s been around for decades in various comic books, and I’m sure writers have told many good stories with her. But not this time.

In the comics, Silver Sable is a semi-obscure sometime ally of Spider-Man. She’s not as obscure as D-lister Boomerang, but she’s not as popular as people like Black Cat, either. She first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #265 back in 1985. While this game isn’t directly connected to any extant Spider-Man continuity, its characters generally don’t stray very far from the design of their comic-book counterparts. Silver Sable is usually a mercenary, often the leader of some sort of military force, and has been known to team up with both heroes and villains. She’s a normal human that relies on fitness and martial arts training to get by in the superhero world.

Not that the game ever tells you any of this. Within the story, you never learn about her character or her powers. She just strolls into the story and casually kicks Spider-Man’s ass in three different cutscenes. In return, she never ends up knocked down, webbed up, or knocked out. Spider-Man never lays a hand on her in these three altercations and you never get to settle up with her in the end.

Attention: I’m going to be spoiling most of the game here, so if you don’t want spoilers than you need to bail now.


Link (YouTube)

Now, the knee-jerk reaction is that it doesn’t make sense that this normal human being should be able to casually brush aside someone as powerful as Spider-Man. While his power level varies from one adaptation to the next, he’s always depicted as having superhuman reflexes, superhuman agility, and the strength to lift several tons. So when Silver Sable shows up and steamrolls him without breaking a sweat, it immediately makes the audience wonder how someone so powerful could lose so badly to a mundane person.

That was my reaction when I played through the game the first time, and I gather a lot of other people felt the same way. Except, I don’t think this is the real problem with Silver Sable. After all, Black Cat is just a regular person with good training, and nobody has a problem with Spider-Man losing to her. Same goes for the Punisher, who has basically the same resume as Silver Sable: Guns, fitness, and training. While I don’t think Spidey ever faced off against Black Widow, I have no problem believing she could outwit and overpower him. Heck, one of Spider-Man’s original foes is Kingpin, despite the fact that Kingpin is just a burly human and Spider-Man ought to be able to toss him into the air with one hand.

My point is that superhero power levels are incredibly flexible and arguments over which characters can or can’t prevail over which other characters are mostly pointless fan wank. So why are we okay with Spider-Man losing to Black Cat, but then we object when he gets beat up by Silver Sable? What’s the deal here?

So let’s talk about professional wrestling. Or as I like to think of it, LARPing, but for jocks.


Link (YouTube)

I think everyone over the age of six understands the idea behind wrestling. The fights are predetermined. A match isn’t decided by who is the biggest and the strongest, but by what makes the best story. The power level of a wrestler doesn’t come from their muscles, it comes from how strongly the audience feels about them and how much people care about the outcome of a fight. It doesn’t matter how much time you spend in the gym, if the audience doesn’t care about you, then you’re not going to get into big matches with A-list characters and you’re certainly not going to win. There’s even a term for these sorts of performers. Low-status wrestlers that routinely lose are called jobbers. They don’t get much in the way of story, because they only exist to build up the notoriety of more marketable characters.

This same rule applies to comic books. It’s not about power, it’s about making a good story. If you want to win against an A-list superhero, then the audience needs to take you seriously. Now, there are a lot of things that can make the audience care about a superhero or supervillain. Instead of arguing about which of these characters is stronger, let’s see how this version of Silver Sable stacks up in terms of story.

So probably the first question we need to ask is…

Does she have a cool power set?

Apparently her guns fire square bullets. Does that count as a super-power?
Apparently her guns fire square bullets. Does that count as a super-power?

Remember, this isn’t about how strong you are. It’s about how much the audience cares about your character. And one way to make people care is to have an interesting or unique set of powers, limitations, or vulnerabilities. Spider-Man’s powers aren’t that impressive on the grand scale of the Marvel Universe, but there’s something about all that acrobatic web-swinging, wall-crawling, and spider-sensing that has captured the public’s attention for over half a century.

But this version of Silver Sable doesn’t have any powers or interesting gadgets. She has two guns, and she shoots at people. Also, in this game she never hits anything. She has the marksmanship of an imperial stormtrooper. That would be fine if she had something like a cool way to get around, an eye-catching defensive object, or some sort of throwable object she was awesome at. But no. She’s got exactly one gimmick, there’s nothing unique about it, and she’s terrible at it.

But maybe it’s not all about the powers and the gadgets. After all, if you take away the tools and gadgets from people like The Punisher or Catwoman, they’re still dangerous. They’re clever and competent, even without their hardware. So how does Silver Sable hold up?

Is She Super-Competent?

This is a small room, and Mary Jane is in the only hiding place. But Silver Sable's training doesn't give her the ability to detect Mary Jane's stealth technique of being slightly obscured by a table.
This is a small room, and Mary Jane is in the only hiding place. But Silver Sable's training doesn't give her the ability to detect Mary Jane's stealth technique of being slightly obscured by a table.

Well, not according to the writer of this game. Mary Jane outfoxes her on four different occasions, despite the fact that Silver Sable supposedly has covert training and Mary Jane is a young journalist. This supposedly badass international mercenary loses a one-room game of Hide & Seek to a civilian.

Outside of this, she literally fails at every single thing she tries to do in this story. She never faces a single supervillain. She’s never depicted having the slightest impact on the gangs of the city. A massive prison break happens under her watch. The bad guys steal the doomsday bioweapon from her men, and she doesn’t show up until the battle is over.

In fact, the only thing she ever accomplishes is beating up on Spider-Man. And now maybe it starts to become clear why people have such a problem with this character. It’s one thing to lose against a superior opponent, but it’s another to have multiple cutscenes where the main character is effortlessly knocked down by the most incompetent person in the story.

Well, it’s now always about how skilled you are. Sometimes all you need to be a great superhero is a really cool costume. So what about Silver Sable?

Does She Have a Cool Costume?

I swear she's wearing a backwards set of men's suspenders.
I swear she's wearing a backwards set of men's suspenders.

I should point out that this game makes a very strong distinction between the super-people and civilians. The civilians all wear normal clothes with fairly muted colors, while the supers are all very colorful, covered in technology, inhumanly proportioned, covered in fancy lights, or drawn with special effects. This distinction is no accident. Regular people look normal and grounded, and super people look fantastical, in some cases looking even more extreme than their comic book counterparts. This is a clear stylistic choice.

In the comics, Silver Sable is often drawn in a way that makes her look shiny. You know, like silver. But in this game she’s wearing more or less normal civilian clothing. The only distinguishing characteristic is that it’s all the same shade of light grey. So it’s like civilian clothes, except not as visually exciting. It sort of looks like what you’d get if Aunt May decided to cosplay as Switch from the Matrix, but she couldn’t finish her costume in time.

Now THIS looks like a superhero!
Now THIS looks like a superhero!

Sable’s other distinguishing characteristic is her wild mane of long hair. Again, this visually interesting detail was removed and now she has pedestrian normal-people hair. This is a haircut I’d expect to see on a middle school art teacher, not a super-person.

Intentional or not, the art style of this game is clearly telegraphing that this character is a regular, non-super individual. The artist is telling you that this is nobody special.

But hey, looks aren’t everything.

Maybe She has an Interesting Plan?

Saving the city from the Demon gang, Step 1: Attack the only guy who's doing anything about the demon Gang. Step 2: Do nothing about the Demon gang. Step 3: When you fail, blame the guy that's actually fighting the Demon gang.
Saving the city from the Demon gang, Step 1: Attack the only guy who's doing anything about the demon Gang. Step 2: Do nothing about the Demon gang. Step 3: When you fail, blame the guy that's actually fighting the Demon gang.

Notice I didn’t say a good plan. The goal is just to make the audience care. Like, Thanos’ plan in Infinity War was kinda dumb, but the fact that he wanted to kill HALF of everyone instead of ACTUALLY everyone makes him a curiosity among genocidal supervillains, and his belief that he was a hero made him more interesting than a screaming madman.

So what’s Silver Sable’s plan?

Nothing. She doesn’t have one. She’s just a mercenary for hire. Her entire plan can be summed up as “Do a job, and get paid.”

Also, it’s a plan she fails at. Repeatedly. Mayor Norman Osborn hires Sable and her army of undisciplined thugs to bring order to New York. The Sinister Six are on the loose, the demon gang is terrorizing the populace, there’s a bio-weapon on the loose, and the streets are flooded with escaped convicts. Her job is to bring order to the city, and she never accomplishes anything towards that end. We never see her or her men make the slightest effort to engage any of the Sinister Six. They never round up any prisoners, and they do nothing about the demons. On the rare moments when they show up and attempt to help, they aren’t just incompetent, but an active liability.

Miles Morales effortlessly hacks his way past their security checkpoint, once again underscoring how Sable and her forces fail at everything that doesn't involve beating up Spider-Man in cutscenes.
Miles Morales effortlessly hacks his way past their security checkpoint, once again underscoring how Sable and her forces fail at everything that doesn't involve beating up Spider-Man in cutscenes.

The only thing her men manage to accomplish is that they do a pretty good job of oppressing the populace. The Sable goon squad sets up police-state style checkpoints all over the city to harass civilians while doing nothing to impede the villains. Her men unlawfully detain and imprison innocent people, and even use their authority to abuse people and seize their property.

Now, that could work in terms of making her a bad guy. She’s the leader of a brutal occupying force. That would make her a supervillain. The problem is that the story doesn’t make any connection between her and the behavior of her men. We never see her encouraging her people to loot the city. You never see her expressing any sort of values that might indicate what kind of leader she is. It’s not even clear that she’s AWARE of the way her men behave.

Her mandate to protect the city is righteous while the behavior of her men is evil, and the story never even throws out a single line of dialog to reconcile this contradiction. Is she malicious, negligent, or incompetent? We literally can’t tell.

It’s kind of hard to get invested in the struggles of a character when we can’t even tell what they want or what they’re trying to do.

Well, having no motivation or goals might be kind of diappointing, but maybe she can make up for it elsewhere. For example…

Does She Have an Interesting Backstory?

Nope. The game doesn’t tell us anything about her. If you want to know who she is or what her history is, then you’ll have to buy some comic books or read a wiki or something.

Well, that’s disappointing, but maybe she can compensate for being such a non-entity by making us like her.

Does She Have a Cool personality?

This sneer? That's basically her entire personality.
This sneer? That's basically her entire personality.

A writer can do a lot of things to make a character’s personality interesting. They can have a sense of humor. They can be inwardly driven but outwardly stoic, which will make them feel kind of mysterious. They can be narcissistic and self-aggrandizing in a lovable way. They can be gentle and compassionate despite having immense power and intellect. They can be an idealist dedicated to always doing the right thing, no matter how long the odds or how great the personal cost. They can be playful and fun. You get the idea. They don’t have to be nice, they just need to be fun to watch.

To illustrate Silver Sable’s personality, let me tell you about one conversation near the end of the game. This is probably her longest scene. The setup is that Spider-Man defeated a bunch of demon guys. Then Sable’s goons show up. They don’t really have a good reason to attack Spider-Man, since Sable and Spider-Man are both here to stop the bad guys. But the goons try to kill him anyway and end up getting knocked out and webbed up. Spider-Man then tries to force open the security doors so he can run inside and save the Mayor.

While he’s forcing open the security doors, Silver Sable arrives. She opens by attempting to shoot Spider-Man in the back. That makes her both evil and a coward. But she misses, which also makes her incompetent. She’s attacking him, even though they’re obviously on the same side and he’s trying to save her boss. That makes her stupid. Then she stops shooting once she gets close, which is, once again, incompetent. Then she throws a little tantrum at Spider-Man for always attacking her men, even though they always try to kill him on sight, presumably under her orders. She’s literally outraged that Spider-Man defends his life with non-lethal force. Then she demands to know why she shouldn’t just shoot him right now.

And this is just one conversation in the game! She’s just as irrational and obnoxious in her other cutscenes. You can decide for yourself if this sounds like a character you’d love to watch, but I wasn’t a fan.

Okay, Silver Sable is a bit of a mess at this point, but she’s got one last shot at redemption:

Does She Have a Satisfying Character Arc?


Like I said earlier, Silver Sable was hired to bring order to New York. That’s supposedly a good thing. But she never succeeds at this mandate. Not even on a small scale. She’s a failure the entire game. Meanwhile, her men are openly villainous and I guess we’re supposed to assume she’s complicit in their behavior. Which makes her a quasi-supervillain in this story.

Then we get to the confrontation I talked about earlier. Silver Sable corners Spider-Man and is irrational, stupid, hypocritical, etc. Then Spider-Man points out that they can’t stop the bad guys if they’re fighting each other. So Sable reluctantly holsters her weapons and stops attacking him.

That’s it. That’s her entire character arc. She’s a sort of non-committal quasi-villain throughout the game, and then at the end Spider-Man converts her into a good guy by stating the blindingly obvious: They both have the same goals, so there’s no reason to fight.

Now that Sable’s a good guy, maybe she’ll help out? Of course not. She leaves Spider-Man to face the supervillains alone and she runs back outside to fire vaguely in the direction of a bunch of goons.

Spider-Man goes in alone and gets his ass kicked by Doctor Octopus, but it’s not until the fight is completely over and the villains are all gone that Sable rushes in. You might think that she’s here to save his life. She acts like that’s what she wants to do. But the other character in the scene is the doctorLike a lot of other comic-based works, doctors and scientists are sorta interchangeable., and he’s the one that does all the life-saving. She’s literally just in the way and has nothing to contribute. You could remove her from the scene and it would change nothing.

And finally, once Spider-Man is on his feet again she calls him up to let him know that she’s had a change of heart. She’s leaving the city, but she’s leaving behind her vast army of violent goons so they can continue to cause problems for the people of New York. And so Silver Sable’s story ends, with her never impacting the plot in the slightest.

Here is Silver Sable, a few seconds before her magical personality change.
Here is Silver Sable, a few seconds before her magical personality change.

Even if you’ve never studied story structure, you probably have some intuitive idea of how character arcs are supposed to work. They come in many forms. Good guys turning bad. Bad guys turning good. Well-intentioned characters fall to a weakness that ultimately destroys them. Characters overcome their internal demons so that they can reach their full potential. You get the idea. Character arcs are as different as the characters that experience them, but they all revolve around the idea of someone being transformed in some way by personal experience. But Silver Sable doesn’t have an arc. She just stops being an abusive fascist asshole because Spider-Man asked her to.

So to sum up: She has a dumb costume, boring powers, uninteresting motivation, no backstory, annoying one-note personality, unrelenting incompetence, one facial expression, and she’s completely irrelevant to the plot.

The problem isn’t that she’s not strong enough to beat Spider-Man, the problem is that she’s not cool or interesting enough to even get in a fight with him. This is like having John Cena lose to a member of the audience. Having her beat up the main character three times and then wander off is frustrating for the player because it runs into the problem of cutscene incompetence I talked about last time. But worse than that, it just makes for a bad story.

So What Happened Here?

Why is Silver Sable in this game? I can only speculate, but here’s my guess.

Over the past few years, there’s been a steady stream of Hollywood rumors surrounding Sony, talking about their plans for a Spider-Man based cinematic universe. Sony’s contract gives them the rights to make Spider-Man movies, and it also grants them access to any characters that are classified as part of Spider-Man’s corner of the Marvel universe. That includes people like supporting characters, allies, and his regular lineup of villains. I’m not NEARLY enough of a comics expert to know the full list of which characters Sony can use, but the list is apparently pretty big.

Sony keeps talking about taking these B-listers and side characters giving them movies of their own. Jackpot was talked about for a while. They kicked around the idea of a Black Cat movie. How about a Silver Sable Movie? What about Kraven? Does the general public care about him? Maybe we can give that guy a movie! How about a team up between Black Cat and Silver Sable?

The 2018 Venom movie was the first of these spinoff titles and we’re supposedly getting a Morbius movie starring Jared Leto later this year.

I haven't seen the Venom movie, but the reception is generally negative (critics) to mixed (public) and the trailers did a good job of telling me to avoid it.
I haven't seen the Venom movie, but the reception is generally negative (critics) to mixed (public) and the trailers did a good job of telling me to avoid it.

My point is that all of these lofty dreams of building a massive cinematic universe were at their peak a few years ago, right when this game was in development. If you look up the unproduced Silver & Black movie on Wikipedia, you can get a glimpse into the madness going on behind the scenes at Sony. People leaving the project, others joining, scripts changing, people with wildly divergent creative styles were trying to reconcile their different visions. If you read between the lines you can see that Sony didn’t really have a particular vision of their own. They just wanted to make a whole lot of superhero movies because that’s what Disney was doing.

My guess is that – during all of this chaos – Sony pushed for Insomniac to include Silver Sable. They probably wanted to raise her cultural profile ahead of these movie projects, even though they probably didn’t have a script, hadn’t cast a specific actress, and they weren’t even sure what kind of movie they wanted to make.

Imagine you’re in the middle of making a AAA video game. The script is basically done, some of the character designs are complete, and you’re about to start recording dialog. Then a Sony executive comes crashing into the room and says they want you to include this Silver Sable character because they plan to use her in a movie and they want her to be more recognizable to the general public. They can’t tell you what she’s going to look like, what her personality is, or even if she’s a hero or a villain. All they know is that she needs to be in this game and appear prominently in several cutscenes, and she needs to be super-badass so the fanboys will like her.

If I was the writer in this situation, then yeah. This is exactly what you’d get: A character with a costume that looks like it belongs in Sony’s drabYes, Spider-Verse was gorgeous. I’m talking about the live action stuff. Spider-Man movies rather than a comic book. She’ll be disconnected from the plot, since that’s already done. We’re not sure if she’s supposed to be a bad guy or not, so we’ll sort of hedge our bets and make her either a shitty supervillain or an impotent hero. And to show that she’s a total badass we’ll just have her beat up the main character’s three times.

So that’s what I think happened to Silver Sable. Her appearance in this game wasn’t a creative decision, it was a marketing tool. And that, more than anything else, is why this version of the character sucks.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Like a lot of other comic-based works, doctors and scientists are sorta interchangeable.

[2] Yes, Spider-Verse was gorgeous. I’m talking about the live action stuff.



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107 thoughts on “ Silver Sable Sucks

  1. SkySC says:

    I have an alternative hypothesis. The developers already had normal goons and the demon gang, so they thought Norman Osborne hiring a group of technologically advanced mercenaries would be a good way to change things up. The mercenaries have to be bastards and terrorize the city so the player a motivation for beating them up, or sneaking around their bases. The mercenaries have to be completely ineffectual at restoring order to the city, because if they succeeded cleaned up the city and restored order, then the game couldn’t keep giving the player criminals and demon gang members to fight.

    Then after it was already decided that there’d be these mercenaries in the game, someone decided to introduce Silver Sable as their leader. Maybe it was an order from above to include her, or maybe the developers just wanted to throw more characters from the comics into their game, but either way they attached the character to this already existing mercenary gang which was serving an important gameplay function. That’s why it’s impossible to tell what kind of leader she is. Her presence in the story is constrained by the fact that the mercenaries are there for a reason that’s mostly unrelated to the plot.

    1. ElementalAlchemist says:

      The point being, presumably, that this can be explained by ineptitude solely on the part of Insomniac without needing to resort to the Sony bogeyman. Just like Mass Effect 2/3/Andromeda, DA2/Inquisition, and Anthem are all squarely the fault of Bioware, not EA.

      1. SkySC says:

        Maybe. In the case of case of Bioware, ultimately EA is responsible, since Bioware is a subsidiary company. It doesn’t really make sense to apportion blame as if they were separate entities. The higher-ups at EA choose who’s in charge of Bioware. They assign projects, determine funding, and set goals. The leadership at Bioware obviously has an interest in doing what their bosses want, or what they think their bosses want. Even if they don’t often directly intervene in their subordinates’ decisions, they have the power to do so. This goes both ways. Maybe interference from above caused some of the issues in the development of Andromeda. Maybe there were major issues and EA failed to intervene. Either way, the people running the company are responsible for its products.

        The situation was different with Spider-Man, since at the time Insomniac was an independent company, but surely Sony had some degree of input into the game it was publishing. I’d imagine this relationships between publisher and developer varies considerably from one project to another, so it’s possible only the people directly involved know exactly how much Sony was involved in Insonmiac’s development of Spider-man. I certainly don’t know. And neither does Shamus. I think he was pretty clear here that he was just speculating based on public information, and it seems plausible that that could’ve happened.

        1. Decius says:

          There’s a lot of difference between “EA corporate is responsible for letting Bioware do what they did” and “EA corporate is responsible for forcing Bioware to do what they did”.

          Either way, it’s placing the blame at the same people, but the change suggested is the exact opposite.

          1. Hector says:

            Yes/No. The point is that it’s really one company and there’s no separation control. Of course, top managers love to act as though they had no control or knowledge when things go wrong and have complete control when things go right, but in basically all cases the people running projects are doing what upper management broadly wants. If things go wrong, the various heads or leads are often indeed making poor use of their resources, but that’s almost always a result of inconsistent priorities, or a bad matchup of resources to tasks, from the top, regardless of industry.

            For example, take Boeing. (Please!) There as no one big foulup by management; no point where we can say, “A-Ha! Here is where they calculated the risks and decided it was easier to stonewall and destroy jets full of passengers!” Rather, it was a hundred little decisions that let upper management pretend there was nothing wrong. They picked heads of department or project leads and told them to get things done in a certain way even if it wasn’t the *right* way, because the manager’s priority was entirely financial.

            This wasn’t always about life-and-limb, either: Top management picked people with hilariously wrong skills and experience for the Dreamliner, which really was and is a good design, and engaged in a bunch of business practices that looked good on paper but which utterly wrecked the project and put it years behind schedule. They outsourced components without the rigorous quality and precision checks, accepted design modifications without actually checking if the redesign fit or modifying the design elsewhere, and overlooked basic issues because that wasn’t important to top management – until it became a serious problem. That similar quality issues also happened to the 737 MAX should have been predictable, but of course, nobody inside the company’s leadership was willing to admit there was a problem, until it was too late.

            …And now that I’ve compared bad video game leadership to tragedies that killed well over one hundred people I should probably shut up.

    2. Nimrandir says:

      I might be able to get behind this, except for the fact that the mayor also runs a megacorp. Having him roll out prototype security robots is more efficient in terms of characters (i.e., we need one fewer). It also would give a better justification for their ineptitude, via ‘not ready for prime time AI.’

    3. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

      Your hypothesis is the most plausible. Game needed some high-tech goons with guns, so player would have variety of enemies to fight. And Silver Sable was introduced just to add more flavor to this mercenaries, as an afterthought. That’s why she’s absolutely disposable, and have no real connection to the plot.
      Also we have no evidence of Sony meddling, and even if this is the case, I’ll agree with ElementalAlchemist, all blame for this character should be on Insomniac.

      1. Cynic says:

        It’s also the most parsinomous explanation, it introduces the least possible assumptions and has the greatest explanatory power: Open world games like this have long had a tradition of the “Invasion” to enhance the “Living World”, this isn’t even the first time Spiderman has done it. You have activities that litter your world, and to shake it up, halfway through the game, the activities switch, and a new faction of enemies come in, usually with better weapons and armour.

        Planning a midgame invasion by a new faction, who also spices up the gameworld by creating dynamic conflict between AI absolutely scans. Since they’re essentially a third party, only barely related to the mainplot (Which might not seem like it, but is good writing-a classic mistake is to kill off your original villains at the halfway point and replace them with their boss (Far Cry 3) who you have not nearly the connection with, which ruins the second half of the game and the conclusion or replace them with a bigger meaner enemy (The Division 2 for a recent example, but they’re damn everywhere in videogames) who we have NO relation to-that game literally introduces it’s final antagonists in the SECOND LAST MAINLINE MISSION.) back from the sidetrack, it’s good and fine to introduce a third party to mix things up while keeping their connection to the plot minimal and secondary. It makes sense to pick a character to be in charge of them, it means you can crib the designs and it’s more fanservice and makes the world bigger, and you can rely on existing characterisation to carry you through a little. Sometimes they’ll use SHIELD and Nick Fury for this sort of bit-Sable is a better choice on paper because as a mercenary, she has a reason to fight for the wrong side despite not being “evil”, and also reason enough to play both sides and not be an out and out antagonist.

        So I think it’s absolutely right-the character came after the gameplay.

        TBH, I can see one easy fix to her character-just don’t have her beat up Spiderman. Seriously, it just sets her up too much. If she beats up Spiderman, we are waiting for the moment where we finally convince her to join our side and listen to us-which means we have to LIKE her and want her to be redeemed, and we don’t, she’s the second string mixup brought in halfway into the game to increase enemy variety, or the moment where Spiderman gets his comeuppance. In either case, it’s going to be a serious confrontation, because we’ve had the character win several fights against Spidey-it’s the classic setup, they win, they win, and when it looks like all hope is lost, Spidey wins because he has heart, it’s every sports movie ever.

        Keep the “Nothing personal kid, stay out of my way” attitude, it works for her character, just do it through the established ways the game already is working it-you want her to stare down Spidey, she doesn’t have to beat him with kung-fu, she can show up with a squad of 4 or 5 guys with automatic rifles and get the drop on Spidey. His spider sense tingles, he turns, she’s there, and he’s hard in the line of fire. It also saves you working out how they beat the psychically aware of threats guy who can jump like ten metres into the air, who’s reaction times allow him to use that precognition to dodge bullets, and who can turn anything into a zipline to safety. She also makes it clear that she’s working for the mayor, and with the cooperation of the police-bam, Spidey won’t hit her, because his sense of morals won’t allow him to. She gets to “win” the confrontation, and we do more character work. And we also get to see what Spiderman gets out of the collab, because her advantage is she’s leading a large paramilitary force, not that she can punch good through unspecified expert gymnastics and expert hand to hand skills, posessed by LITERALLY EVERYONE IN THE MARVEL UNIVERSE. This way, we she cooperates, it makes more sense, she orders her men to stand down, and everyone works together, it also makes more sense her eventually helping him. Instead of her shooting at him when he goes after Osborne, have her appear, order her men to let Spidey go without a fight, and lead them in assisting him.

        You know, then she gets to have a decent character arc? Leader of mercenary group, distrusts the anonymous vigilante, and has a change of heart as she realises that he can be trusted, takes a risk and places her faith in him to get her job done, and then helps him, before leaving the story entirely. It’s basic, but it has the advantage of actually working. But I don’t think it’s really a case of blame, some things don’t work out, and more minor characters tend to be where the shortfall happens. There are two much worse, much more commonly chosen, videogame writing pitfalls they avoided as is.

    4. zackoid says:

      I also think this is a more likely explanation, though it could also be a little of both. The mercenaries are too much work and the 1-2-3 enemy design too ingrained to be shoved in late in development, but the fact that it’s Silver Sable specifically rather than another character could be Sony meddling.

  2. Asdasd says:

    I do find this explanation sensible, convincing and enlightening as to many points of broader storytelling theory. But I can just as easily see Sable just being a pet character/waifu of one of the creative leads, someone they insisted be badass enough to beat up the protagonist a priori, a mandate which survived multiple revisions of the story even as that aspect became increasingly dislocated from the character’s competence and relevance to the wider plot.

    I honestly think it might be a horniness thing – I haven’t played the game, but several of the screenshots you’ve shown of Sable’s cutscene-mandated superiority over Spidey have a noticeable dominance/S&M tinge.

    1. RFS-81 says:

      If that’s the case, it would be strange that they toned down her outfit. Plausible deniability?

      1. Chris says:

        Yeah, her shiny latex-like outfit seems to work pretty well as a dominatrix outfit. Them turning it into this outfit seems counteractive. I dont really see why they would have to do this for plausible deniability. MJ is already changed from a model to a journalist, they couldve used that as a lightning rod to avoid allegations.

        1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

          By the way, her outfit reminds me of The Boss from MGS series. I don’t know if it’s intentional, or maybe I’m just overthinking it, but characters are somewhat similar.

          1. CBob says:

            You’re not the only one. I feel like the Boss in MGS3 is a really good example of what a cool “realistic”-ish Silver Sable design should look like.

            The game one just looks sort of “what if Martha Stewart was in The Matrix”.

        2. RFS-81 says:

          My idea behind “plausible deniability” was that someone shoehorned his fetish into the game, but put the dominatrix in a reasonable-ish outfit to be able to deny it. I don’t actually believe that. It was more like an idea for how to make Asdasd’s theory fit better with the character design.

          I don’t see how MJ’s career figures into that, though.

          1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

            Character design was commissioned to freelancer artist Eve Ventrue, with a task of creating “strong female character” (I googled info about character concept art). Also I found a page from art book with Silver Sable, it’s full of nonsense. They thought, that she looked like 1980s aerobics instructor and fixed it with a cape, etc. So I think people responsible for design had a different vision of a character and were incredibly lazy. And whole dominatrix angle is a fetish of a writer, or maybe, a perverted idea of a “strong female”.
            Asdasd’s theory is very reasonable, by the way, because in DLC Spidey’s struggling for Sable’s attention and approval and they even had a few bonding moments, though she’s still kinda cold to him in the end.

            1. Asdasd says:

              I have to say, I appreciate that you went the extra mile to dig up some information to share with us. And not just because it substantiates my theory a little (although that certainly helps!)

    2. Asdasd says:

      Also, as someone rewatching Neo Genesis Evangelion at the moment, the complaints about Sable’s

      * smugness,
      * irrational hostility,
      * oft-lauded (but never demonstrated) superiority towards the protagonist, and
      * extreme reluctance to cooperate with them,
      * even in the face of a vastly more evident and significant threat,

      brings to mind the inexplicably enduring popularity of the tsundere archetype. I doubt that’s explicitly what the devs were going for with Sable, but the parallels are striking.

      1. Christopher says:

        If she blushed every time she called Spidey a moron and came in wearing long stockings, this might have been a different video

        They do rank up in their social link during the DLC.

        1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

          At first I thought she was too bland for author appeal to be plausible, but after watching cutscenes from this DLC I changed my mind. That’s totally the case, someone in the writing group has a week spot for this “tsundere”-type characters and/or Silver Sable.

      2. BlueHorus says:

        Teeheehee.
        I now have an image of Silver Sable shouting ‘Shut up, Spidey! It’s not like I LIKE you or anything!’ while she kicks him in the nuts.

        While I don’t have much to do with anime, your average Tsundere character does eventually learn to let down their guard, right?
        It also helps that there is a coherent (if cliched and really annoying) character in a Tsundere, similar to how some people act in real life. Sable here just sounds like a very lazy plot device.

        (Also, it’s a long time since I’ve seen Evangelion, but isn’t part of the point that only moody and irritating teenagers can pilot the mech suits? Mature adults in the show spend quite a lot of time lamenting this fact…)

        1. Syal says:

          The charm of a tsundere is mostly that they’re highly assertive while also being immature and bad at pretending otherwise. There’s a sense that if they just accept [character’s] help, they’ll still have that force of personality and be able to curbstomp the world. It’s a Social Noble, a Princess of Personality.

        2. ElementalAlchemist says:

          While I don’t have much to do with anime, your average Tsundere character does eventually learn to let down their guard, right?

          Depends on whether they are a modern or classic tsundere.

          The classic tsundere is a linear progression. They start off tsuntsun (i.e. angry/hostile) and eventually become deredere (i.e. lovestruck).

          The modern tsundere is permanently stuck in the middle of those two states. Your classic “hot and cold” type as we would call it in the west, albeit typically far more extreme (usually played up for laughs) in the case of a tsundere. Any point at which they express attraction/fondness for the (unfortunate) target of their affections is typically swiftly followed by an outburst of anger, usually much to the bafflement of said target.

          Regarding Evangelion, the fact that they are teenagers or moody (which is obviously not the case for Rei – she is the literal archetype for the stoic/emotionless heroine) is irrelevant. What matters is the link between the pilots and the soul that inhabits the Eva they pilot. The fact that Asuka is moody/emotional/depressive is actually directly depicted as being highly detrimental to her sync ratio, spiralling down to the point where she is no longer able to sync at all. At least in the original anime. I can’t speak to what they may have changed in the Rebuild versions as I never watched them.

          1. CBob says:

            IIRC in the original show EVAs could only be piloted by people born after the Second Impact event, due to some subtle change to human physiology/parapsycology it caused. You could build an EVA based on the parental DNA of a person born before SI, but they wouldn’t be able to sync. So they were stuck with teenagers regardless of temperment.

            And IIRC not all of the pilots were moody. Whashisface, the guy from Shinji’s high school who was telegraphed early on as a potential bully, but then turned out to be OK, he was pretty stable/normal as a pilot. Not that he got much chance to show it though.

          2. Boobah says:

            The initial reason (in Evangelion) for the teenage pilots is that only people born after Second Impact can pilot the mechs, and Second Impact was fourteen years ago. If that were the whole case (it may not be the case at all), they’d be moody and irritating as… coincidence. But it probably has more to do with the dead mothers, which pretty directly ties into them being moody and irritating.

    3. Dreadjaws says:

      Yup. She could very well be this game’s Kai Leng in more than one aspect.

  3. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Excellent videos, I got a few laugh out of it! Two notes though :
    – The outro music doesn’t work (for me at least). It’s a bit stressful. Despite the quick rhythm of your videos I find them to be soothing, so a strident music at the end like that rubs me the wrong way. It’s not about the music’s quality itself mind you, I would have liked it in for example a techno level in a platformer.
    – I think it would have been a good idea to plug your Spiderman analysis at the end.

    1. Nick-B says:

      Actually, the only thing I came in here to comment for was to say how much I liked the song, and wanted to warn Shamus about using a kick-ass high-quality song from someone else without paying for it. After I saw who DID make it (SHAMUS?) I felt bad for not automatically thinking it was his.

      Mostly because I didn’t know Shamus made chiptune/bit music. It felt different than his previous music-making articles provided. I do agree that it doesn’t quite belong at the end of this video, but I liked it anyway.

      *shrug* I dunno. I fell in love in some forms of Trash80 music because of Darwinia.

  4. ivan says:

    I dispute only one thing in this article/video. In the screenshots you yourself provide, one can clearly see two (2) distinct expressions on Silver Sable’s sable face.

    1: A smirk, And
    2: A sneer.

    I demand an retraction, sir!

    Otherwise, great stuff.

  5. Joshua says:

    Good article.

    I’m not sure what this means though?
    “Then Spider-Man points out that they need to stop the bad guys if they fight each other.”

    So if the villains start fighting among themselves, THAT’S when it’s time to stop them?

    Oh, and on that last picture of Sable, is it just me or does that kick look not very effective? Unless she’s pushing him off a ledge, it doesn’t look like she’d be doing much other than knocking him back a step.

    1. Shamus says:

      Whoops. Fixed. (In the video, I show the clip, but in the article I tried to paraphrase and bungled it.)

    2. Syal says:

      Also “Not that the game never tells you any of this.” Either “not… ever…” or “note… never…”.

    3. Cbob says:

      From the screenshot, it looks like a textbook forward snap kick. Done properly, these hit basically like a straight-on punch, only much harder. You can definitely knock someone back with one if you get them near or below their center of gravity. A clear body hit could easily break ribs or cause internal bleeding. Again: if done correctly.

      Source: I used to take Kung Fu. I wasn’t hugely advanced, but this is literally the first and simplest kick you learn.

      There are a few irregularities in the screenshot though:

      Her arms being down at her sides instead of tight in front kinda looks like common bad form. People who don’t have the core strength to maintain low COG during a kick will try to swing their arms out/back to counterbalance. If you have to do this, it means the reaction force when you hit is going to be transmitted to your upper body, instead of to the ground via your other leg, resulting in a weak kick AND you bouncing backward off-balance. Her core form looks good here though, so I think this is a case of the mo-cap performer fudging due to the awkward dual pistols.

      Hollywood also loves to have characters flail their arms for balance when kicking, as it looks “dramatic”, even though to anyone who knows what they’re looking at it just looks like the character hasn’t been exercising and is lucky they didn’t end up on their ass from the recoil alone.

      Her footwear isn’t doing her any favors. This type of kick is meant to focus impact into the ball of the foot. Her foot is in the right position/pose, BUT she has these extended heels on her shoes that negate that, spreading the force out as if she were hitting with the full sole. This also means her other foot on the ground is going to have that much harder of a time transmitting the reaction force without losing balance or causing ankle injury. People LOVE to make contorted excuses for fighting characters to have high-heeled shoes like these, but they really are just terrible.

      It looks like she’s leaning back from the kick, which is another no-no for the same reasons as arm-swinging, but if you look at the background, the camera is actually at a bit of a dutch angle, so this is an illusion.

      1. Exit Through The SubOcean says:

        Good catch on the camera angle — her posture back and her hands down really bugged me, good to know it’s half as bad as I thought. If you’re going to kick Spider-Man you should probably put some effort into it.

        I only do kickboxing, not gunkata, so I’d been thinking maybe proper holding-two-guns-while-melee-fighting form is to keep them away from your head (after don’t-do-it-at-all). I’ve punched myself in the face when someone hit my hand while sparring (let my gloves drop a little in front of me) and that was embarrassing enough without involving anything with a bang switch.

      2. Cynic says:

        Yeah, it looks like a pretty standard front snap kick, you do the same in Taekwondo, and Karate.

        It’s also done fairly right, and would probably knock the average person over if it landed properly on someone as shown above. The thing that makes it a lot more strong than the punch is that she’s thrown the hip of her kicking leg over, which means that now the entire weight of her body is behind that kick, and driving to leave her standing almost where her opponent initially was.

        It’s fine. As far as animated martial arts, it’s a lot better than the usual “spinning heel kicks and roundhouses which slap people’s faces” you usually get. It’s exactly the kick your sensei would tell you to use in a practical situation, the simplest, quickest, most practiced, and one of the most powerful.

        Also, if done by anyone who knows what they’re doing, a kick will always hurt more than a punch, it’s got a longer muscle behind it, it gets a better lever advantage, and it has more weight above the axis to come down on the opponent

  6. Wangwang says:

    This entire article is just “How to write a good superhero” in disguise, isn’t it?!

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah, it’s that article’s alter ego. The super-article has been ghost-writing all of the good video game stories.

  7. Gautsu says:

    Since I’m never going to play the game and don’t care enough to watch let’s plays, weren’t people saying some of the dlc addresses her?

    1. Echo Tango says:

      If the DLC explains her, she should have not been in the main game!

  8. Christopher says:

    The Silver Sable theory at the end there is pretty charitable towards Insomniac. If I take their words about the development at face value, I think it’s hard to imagine some exec storming in and demanding they change their script for the sake of their movie. My own armchair theory is that everyone worked together and the result didn’t quite pan out. We need an upgraded version of the regular enemies as the game goes on, so we start with gangsters, move on to magic gangsters and end on jetpack mercs. Those mercs should work for Oscorp, because Norman Osborn is a piece of trash in a position of power in his very own Trump tower. Silver Sable is a good fit as a head for Osborn’s private army ’cause it’s basically/sorta what she does/did in the comics. She deals a lot with Spidey, we can start out with her bad and then she turns good for a nice little arc, we get our Badass Women quota filled till Black Cat shows up in the DLC, it’s all good.

    Then somewhere along the way that turned into her being this constant dick to you who beats you time and time again(Badass, see?) with zero control over her own gang(so the player can keep doing activities, and with the same logic that game us Standish, so she’s more “likeable” since she didn’t order them to harass the populace). And you never fight her, I guess for time and system reasons – they had no female enemies the whole game, presumably because the Arkham style animations take a lot of work to make look nice, which is why Arkham Asylum also never had any chick mooks in it(Poison ivy is a big piranha plant and Harley is beaten in a cutscene). Designwise, I guess they thought Black Cat deserved the Sexy Spy look alone while Sable doesn’t really have a seductive aspect to her in this game, she’s only a merc. But I don’t know why they went for Labcoat Grandma and not something more Soldier-y and military if that’s the case.

    Regardless of who’s guesses are right(I see there’s plenty in the comments already) I definitely agree that it’s frustrating. The DLC was probably partly a way to placate players by building on the story threads left over from her – a brief boss fight with her(I swear it lasted 20 seconds), a sidequest chain with a Silver Sable gang dude who isn’t a complete tosspot to show they aren’t all bad, a plot where she tries to go after the weapons she and her gang left in the city ( – _ – ), a couple co-op-parts to cap it all off. But it’s definitely not the most satisfying resolution.

    I dunno, maybe they just write really bad side characters. You probably spent days on this video and I think it makes a reasonable argument for why Silver Sable is annoying, but upload a collection of clips of Screwball talking and I think you can take an early lunch with the same results.

    1. Khwarezm says:

      “which is why Arkham Asylum also never had any chick mooks in it(Poison ivy is a big piranha plant and Harley is beaten in a cutscene).”

      They added chick mooks in the other games though, in City, Origins and Knight there’s the League of Shadows assassin. Admittedly they have a totally different moveset and animations from the other enemies but its something to note.

      Later in Origins they added female regular enemies in the DLC (where Bruce Wayne is doing his ninja training) and they seem to use almost entirely the same animation set as their male counterparts but they didn’t really feel ‘off’ to me, they looked fine.

      More importantly there have been several female bosses in the games, again Origins has two, Lady Shiva (though I think she mostly reuses the animations from the assassin and martial artist enemies) and Copperhead, who has a totally unique moveset. In one of the Arkham Knight DLCs you fight Harley Quinn as a proper boss too.

      I presume that they have dedicated animations for most of the bosses in the Spider Man game, that they aren’t just reusing mook animations for the likes of Rhino or Scorpion, it doesn’t seem beyond the pale to me that they could have had a Silver Sable fight if they really wanted, but alas they deemed it fit to just have her slap around Spidey in cutscenes, the most frustrating possible decision they could have made!

    2. Olivier FAURE says:

      Arkham City had ninja girls.

      Which is also a common trends in video games: default mooks are men, and if there are any female mooks, they’ll usually be some special ninja-like enemy that uses stealth/agility instead of brute force.

      See also: black ops ninjas in Half-Life, assassins and snipers in Overwatch PVE, the dancer zombies in Prince of Persia, ghosts in Starcraft, etc.

      1. Christopher says:

        Yo that’s the point, they put it off for the next game/DLC.

        I’m not a dev, so I’m not entirely sure how the math works out, but it’s real easy to tell that more free action games like Souls, God of War, Bayonetta, Devil May Cry or God Hand have way more diversity in their enemy roster than Batman or Spidey, who mostly rely on one regular dude model and one big brute model, each outfitted with different loadouts, for the whole game. If it’s not the difference in their animation/combat system making it tougher to vary up the arkham-style games I dunno what’s the cause. Despite their comparatively mundane settings, there’s a lot of human body types to choose from.

        1. Gautsu says:

          The connotation of having a “super hero” beating up women. It’s a double standard, but imagine Batman axe kicking a woman in the face in an Arkham game

          1. Syal says:

            …man, now I want to see Batman axe-kicking Baby Doll.

  9. GoStu says:

    The title (banner? header?) image sums her up pretty well to me.

    Pistols are lousy weapons. Their range is short, their bullets comparatively ineffectual and easy to stop (in terms of armor or cover needed), and their accuracy is terrible. In order for a pistol to be effective it needs to be fired from close range (<50m, 150 feet), braced and held in a proper stance, and you still shouldn't expect the kind of results you'd get from anything else.

    Dual pistols exacerbates the existing problems and adds a whole slew of new ones. You can’t look down the sights of two pistols at once. You can’t support them well or assume a proper firing stance with only one hand for each. You can’t reload the damn things, and you’ve given up any advantages on weight by using twice as many pistols as you need. You can’t even do things one-handed while keeping your gun in the other hand, because you’ve got a gun in that hand too.

    So seeing Sable, a so-called “elite mercenary” or whatever, brandishing two pistols in Spider-Man’s vague direction completely rubs me the wrong way. It’d be like in a racing game or movie, having a character press down on the clutch of a car and then cutting to a shot of them zooming away. We are being shown a rookie-level mistake, but the story insists they’re doing something impressive.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      That, at least, is explainable with the words ‘comic books’. Dual-wielding handguns is ‘cool’, despite being horribly impractical in real life. But so are the costumes and half the things that the characters get up to, and that’s even before the superpowers get involved….
      (My favorite is the way everyone just shrugs off wounds or injuries. You were shot in the shoulder ten minutes ago and now you’re punching a guy unconscious with that arm? Bullshit! You don’t even have healing superpowers!)

      Still, she’s dressed like a normal human. If she acted more like one she’d grate less.

      1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

        I’d say dual-wielding is considered “cool” in general, not only with handguns. Dual-wielding swords is much worse actually, at least with guns, there’s an option for suppressing fire, but it’s still ridiculous.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Apparently dual-wielding sword was a legitimate fighting style, historical. Very much a specialist thing, and requiring special training, but still, it happened…
          Ironically, one of the things that makes it effective is that it looks good, and is very different from fighting an opponent with a sword and shield…
          Gladiators would do it, for instance.

          1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

            I can’t remember any type of gladiator equipped with two swords. And the only evidences of using two weapons at once, in medieval and new times history I can remember, are dueling with sword and dagger and using sword and spear simultaneously on horseback.

        2. Lino says:

          Dual-wielding swords was (and is) very much a thing. It’s quite prominent in Filipino martial arts, Krabi-krabong, various Chinese martial arts styles. This is not even getting into the extremely popular combinaition of sword and dagger, or a longer and a shorter sword.

          1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

            Oh, my bad. I kinda forgot, that my knowledge of Asian martial arts and weaponry is almost nonexistent. I’ve mentioned sword and dagger above as a weapons for dueling, but my point is, dagger or shorter sword is auxiliary weapon here, it’s not “dual-wielding” in the context of movies, RPGs, etc and doesn’t look as “cool” as choreography with two swords, sabers etc.

          2. tmtvl says:

            In India as well. That said, usually when you see dual wielding in martial arts it finds its roots in showboating. On the other hand some schools of classic fencing do mention it for use in duels or classroom fencing.

            Is using two swords more sensible than using two handguns? Yes. As Matt Easton (scholagladiatoria on YouTube) says, context is important, but still. If you don’t have a shield grabbing another sword can be useful for parrying the opponents weapon with, though it does make grappling harder so it’s less useful for armoured combat.
            Dual wielding pistols with modern firearms is terrible, you can’t take a proper firing stance so aiming is harder and the recoil is harder to control.
            Now if we were in the age of sail with block powder flintlock pistols things would be a little more nuanced.

      2. GoStu says:

        I guess I’ll hearken back to Shamus’s arguments: the realistic look of this game both cost more and undermines it here. I think I’d be way more ready to buy in if the rest of the presentation wasn’t aiming for that plausible, realistic look.

        Is this game in THE REAL WORLD ™ or Comic Book Land? A gun in each hand says the latter, but my eyes keep trying to insist on the former.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Maybe she can move her eyes independently, so she can aim both guns – did yo uthink of that?

      1. Karma The Alligator says:

        But she’s not mostly naked.

      2. Dalisclock says:

        Clearly she breathes through her skin.

        Now be ashamed of your words and deeds.

      3. GoStu says:

        She’d be at least 15% cooler if she were cross-eyed in every cutscene.

    3. Cynic says:

      I don’t think anyone really cares about that. It’s a pretty mediocre complaint. It’s a comic book character. You want a list of all the comic book characters that dual wield? It’s a long one. The list of folks who dual wield pistols? Almost as long. It’s then taking influence from action in film to depict it in a cutscene, and film has long found that to be cool, particularly with the explosion of the Hong Kong action scene and the western films inspired by then. Pretty much everyone remembers the lobby shootout from The Matrix, and most of that is dual wielding, and yet it’s still an incredibly famous and highly regarded scene because it’s still exciting and engaging, and nobody cares that it’s not realistic because the other stuff matters more.

      Like, sure, dual wielding pistols is dumb, and realistically, you’d be better with an automatic rifle, which puts more ammo downrange, has longer effective range, more damaging ammunition, capable of dealing with armoured targets, and is designed to be pressed against the shoulder for stability, which is all advantages over the pistols.

      But movies and television and videogames have for a long time been inaccurate here and always have favoured the rule of cool, and the convention is still that dual wielding is cool.

      I don’t think we can write a character off because the choreography wasn’t perfectly convincing, because then people who REALLY know their shit, like martial artists, or firearms experts, aren’t going to enjoy anything, because it will never be THAT perfect.

      And also, she literally beats up Spiderman, so like, doing the “Literally elite mercenary” bit like dude, come on, she’s clearly doing ok if she can ambush, and beat in a fistfight, a vigilante who has: For years evaded the NYPD, Beaten a cybernetically enhanced Scorpion person and guy in a rhino mech, brought down large numbers of gang members, and can bench press a car. Like, clearly they are intending to show her as competent.

      The problem is not that her haircut is impractical, or that she uses a firearm in a foolish way (Did you know that in films before the late 90s, basically no films had firearms used correctly? The heyday of big hollywood action movies, the biggest action movies got, pretty much had everyone firing almost exclusively from the hip). Those are minor things that people have as bugbears that almost every character gets wrong at some point.

      The problem with Silver Sable isn’t that they dual wield pistols, it’s that they’re not cool or interesting enough that you don’t care that they dual wield pistols. You have to be ticking really low in the “Pros” column for that to even come up as a “Con”.

  10. Freddo says:

    So to sum up: She has a dumb costume, boring powers, uninteresting motivation, no backstory, annoying one-note personality, unrelenting incompetence, one facial expression, ….

    Lol, for a second my mind blinked and was “hey, this review was’t about Star Wars”

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Her costume would have been at least 20% better, if she had a crew-cut, buzz-cut, or some other kind of punk-ish, military-esque hair, that wouldn’t have bangs getting in your face while you’re aiming guns.

      1. Freddo says:

        Nah, hairstyle and costume for super-powered characters are allowed by their ‘style over substance’ clause. But as Shamus indicated, why go for the middle aged art school teacher look? If she has to go the wimpy two pistol style, at least give the costume two handcannon sized holsters to go with them.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          Punk is the originator of cool. All your hip youngster haircuts are just fashion-model nonsense. In all seriousness, the Punisher has a crew-cut and pistols, and Wonder-Woman, Captain Marvel, and Storm have all had some kind of short hair at different times, so I don’t think short hair would be ruled out, if they’re already deviating from her normal style in the comics.

        2. Asdasd says:

          why go for the middle aged art school teacher look?

          Her haircut makes her look like she’s about to go ham on some poor grocery store clerk for selling her a carton of broken eggs (which actually got smashed because she didn’t secure them properly in her giant SUV).

        3. Syal says:

          Keeping in mind ‘style over substance’ requires you to have style.

  11. Name says:

    Heck, one of Spider-Man’s original foes is Kingpin, despite the fact that Kingpin is just a burly human and Spider-Man ought to be able to toss him into the air with one hand.

    This is something the writers struggled to justify for years, eventually they gave up and shoved Kingpin onto Daredevil.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      That’s not really how it happened. They figured Kingpin was a better fit for Daredevil after Frank Miller put him there, but Kingping continues to be a Spider-Man enemy to this day.

  12. Liessa says:

    “LARPing, but for jocks” :D

    Good article and video as usual, Shamus. I like the comparison to professional wrestling when discussing which characters are ‘allowed’ to beat each other – it reminds me quite strongly of your discussion of Kai Leng in Mass Effect 3.

  13. Mattias42 says:

    …Doesn’t Black Cat have some sort of luck manipulation powers?

    Granted, physically she’s still completely human either way, so I get the point, but vaguely recall something like that back from the 90’s. Might have been one of those ‘throw it at the wall, and see if it sticks’ things you see in comics all the time.

    1. Chad Miller says:

      Might have been one of those ‘throw it at the wall, and see if it sticks’ things you see in comics all the time.

      When I was a kid I picked up The Jackal Files, a sort of mini-encyclopedia of Spider-Man characters as told in-universe through the Jackal character (I think he was supposed to be implanting this directly into one of the many stupid clones no one remembers anymore)

      Anyway, the entry on Black Cat ended with something like “Oh yeah, and I think she might have some wacky bad luck powers or something,” which made it sound like exactly that sort of thing.

    2. Rack says:

      She does. Also her suit is super-tech granting enhanced speed, strength, reflexes and vision. The point stands but Black Cat probably isn’t the best example as she’s more in line with Captain America than Silver Sable in terms of power set.

    3. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

      Does she even need some powers to manipulate luck? I think she can overpower Spidey because of advantages of a different nature. Advantages that give Spiderman a hard.. time to use his spider-senses.

      1. DrBones says:

        Well, except for that one time the Superior Spider-Octopus punched her hard enough to knock a molar out and then carted her off to jail. That was not a popular page in that series.

        1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

          Superior Spider-Octopus.. Is it Dr. Octopus soul trapped inside Peter Parker, who died and became a ghost?

  14. John says:

    I have discovered Silver Sable’s super-secret super-power. She can make pistols appear out of and disappear into thin air. This is clearly a Dramatic Secret, designed to be Dramatically Revealed in a sequel, but I am wise to Insomniac’s clever foreshadowing.

    Consider the scene in which Silver Sable confronts Spidey in front of the locked doors. When she puts her pistols away, where do they go? The scene is suspiciously and conveniently framed in such a way that you can’t actually tell. Based on the movement of her arms and her coat, it looks as though she’s somehow clipping them to the coat at about hip level. But that’s just clever misdirection! The coat is smooth, without any obvious attachment points or even pockets. Also, when we see her walking around in other scenes and she’s not holding any pistols there are clearly no pistols clipped to the coat.

    Foolish John, you may be saying, she obviously carries the pistols in holsters behind her back but under her coat when she’s not using them. Not so! As we can see in the shot where she kicks Spidey in the ribs, there are no holsters behind her back. And again, that’s obviously not where she puts them when she does put them away. She would have had to raise her arms much more than she does and her coat would have had to move in some fashion instead of remaining largely inert. Fine then, you may be thinking, she puts the pistols in interior pockets on the coat. Again, not so! Her arm movements aren’t right for that either. Furthermore, if there were heavy objects like pistols hidden in her coat, her coat would hang and move differently when she’s walking around in scenes where she isn’t holding pistols.

    So why doesn’t Spider-Man remark on Silver Sable’s obvious super and possibly magic powers? He can see that she’s making the pistols appear and disappear even if the camera work prevents us, the audience, from doing so. That’s the best part! Now, they’re both admittedly a little busy with more important things to worry about at the moment, but really Insomniac is setting the stage for that sequel I was talking about. In the sequel, there’s going to be a scene where Silver Sable gazes intensely into the blank, vaguely eye-shaped blobs on Spider-Man’s mask and says something like “Thank you for keeping my secret. I . . . I don’t know what to say.” Spider-Man will gaze back and reply “You don’t have to say anything. I’ve learned the hard way that I need to trust the women in my life.” Genius! It both resolves Sliver Sable’s character arc and shows that Spider-Man has learned from his failed relationship with Mary Jane. I can’t believe how brilliant Insomniac are.

    Or maybe Silver Sable doesn’t have super powers and Insomniac is just covering for bad costume design with sneaky camera work, but, c’mon, how likely is that?

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      I think giving a character with any sort of cape holsters on their belt is begging to get clipping errors at some point.

      1. John says:

        That’s so. I think the obvious solution is to not give the character a cape, especially when the character doesn’t have one in the source material.

    2. Syal says:

      Actually the coat and guns are composed of the same liquid metal they made the T-1000 Terminator out of. She’s not putting the guns under the coat, she’s letting them reform back into the coat.

      …I actually want to see that now. You can have a fight where she just starts pulling ever more elaborate weapons directly out of her clothes, which of course shrink proportionally to reach superheroine levels of exposure. That would help the character a good bit.

      1. John says:

        Huh. That would mean that the bullets were also made from T-1000-ium. Every time she wants to reload, she needs to temporarily re-fuse the guns with her coat. You could tell how trigger-happy she’s been by the length of the coat.

      2. tmtvl says:

        So you’re basically fighting a cartoon character?

        …I want a good Mask video game now.

      3. MelTorefas says:

        Pulling out weapons from clothes that are all the same malleable/shapeshiftable material is a cool idea (Venom’s various spawn usually did this IIRC). But then, alas, you ruined it.

  15. Leipävelho says:

    Having square barrel for a regular bullet is about as effective as not having a having a barrel in the first place.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Hah! I didn’t even notice that. Maybe she’s got custom square bullets? All the better for aerodynamics, armor-penetration, etc! :P

      Looking at them more closely in still-shots, her guns seem like they were made by someone trying to make a “cool” looking gun, who’d never seen a gun in real life. Lots of extra angles and fiddly bits all over the place, the aforementioned square barrels, plus the extra bulk on the front, which looks like it’s ripping off the integrated-suppressor of the Maxim 9, but it’s too small, and looks like a separate bulge on the bottom, not something that the bullet actually passes through after it’s left the barrel.

  16. Mousazz says:

    I would love to see Shamus play through Ultimate Spider-Man, to compare how Silver Sable was handled there.
    Basically, in that game practically all of her accomplishments come from ambushing characters by surprise. She loses all of her head-on fights (although the boss battles are rather tough, she seems confident, does some impressive martial arts, and usually walks away unscathed – still the game leaves no ambiguity about her having lost the fight, thus not ruining the player’s satisfaction with a fake-out result). She doesn’t attack Spidey when her mission is to capture Eddie Brock, whom Spidey had just softened up. Both Spider-Man and Venom express distinct annoyance with her, but, then again, she is hired by the bad guys to advance their conspiracy plots, so she’s clearly a villain (even if she hides her motivations initially – Spidey thought she was an agent of Shield). They even wrap up her character arc with a joke about her contract with the main villain having expired 10 minutes before the final encounter with her, hence she has no reason to fight Spider-Man anymore. Ultimately, she’s just like any character should be – relevant to the plot (unlike in Marvel’s Spider-Man, it seems like).

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      I second this. The way he praises this game’s gameplay, it really makes it sound as if he’s never played a Spider-Man game before. To me, Ultimate is still one of the best ones. A shame it’s really hard to get these days. But maybe if he still has his PS2 around…

  17. Dreadjaws says:

    Her mandate to protect the city is righteous while the behavior of her men is evil, and the story never even throws out a single line of dialog to reconcile this contradiction.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t she actually throw a line after the ending explaining that a bunch of her men are actually a Rogue Cell (Copyright © Cerberus™, All Rights Reserved)? Or maybe it’s part of the dialogue she gives when she leaves after Spider-Man is hospitalized. Yes, it’s a hands-off explanation for why her men are still spreading chaos around the city after she has left, it’s not enough to explain all that her goons do, even when she’s around, and it should have been squeezed way before the main story ended, but technically it’s still there.

    Granted, all this does is make her an even worse heroine, since not only she realizes way too late that a large group of her men have been terrorizing the city without her knowledge, but she’s also all like “Welp. It’s your problem now, webhead. I’m on vacation!”

    I’m not sure about your Sony involvement theory. That could work if she was the only poorly written character in the game, but as you never got tired of pointing out in your analysis (not a criticism, I agree), the main villain of the game is just as terribly written. And, you know, a couple of minor characters too.

  18. Gndwyn says:

    Boomerang is at minimum 10x more prominent a character in Marvel Comics than Silver Sable, but it’s probably closer to 100x more prominent.

  19. Gndwyn says:

    But he’s probably still less prominent than Paste Pot Pete, so maybe still D-list, but Sable’s more like G-list.

  20. Ramsus says:

    Huh, I wasn’t aware the Venom movie wasn’t perceived as good-ish. It looked good, had great action sequences, the symbiote stuff itself didn’t look cheesy and/or weird (which I think was an issue in earlier movies), and it had decent (as opposed to endurable) humor and a reasonably solid plot for a superhero/action movie. The only real negative is that it had nothing at all to do with Spider-Man which just seemed…. weird.

    Also, amusingly I’ve heard of Boomerang. I’d never heard of Silver Sable before your coverage of this game. Could just be a weird side effect of my extremely random comic book reading though.
    Edit: Reading an above comment tells me that no, that’s not the case and my experience is the norm.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Venom’s general audience reaction was indeed positive. Complainers seem to be a vocal minority. In general is regarded as decent and fun, with no sign of the unnecessary political discussion that had started to plague movies when it was released. In fact, the majority of the complaints I’ve heard are from people who are unhappy Spider-Man was nowhere to be seen (which should not factor into the movie’s review, as it should be judged by its own merits) or from people who just really aren’t familiar with the silly tone the character has always had in the comics and are simply expecting something different because they only know the character from other adaptations.

      Critics are a whole other cloth, though. I haven’t trusted most critics reactions in years, and I’ve rarely been proven wrong.

    2. Geebs says:

      I thought the Venom movie wasn’t really any worse than most of the current superhero film glut; it ambled along nicely enough until the mandatory boring CGI-fest ending, like most of the Marvel output.

  21. bumbabum says:

    I mean complaining about video game story isn’t unusual for your blog (haha), but recently I started to wonder if it makes any sense to do so. Mass Effect was an interesting case study in Bioware as a company changing. Star On Chest was funny because it lampshaded how MMO rules and story just don’t work together. These essays had a point.

    But more recent AAA game development keeps demonstrating time and time again that they only produce throwaway games that are not supposed to last you more than a year. If anything they want you to forget it so you give them more money for the next installment. It’s as if they deliberately make sloppy products as a way of planned obsolescence.

    This Spider Man game is a prime example: It uses a popular IP, it’s a somewhat competent (but never excellent) mishmash of game mechanics stolen from other games, and the plot and characters were thrown together without any care of theme or logic, just to be able to tick an arbitrary list of boxes: X minutes of cutscenes, five boss fights, four substories, one love interest, two stealth sections. There’s no soul.

    Complaining about how badly a single character was written in that context is like complaining that the mafia does illegal things: It’s not just correlated or expected, it’s the purpose of the organisation. At some point the bad writing in AAA games is not just an accident, but a pattern. Sure, they could have spent another year on the game, and made it truly great, but that would not have sold more copies (is their assumption). The fact is that AAA games are art second, and monetized products first.

    I mean I even agree with you when you said that Rage 2 sold worse because it had shit for story. I think that’s true – it’s just that AAA producers do not know or care. Bobby and Todd know as much about playing games as they know about the price of butter: They are multi-millionaires and haven’t walked into a store to buy butter in decades.

    This game was always throwaway product. The creators made junk food, and they knew. Analyzing it this closely is giving this game way more credit than it deserves, and that makes the essay about it kinda pointless.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      I agree with you, but the fact of the matter is that this game has been severely oversold by the media as the videogame equivalent of the second coming of Christ; way more than other games in recent years. Like, when people say that Resident Evil story is good we understand they mean “for a Resident Evil game”. When they say Kratos from God of War 4 is a well written character we understand they mean “for a AAA videogame protagonist”.

      But when talking about Spider-Man game, everyone was always talking about how fantastic it was, how it broke the mold, how there was nothing like it and how it had the best versions of the characters in any media. It constantly shows up in people’s lists of top 5 videogames of all time and it’s always taken as one of the top examples on how to make a proper licensed adaptation.

      This is why it’s so important to be critical. This isn’t for the benefit of the developers or publishers who, let’s be frank, don’t give a crap unless the money stops coming, and even if it does they tend to try to find an external factor to blame rather than believe they can be anything but misunderstood geniuses. This is for the audiences to see. To see that no matter how well your hunger was satiated, this was still just junk food and people should realize that.

      Make no mistake, I love junk food, but I refuse to pretend it’s nutritional, and that goes double for when those who sell me the food try to pretend it is.

      1. ivan says:

        But it says Diet on it, that means it is healthy!

      2. bumbabum says:

        I really did not, and do not, understand why this game got so much hype. It’s completely derivative to begin with, and does nothing really well except for the swinging, but the swinging is not even a central pillar of gameplay, it’s just how you get from A to B, in a game where traversal is just filler.

        Even Shamus who said countless times he liked it in the end wrote a series about how bad it is. My first impression of it was Yatzhee’s stream, where just an hour into it he cannot stop complaining about how utterly bored he is by it, and the action on screen supports that. You swing from one fight with six goons to the next fight with six goons, which you beat by pressing Circle when the danger sign flashes and mashing Square the rest of the time.

  22. Cubic says:

    All I know is she just has to see herself as the Cool Wine Aunt.

  23. Misamoto says:

    I think Black Cat was always pictured as having some amount of powers, never just training. Also, I feel like for this revisit to Silver Sable you should have played the dlc. Not saying it makes the character better, but you do get to fight her directly there

  24. Binary Toast says:

    So the impression I’m getting… Is an incompetent Kai Leng.

    Like, the same level of plot protection, the same “always wins in cutscenes” power, but somehow still fails to do anything.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      And she sort of looks like she fits into the game, rather than looking like a JRPG reject who just wandered into a ‘serious’ sci-fi story and won’t leave.

  25. CBob says:

    So, I haven’t played this game, so correct me if I’m wrong, but Silver Sable and her goons sound like they’re basically a lesser version of STAG from Saints Row III.

    Like, STAG is exactly the same concept, just… they actually actively hunt and engage the criminal elements they’re supposed to be a response to, rather than only hassling civilians. And they actually go full villain in the end, rather than just being this wishy-washy indeterminate annoyance.

    There’s even a very similar feel to the visual design. Like, Silver Sable’s guys have that same kind of slightly cartoony “football armor” look rather than being realistic, just not as layered up as STAG troops. They look like nothing so much as the PMC the SRIII baddies would’ve had if they couldn’t quite afford STAG. And while the civilians in Spider-Man look realistic, Silver Sable’s costume has the same sort of “just a little too custom” look that a lot of SR main character costumes have.

    And those weird pistols… color them tan with red gloweys instead of white with blue gloweys and they’d fit seamlessly into STAG’s arsenal.

    Does… does this Spider-Man take place in the SR universe?

    1. aradinfinity says:

      Yeah, I definitely made the same connection to STAG. The difference is really in competence all around, and in my opinion Silver Sable’s people don’t have as much personality in their gear or their leaders.

    2. Asdasd says:

      Hmm. Now that you mention it, they’re very similar.

    3. Christopher says:

      I had to look and see if someone from the Saints Row team jumped to Insomniac at some point, but that doesn’t seem the be the case. Closest I could find is Tom Stanton going from character artist in among others Saints Row 1-3 to then working on Visual Effects for the MCU’s various movies (including Homecoming and Infinity War) via Method Studios. I find it hard to imagine he designed Stag’s armors and then was consulted by Insomniac during the design process as an expert, but I suppose it’s not impossible.

      I think it’s probably just similar influences and needs that lead them to the same conclusion though.

  26. Crokus Younghand says:

    Shamus, I have a suggestion. You might want to put your podcast up on iTunes (if it’s not already there) and then link to it from the video description. People who watch videos will probably have more in common with those who listen to podcasts than those who read 50000 words on Mass Effect.

  27. notethecode says:

    Hey, Shamus, the url of the link under ‘my favorite game of 2018’ is broken, it’s missing a chunk of the address.

  28. Baron Tanks says:

    Don’t really have much to say about the video (yet?). Don’t really care for the silver sable analysis, but I did watch it as support and I wanted to know that you have just hit my personal Goldilocks zone for voice and speed. I really enjoyed the pace of this video, not too fast, not too slow. So here’s my personal positive feedback!

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