Spider-Man Part 23: Smarten Li

By Shamus Posted Thursday Aug 1, 2019

Filed under: Retrospectives 84 comments

In a narrative sense, we’re entering the absolute worst part of the game. The gameplay is fine, but these next couple of cutscenes are a disaster of frustration and annoyance in terms of story.

Spider-Man heads to the secret lab where they’re cooking up the Devil’s Breath antiserum. When he arrives, he finds that Martin Li has already taken over. Martin’s Demon gang steamrolled the Sable guardsHow can these guys possibly suck THIS BAD? The Demons wear suits and use swords, and Sable goons wear body armor and carry automatic rifles..

Spider-Man webs up the Demons, and is about to head inside when more Sable guys arrive. He tries to make peace with them, but their bloodlust is only exceeded by their breathtaking ineptitude. He adds them to the pile of snoozing Demon guys and chases after Martin.

You Again

Cutscene Spider-Man once again forgets he's a superhero.
Cutscene Spider-Man once again forgets he's a superhero.

While he’s forcing open the security doors, Silver Sable arrives. She opens by attempting to shoot Spider-Man in the back (evil and cowardly) and missing (incompetent) despite the fact that they’re clearly on the same side (stupid) and she really needs his help. Then she stops shooting once she gets close (stupid) and throws a little tantrum at Spider-Man for always attacking her men (ignorantThey shoot Spider-Man on sight, under her orders. She’s literally outraged that Spider-Man defends his life with non-lethal force.) and destroying the military hardware her men use to try to kill him (hypocritical). She demands to know why she shouldn’t just shoot him right now (stupid).

Spider-Man shrinks against the wall, apparently checkmated by this dingbat’s one-woman war on reason itself.

Times Silver Sable has defeated Spider-Man in a cutscene: 3

It would be bad enough if we kept losing to a dangerous opponent, but it really stings that we lose by writer fiat to the most incompetent person in the gameYes, more incompetent to Charles Standish who knocked himself out a few chapters ago. Standish only knocked himself out and didn’t manage to hurt any innocent people with his flailing, which puts him ahead of Silver Sable..

Please stop with the dramatic music. There's no way you're going to get me to take this idiot seriously and the dissonance is getting on my nerves.
Please stop with the dramatic music. There's no way you're going to get me to take this idiot seriously and the dissonance is getting on my nerves.

So Spider-Man says, “Listen. I don’t Like you, you don’t like me. But Li has your client inside this building right now and he’s gonna kill him if we don’t do something. We can fight each other, or we can fight Li, but not both.”

This isn’t technically true. Based on Spider-Man’s unwillingness to fight back, she could shoot his face and proceed inside. But evidently this is enough to change Sable’s mind. She holsters her guns.

“Does this mean we’re good?” Spider-Man asks in a voice that indicates he’s nervous and possibly afraid of her.

Silver Sable says, “You will help me secure Norman. After that I make no promises.”

At this point I’m really really looking forward to punching her stupid lights out. Maybe she’s a cool character in other works, but here she’s so moronic, irrational, hypocritical, tyrannical, and incompetent that I’d just as soon uppercut her out of the story.

Get Ready for Disappointment

Yeah, fine. Go fight the Demon mooks. Loser.
Yeah, fine. Go fight the Demon mooks. Loser.

Spidey and Silver Sable enter the building, but then more Demons show up. So then for no reason Silver Sable changes her entire personality. She tells Spider-Man to go save Norman Osborn while she fights the Demon guys.

Norman Osborn is her employer. Keeping him safe is her entire job. Her reputation rides on making sure he isn’t harmed. And yet she’s going to abdicate that responsibility to Spider-Man, even though she just made it clear she still considers him an enemy?

So that’s it. She’s a good guy now? We don’t get to fight her? That would be okay if this were the completion of a character arc or if she went through some sort of change. But we never got that. She wasn’t brought low. She didn’t have to admit she was wrong. She didn’t even get a moment to REALIZE she was wrong. She just changed her behavior for no reason in the middle of a scene.

All this scene needed is a moment where she has to swallow her pride and admit she’s not strong enough to face Martin Li herself. Just have her concede the moral victory to Spider-Man in dialog. That would show that her tough behavior was just an act and possibly hint that she’s been overcompensating. That would make her a lot more interesting. Instead she orders Spider-Man to do her job for her while she mops up a bunch of stupid Demon goons that don’t matter.

Not only did this unworthy loser get to slap Spider-Man around for most of the game, but now we’re denied settling up with her and we’re also denied any kind of a coherent reason for her heel-face turn.

As icing on the cake: This character is useless to the plot. She accomplishes nothing, either as a hero or as a villain.

Can We Blame Sony Again?

I wonder if this is the result of interference from Sony. Sony is looking to use their Spider-Man license to create a Silver Sable team-up movie with Black Cat. Maybe they’re even going to give each character solo movies. I wonder if Sony pressured Insomniac Games to put Silver Sable into this title and give her some screen time as a way to raise her cultural profile ahead of her eventual movie appearance. This mandate would have showed up a couple of years ago while the game was still in production. That might explain why her character arc contains neither character nor arc.

This Silver Sable plot feels so desultory and the rest of the game seems pretty solid, which is why I’m looking for an explanation more complicated than “the writer made a mistake”. If you forced a writer to insert a promotional character appearance into an already-written story then you’d probably get exactly what we see here: a bolted-on series of encounters that don’t ultimately matter to the plot and only serve to show what a “badass” the character is.

Of course, I could be wrong. It’s totally possible the writer just made a mistake or that there was a better resolution to this plot that was cut for time. I have no idea. Regardless of the cause, this was incredibly unsatisfying and doesn’t really work in a dramatic sense.

Martin Li

Don't give in to hate, Martin. If you kill Osborn, then your enormous body count will increase by 1, and that's not who you are!
Don't give in to hate, Martin. If you kill Osborn, then your enormous body count will increase by 1, and that's not who you are!

Spider-Man heads inside and we get another dream sequence where we swing through a destroyed lab while Spider-Man and Martin argue. Spidey is still trying to redeem Martin. For some reason.

The two characters repeat the annoying exchange they’ve already had in the past. Martin bellows that he wants to honor his parents and that he wants “justice” for their deaths.

At this point a reasonable person might say, “Would your parents want you to massacre innocent people?” Or perhaps, “How can you achieve justice by massacring innocent people?”  But Spider-Man makes no attempt to reconcile this character’s goals with his behavior. If he’s just rando crazy, then why are we trying to redeem him with appeals to altruism? If he’s not crazy, then why aren’t we trying to sort out his motivations?

Martin Li manages to corner Norman at the lab. He takes the antiserum, which has the power to save the thousands of people around the city who are dying of Devil’s Breath. Martin doesn’t destroy the antiserum, but he won’t let the good guys use it, either.

Dude! Norman Osborn is RIGHT HERE. Just stab him. What’s with the antiserum? Why do you want it? If you just want to kill lots of people, then destroy it. If not, then let the doctor keep it so he can heal the city. What’s your goal?

(Actually, you can justify this by saying he’s here to steal the antiserum for Doctor Octopus, but then I have the same exact question for Otto.)

Martin FINALLY gets around to trying to kill Osborn, but Spider-Man stops him at the last second.

“Don’t let revenge win!” Spider-Man pleads. “Fight it!”

This sentiment would work if Martin Li was about to cross a point of no return. It makes no sense to say this to a mass-murdering terrorist. He’s already guilty of crimes far worse than vengeance. If he was about to kill for the first time, then sure — let’s appeal to him and try to get him to reconsider. But this jackass has been plotting for years to slaughter innocent people. At this point direct revenge on a single specific target would be a massive improvement in his behavior.

I realize I can’t expect Spider-Man to allow that to happen. Spidey is good to the core and has a strict moral code. The problem is that this conflict has no tension. Norman Osborn is a massive prick and probably deserves what Martin is trying to give him. I hate Norman and I have no stake in Martin’s redemption, which means I don’t care if Spider-Man succeeds. Nothing bad happens if Osborn dies, and nothing good happens to the city if Martin repents.

And THAT'S for having such a lame supervillain name, Martin!
And THAT'S for having such a lame supervillain name, Martin!

Here’s the actual dialog from the boss fight:

Martin Li: (Enraged.) ENOUGH!

Spider-Man. (Struggling.) This… isn’t… you!

Me: (Talking to the screen.) Yes. Yes, it is. This is exactly who this asshole is.

Martin Li: THIS IS EXACTLY WHO I AM!

Me: See? Dumbass.

They fight for a few more rounds. Eventually Martin gets exhausted. The negative glow effect fades for a second.

Spider-Man: Fight it, Martin. You can walk away!

Me: No he can’t. That’s not how law enforcement works. He can go to jail forever, but he can’t walk away.

Martin: No! Osborn must SUFFER!

Me: So why were you about to stab him to death a minute ago? Do you have a plan or not, asshole?

Suddenly, Martin summons / becomes a huge demon.

Spider-Man: I know you can beat the Demon Martin!

Martin: Beat the Demon? I AM THE DEMON!

Me: Exactly. Like I’ve been saying this whole time. Just beat his ass and let’s go home.

Martin: My parents deserve JUSTICE!

Me: Hey Spidey, ask him about the dead school teachers at city hall.

Spider-Man: Fight it, Martin!

Me: You idiots deserve each other.

-Fin-

Whatever. Once the boss fight is over, we get a cutscene. In that cutscene:

That does it, Otto. I'm going to un-friend you on Facebook. And don't even TRY using me as a reference on LinkedIn.
That does it, Otto. I'm going to un-friend you on Facebook. And don't even TRY using me as a reference on LinkedIn.

Spider-Man and Martin Li fight some more. (Spider-Man wins.) Then Doctor Octopus tears into the room and fights Spider-Man. (Spider-Man loses.) Doc Ock brutalizes Spider-Man, beats up the now-powerless Martin Li, kidnaps Norman Osborn, takes the antiserum, and leaves. Silver Sable, true to form, arrives five minutes late to the fight and has nothing to do. She’s suddenly filled with concern for Spider-Man. Spider-Man failed to protect her charge, but she doesn’t seem to care anymore.

Silver Sable takes Spider-Man to get medical help.

“Thank… you…” Spider-Man gasps.

“You can thank me by not dying,” she says.

Hang on, weren’t you trying to shoot him in the back ten minutes ago? Are you a superhero now? What is even happening with this character?

No, Silver Sable. I reject your heel-face turn. You didn't earn it. You're not cool enough to beat Spider-Man and you're DEFINITELY not cool enough to rescue him.
No, Silver Sable. I reject your heel-face turn. You didn't earn it. You're not cool enough to beat Spider-Man and you're DEFINITELY not cool enough to rescue him.

I realize this entry was pretty negativeNo pun intended.. I don’t like dumping on a game I enjoy so much, but this scene is where the two worst characters in our story came together and concluded their disjointed and frustrating stories. Everything gets better from here.

Well, better for the audience. Things are going to keep going downhill for our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

 

Footnotes:

[1] How can these guys possibly suck THIS BAD? The Demons wear suits and use swords, and Sable goons wear body armor and carry automatic rifles.

[2] They shoot Spider-Man on sight, under her orders. She’s literally outraged that Spider-Man defends his life with non-lethal force.

[3] Yes, more incompetent to Charles Standish who knocked himself out a few chapters ago. Standish only knocked himself out and didn’t manage to hurt any innocent people with his flailing, which puts him ahead of Silver Sable.

[4] No pun intended.



From The Archives:
 

84 thoughts on “Spider-Man Part 23: Smarten Li

  1. Mattias42 says:

    FIY, Shamus, whole article on front-page again.

  2. Chris says:

    >“You can think me by not dying,” she says.

    Think should be thank right?

    The whole silver sable business makes me think of allowing you to just give her a smack in the face when she has you at gunpoint and then have spidey yell at her for being so stupid. Then stomp off to save the city while silver sable holds her face and wonders what just happened. They did it perfectly in tony hawk’s underground. If you replay the game instead of having to do the difficult final challenge for some tape, you just sock your rival, who has been bothering you the whole game, in the face and go home.

  3. Christopher says:

    My bet is she’s there for logical gameplay reasons. “We need a new enemy type during the game so the player doesn’t have to fight the same guys forever. Okay, so how about Norman Osborn hiring some mercs to be his own law enforcement? That’s kinda topical. And having heavily armored dudes as the final enemy means we don’t have to make any new body types. So who in Spider-Man’s universe has a lot of mercs? Well, Silver Sable. We’ll have her be the face of them, but at the same time not in control of them, ’cause they need to be evil and fascist and loot the populace, and she’s supposed to be this cool heroic ally after a while. Ooh, how about we make her a DLC main since she’s kinda just security in the main plot, the new bad guy can have stolen all her weapons and gear so we can keep building on the enemy types and it’s kinda cleanup after the main game”, etc, etc.

    They probably never intended for her to be frustrating, she just was, and they couldn’t animate a female model or whatever in time to have a boss fight, same as harley in Arkham Asylum, tho at least she still got a cutscene defeat and a special mook fight.

    Silver Sable is a major part of the final DLC, and does get a super brief boss fight of sorts against Spidey the first time we meet her again( it also features this fun callback, so they at least know we sorely missed one here. But she’s never accused of being incompetent or dumb or annoying, ’cause that’s not what the writers had in mind. They just didn’t realize how she might come across when she’s portrayed as constantly besting Spidey, being in charge of a bunch of evil mercs working for Norman Osborn, definitely being a negative on the city, and you never get to take her to task for anything. The best Spidey does is call out her being a bit rash ( That I remember, at least. Granted it’s been 8 months).

    I think it’s real weird that Li’s story ends here, the way it does. It’s a pretty cool fight, and it’s satisfying to beat him in a more free brawl than at the train, but it never feels like he gets a resolution. That’s saved for Otto. You gotta give us some closure with the dude who’s been the main bad guy for 16 out of our 20 hours, but despite us knowing his history this time we don’t have any more ammo to throw at him.

    1. Decius says:

      My guess is that the outline was written by more than one person, none of whom did any of the dialog writing.

      Someone wrote the bullet point “Sable performs Heroic Rearguard action” after someone else wrote the bullet point “Sable threatens Spidey for hurting her people”, and then two other people wrote the scenes that those bullet points appear to describe. By the time the continuity people got around to it, the voice actors were done and there was no time/money to get them back to record lines that made sense.

  4. Ivan says:

    Soo, I’m no professional shooter of guns and gun-like objects, but that stance in the second screenshot looks really stupid. Can someone who is a professional, or at least has something resembling knowledge about shooting, please elucidate whether I am right to think that stance looks stupid?

    1. Matthew Downie says:

      Speaking as a professional shooter of gun-like objects, she’s doing it all wrong. When using dual guns, you should either hold them sideways, or leap sideways firing wildly and screaming incoherently.

    2. beleester says:

      Dual-wielding is not a good idea for several reasons – even if you’re ambidextrous, you can’t use the sights on two guns at once, your eyes can’t track two targets at once, and you can’t handle recoil as well with one hand as you can with two. Also, if you don’t need to worry about concealment (say, because you know that you’re walking into a shootout with the Demons), you’d get a lot more firepower from one rifle than two pistols. Really, the stance is the least of your worries.

      Of course, in a superhero setting, unrealistic gun use is pretty low on the list of crimes against realism.

      1. Hector says:

        Her stance is still way off. She’s off-balance, and clearly unable to aim. If you look closely, I’m pretty sure she’s pointing those weirdly large guns well to either side of Spider-Man’s head. Comic book writers can get pretty silly, but they try to make it look stylish and artistic rather than realistic.

      2. Decius says:

        Given that she’s a superhero, I can suspend disbelief about a lot of that.

    3. JDMM says:

      The problem is the guns are parallel and from the camera angle we can see the guns are parallel which means she can’t actually be aiming at Spiderman, she’s aiming besides his head. She’s also leaning somewhat forward as if she’s about to make another step

      With gun knowledge the problem becomes systematic, there’s a 21 foot rule for engaging melee combatants, that is if you want to be safe from a guy with a knife be at least 20 feet away from them. Silver Sable is coming within three feet of a guy she knows has superspeed, at that point critiquing the stance is like critiquing the angle with which Tony Stark hooks up his particle accelerator in Iron Man 2, it’s not a question of what’s wrong, it’s a question of what is actually right

      1. Christopher Wolf says:

        This comment is awesome. That is all I have to say on the matter.

      2. Hector says:

        I actually thought of something – she’s almost using a real-life technique developed by the NKVD back in the early days of the Bolsheviks. This was before the invention of automatic firearms one could easily handle. SInce they sometimes needed a lot of firepower, they would grab two pistols (easily available) point them at once target, and blast away.

        Regardless, I wanted to bring up her outfit. It’s… weird.

        I can’t tell if they were trying to go for cool or realistic, because IMHO they failed on both counts. The traditional Silver Sable outfit might seem silly since it’s a comic-book spy’s catsuit, but it’s both distinctive and stands out very well on the page. Given some texture, it could probably work pretty well in a game, too. The actual outfit in the game, though, feels way off. It’s still a bodysuit, but with some gribble stuck on, and a duster that looks a size too big. Her sleeves are rolled up, so she definitely has no armor and it doesn’t look as though she has body armor on at all. it’s an outfit that is simultaneously impractical, silly looking, and visually dull.

        Comic book characters should never, ever look boring.

        1. Redrock says:

          What in the world would the NKVD need a lot of firepower for? Midnight arrests of groggy citizens? Nah. Never saw any reference to akimbo shooting being some sort of special NKVD technique. Carrying two guns was a fairly common practice, though, same as it was with most American cops before the Wonder Nines showed up. But it was mostly a main gun and a backup, which, if pressed, one could use akimbo to lay some suppressing fire. Carrying several guns was particularly common for members of revolutionary cadres, especially those who participated in terrorist activities and robberies. Since many battle-hardened revolutionaries went on to serve in the Cheka and then the NKVD, some of those scrappy tactics stuck.

          1. Decius says:

            Carrying more than one pistol was also popular up through the invention of the removable magazine, simply because drawing is faster than reloading.

            It became less popular with the development of the revolver, because having one revolver was like having six breachloaders.

      3. Syal says:

        I think the 21 foot rule is for holstered weapons, not drawn and aimed ones.

      4. Decius says:

        If the guns are parallel and also further apart than Sable’s eyes are, she can’t have a sight picture on both of them.

        To have a sight picture, the front sight, rear sight, and dominant eye must be collinear.

    4. Asdasd says:

      No idea about firing guns, but part of the awkwardness might be that she seems to be leaning forward on the balls of her feet.

      1. Ivan says:

        That was what I picked up on consciously. I was thinking it’s impossible surely to shoot accurately when you are literally not even standing stably. But, I also like to imagine I was subconsciously picking up on what other ppl mentioned too. Ty all for informative answers :)

    5. dogbeard says:

      It’s wrong, since two guns aren’t much better than one for a single person, but as far as being wrong goes, it’s pretty okay. She’s leaning forwards into it and she has her arms braced for the recoil, so as far as a “so you want to shoot two weapons wildly inaccurately” stance goes she’s actually pretty spot on.

    6. I don’t claim to be a professional either, but I did win some awards for marksmanship when I served in the Army and her ambidextrous double weapon stance looks idiotic to me, too. If the weapons she’s holding have any recoil to them, she’s going to be firing at the ceiling.

      To make matters worse, in the second screenshot she looks very off-balance, as if she’s about to fall forward on her face!

    7. Decius says:

      Things she is doing wrong:
      Trying to use two pistols at the same time.
      Aiming them at empty space to the side of Spidey’s head
      No sight picture
      Bad trigger discipline (finger on the trigger but not intending to fire)
      Attempting to use a firearm to intimidate
      Improperly rolled-back sleeves
      I can’t tell if she’s using two left-handed pistols or if those pistols fire caseless ammo.

      Oh, and Michel Jackson’s estate probably owns the copyright to the Anti-Gravity Lean.

  5. Karma The Alligator says:

    She’s literally outraged that Spider-Man defends his life with non-lethal force.

    It’s kinda amazing how often I see something similar from military characters. They attack someone, who defends themselves (sometimes successfully), then hold a grudge as if the victim wasn’t supposed to defend themselves and they themselves fell prey to a horrible attack. That always leaves me flabbergasted.

    1. Asdasd says:

      In fairness, this kind of irrational behaviour is hardly uncommon in people, especially bullies. The story (or Spiderman himself) refusing to acknowledge or respond to it must be intensely annoying though.

      1. King Marth says:

        I encountered this in a D&D session once, and had the perfect one-liner:

        “Ah, I see now… You’ve never fought anyone who could fight back before, have you?”

  6. Kai Durbin says:

    I would love it if at this point in the story you just wanted to set the controller down, make a pizza, all while Spidey gets his ass kicked, both in a cutscene and in gameplay. ;P

  7. Ancillary says:

    I don’t own a PS4, so I can’t bring any insight to the game beyond what I read here.

    With that in mind: Didn’t Shamus make this his GOTY 2018? If these retrospectives are representative of the actual product, then the game’s narrative makes The Amazing Spiderman II sound like A Man For All Seasons. And the game mechanics boil down to “fun web-slinging, inferior Arkham brawling, and lots of QTEs.”

    On the other hand, for comparison purposes I’m trying to think of another long-form criticism on this site that was fundamentally positive (besides Witcher 3, of course), and I’m coming up short. Still, the story sounds at least as terrible as The New Colossus’s (another game I haven’t played), and that series concluded on a negative note. What makes the difference?

    1. JDMM says:

      I think the main difference is that all the narrative problems in Spiderman spill out from idiotic characters as opposed to an idiotic plot

      Spiderman is constantly giving too much leeway to Silver Sable and Martin Li however you know that’s sort of Spiderman’s thing, he gives breaks to people because he’s a good guy and then those breaks nearly always backfire because Parker luck. With Wolfenstein BJ sort of has no agency, he’s a lunkhead who kills Nazi but that means when things go wrong and he allows Boss Nazi to get into her Nazi tank it’s not on BJ because he’s not complex enough (also Spiderman never pulls a dream sequence to nullify your actions, it’s dream sequences are weird representation of what’s happening, not “Oh no Spiderman, that effort didn’t actually matter”)

      1. FluffySquirrel says:

        Spiderman is super good, so him giving leeway is somewhat reasonable.. I think it’d feel a lot better if he was just more snarky and pointing out how idiotic the other people are being though, that’s very much one of his things

      2. Cubic says:

        I’m looking forward to the future review of Teen Wolfenstein by the way.

    2. Lars says:

      Look up Silent Hill 2. Another long-form (6 entries IIRC) criticism that was really positiv for Shamus. Other than that: Mass Effect – just stop reading when he reaches the second game.
      The Final Fantasy X Retrospective wasn’t that negative either.

      1. Ancillary says:

        Thanks for the pointers. I’ve read the FFX and Mass Effect series, but the former completely slipped my mind and I was lumping all three (four?) games of the latter together.

        I think these examples bolster my gut feeling. Except for the occasional qualifier that the game is “still good,” this series reads more like The New Colossus or Andromeda, less like FFX or the first Mass Effect. I’m curious how it’s all going to come together in the final entry.

      2. Nimrandir says:

        I’d say the Arkham City analysis was positive overall. The issue there was the requisite story critique, because the game features a reasonable-but-undercooked plot interleaved with another plot which barely manages to hold together. However, his initial post on the game states as thesis that Arkham City is very much gameplay-first.

        He adores the combat mechanics, likes the dynamic stealth system, applauds its integration of tutorial elements, and even gives kudos to one of its biggest plot twists. Heck, he uses the word ‘favorite’ in the final post, without any hyperbole.

    3. Dreadjaws says:

      Sometimes the enjoyment you get out of a piece of entertainment supercedes all the inherent problems with it. If you’re having fun with something you’re willing to let the issues pass, even if you’re not going to pretend they don’t exist.

      Then again, like I said before, I have the lingering sentiment that this might end up being another Tomb Raider 2013 for Shamus, and in a few years he’s going to look back at the game with less love.

    4. Well firstly, Shamus loves Spider-Man (the character… man I wish they gave the game a subtitle so I didn’t need to write this long clarification.) He’s been up front about how important the character was to his childhood and adolescence. The opportunity to lose yourself in the fantasy of being him must be a dream come true.

      Secondly, you really underestimate just how good the traversal system is. This game introduces a fast travel mechanic about 20% in and I literally never used it because I would rather spend ten minutes swinging from one end of the map to the other. It is an incredible joy to control Spidey and it doesn’t get old. That mechanic alone makes it a good game.

      Thirdly, Shamus seems to really like some aspects of the plot, such as Otto’s descent into villainy and Peter’s relationship with MJ. I was even colder on the plot than he is (I hate MJ more than Shamus hates Silver Sable) and I still would recommend the game overall.

      Fourthly, maybe most importantly… this is a game that works in spite of its many many flaws. If you take the time to do all the optional side content, then maybe 15-20% of your playtime will be spent on the main story. Most of the time you’re swinging around the city, fighting bank robbers and car jackers, searching for backpacks, clearing out Demon bases or trying to get the best ranking on Taskmaster’s challenges. The main story is by far the weakest aspect of the game (at least for me) but the open world is such a delight to navigate. A game like New Colossus puts its plot front and center with long, self-indulgent cutscenes and the only thing backing it up is some functional but uninspired shootman action.

    5. I’ve read way too much Shamus so here’s a rough breakdown of his feelings on the various games he’s done retrospectives on. I probably missed a few.

      Highly Positive: Witcher 3, Mass Effect 1, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Silent Hill 2, Borderlands 2
      Mostly Positive: Arkham City, Grand Theft Auto 3, Final Fantasy X
      Mostly Negative: Spider-Man, Mass Effect 2, Grand Theft Auto V, Diablo 3, Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, Black Desert Online, Borderlands 1, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, The Good Robot (lol)
      Highly Negative: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Thieves’ Guild), Fable 2, Mass Effect 3, Mass Effect Andromeda, Grand Theft Auto IV, Fallout 3, No Man’s Sky, Arkham Origins

      1. Ancillary says:

        This list is much appreciated. I’ve been trying to read all the long-form criticism on this site, but a few series are tucked away under esoteric categories. This gives me a better idea of what to look for.

    6. Syal says:

      Having played neither game, I feel qualified to answer this.

      The New Colossus wasn’t just stupid, it was also gross. (See also: Hitman Absolution.) The propaganda-tier, why-are-they-in-charge villain gets several minutes of cutscene torturing the player character, and the payoff is supposed to be the player character getting to be equally brutal in killing her.

      Spiderman might have dumb stuff, but a) Spiderman is a likable guy, b) the main villains feel like they’re qualified to be main villains, and c) the game isn’t revelling in misery. Even if the Demons cross the lines of decency, the focus of the scene is on how the hero handles it.

  8. Darren says:

    I believe Silver Sable is the focus of at least one of the DLCs, so it could also have been just setting up ongoing conflicts that players might want to see resolved but which don’t demand a full game’s worth of production.

  9. BlueHorus says:

    So they pulled a variant of the classic ‘defeat the enemy in gameplay, lose anyway in a cutscene straight afterwards?’

    Laaaaaaame.

    I mean, it’s better than making you win the fight against Mr Negative and then him beating you in the proceeding cutscene, but still – has the player even been allowed to fight Doc Ock in gameplay yet?

  10. Hal says:

    I don’t really have much to say about this point in the game; I have much more to say about next week’s entry, though.

    For the endgame sequence, there’s really very little wind in the sails here. You show up to the facility and have to fight a bunch of Demons. Except, if you’ve been doing the open-world activities before finishing the game, then you’ve spent the last several hours beating on Sable agents, who are far more challenging than the demons. So that segment comes off as somewhat anticlimactic. Followed up with a fight with Martin, which is . . . also pretty easy.

    I get that Martin is our penultimate challenge, so they don’t want to go too overboard on difficulty; though, you could say the same thing for all of the boss fights in the game. All the same, The impact of this segment is kind of a dud; because it ends up being rather trivial to get through it all, it doesn’t feel quite so dramatic or rewarding, and as Shamus said above, the narrative resolution is not satisfying enough to make up for it.

  11. DonLasagna says:

    Hey Shamus, I am not sure how to get in touch with you to ask an unrelated question like this, but do you still work for The Escapist? I love your stuff on here but haven’t seen anything with Experienced Points so I was curious. No ill will regardless, keep up the good work!

    1. Joe Informatico says:

      I’m curious too–Nick Calandra (Escapist’s new EiC) posted something about a week ago that implied Shamus had left the site, but then two days ago he posted this comment suggesting it’s just a temporary hiatus:

      Shamus has put the column on hold as other work came his way that he had to attend to. Hoping he’ll have time to come back and do more in the future!

      Like DonLasagna, I’m just curious.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        Thanks for sharing the comment; I had missed it when I read Nick Calandra’s letter.

        The question has been asked at least twice before this, and I had taken Shamus’ silence as a tacit ‘no comment.’ I’m legitimately curious what the other work is now, though. I recall murmurings about assembling the retrospectives into e-books, maybe?

  12. Liessa says:

    This sentiment would work if Martin Li was about to cross a point of no return. It makes no sense to say this to a mass-murdering terrorist. He’s already guilty of crimes far worse than vengeance. If he was about to kill for the first time, then sure — let’s appeal to him and try to get him to reconsider. But this jackass has been plotting for years to slaughter innocent people. At this point direct revenge on a single specific target would be a massive improvement in his behavior.

    I hate this ‘must save the villain at any cost’ thing in superhero stories. It’s understandable that the hero wants to stick to his moral code, especially where the villain is/was a personal friend, but when you’re talking about someone who’s killed hundreds or even thousands of people in multiple vicious attacks – and shows every sign that they will go on doing the same thing in future – it starts to look downright self-indulgent. It’s not about you at this point, dude. The focus should be on taking down this guy as quickly and cleanly as possible with minimum collateral damage, not on trying to save his soul.

    1. Matthew Downie says:

      It might have worked if the narrative had been about a decent man who was corrupted by some evil force (Darth Vader did worse things and he’s still allowed a redemption…), but the way Martin Negative’s presented he seems more like an evil man who was hypocritically posing as a philanthropist. This makes him less sympathetic than an outright villain would be.

    2. Joshua says:

      I think there’s a heavy dose of what Shamus refers to as a bent premise in his article about why Batman doesn’t kill: https://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=27382

      The largest gist is that the writers have to come up with a way to re-use the same villains and allow for new stories without constantly creating new characters. They can’t kill the villain nor allow them to be killed. The films seem to be much less protective of their villains regardless of the superhero, since there’s less incentive to have a particular villain come back (Loki is the main exception, I think).

    3. BlueHorus says:

      it’s understandable that the hero wants to stick to his moral code, especially where the villain is/was a personal friend, but when you’re talking about someone who’s killed hundreds or even thousands of people in multiple vicious attacks – and shows every sign that they will go on doing the same thing in future – it starts to look downright self-indulgent. It’s not about you at this point, dude.

      My ‘favorite’ version/addition to this (which, to be fair, is more a thing in action movies rather than comic books) is when the hero has killed a load of faceless mooks prior to making a big effort to not kill the ringleader.

      Oh, so you’ll bend over backwards to make sure that Professor Murderface stands trial and is sent to prison, huh?

      Yet poor old Billy Criminal, who Murderface hired to guard his secret lair – you killed him without a second though. You even made a pun about it!
      Murderface kills because it’s fun, and Billy was just poor and lived in a crappy part of town. Who deserves to live more?

      1. Syal says:

        This is part of what makes Dead To Rights: Retribution fun (to watch). Jack Slate murders hundreds of goons to get to the ringleader, then murders several dozen goons hauling the ringleader to the police station, then murders about a hundred goons inside the police station to make it to a cell, where he drops off the ringleader. It’s so hypocritical you’d think it was on purpose.

        1. Liessa says:

          Ah, I assume you’ve seen slowbeef’s LP? That’s definitely the worst example of gameplay and story disconnect that I’ve ever seen in a videogame. You have to wonder if the writers and the gameplay designers ever actually communicated with each other in any way.

  13. Joshua says:

    “So that’s it. She’s a good guy now? We don’t get to fight her? That would be okay if this were the completion of a character arc or if she went through some sort of change. But we never got that. She wasn’t brought low. She didn’t have to admit she was wrong. She didn’t even get a moment to REALIZE she was wrong. She just changed her behavior for no reason in the middle of a scene.”

    To be fair, this game is not the only offender in regards to the easy Heel/Face Turn. It’s one of those over-abused tropes that writers like to use to increase dramatic stakes but comes off with a sour taste if there’s little concern given to motivations, like this instance where Silver Sable doesn’t seem to have consistent behavior.. I mentioned that I started playing FF IX for the first time a month or so ago, and there’s a similar character who beats your ass every single time (although she does it legitimately in gameplay), mocks your heroic efforts, and then suddenly flips on a dime to be a good guy, with no real explanation. Of course, that’s happened with other Final Fantasy games as well, so I guess that’s just a series trait.

    That’s one of the tropes GRRM was examining in A Song of Ice and Fire. A character tries to go on a “Redemption Arc”, and finds out it’s hard and people aren’t suddenly going to treat you like a good guy because you had a change of heart. Jaime’s conversation with the Blackfish especially comes to mind.

    The television show Angel did this as well, where a recurring villain had done the Heel/Face turn a few times too many and the good guys kill him even after he’s helped them in the last episode because they know his turn isn’t necessarily permanent and he’s harmed too many people already. Interestingly, most of the protagonists are on Redemption Arcs themselves, so they know when a turn to the good side and search for atonement doesn’t seem genuine.

    I guess one overall point is that if you want to have a good Heel/Face or Face/Heel turn, you’ve got to have proper and consistent motivation for both the before and after change, not just have a change for drama’s sake.

    1. Darren says:

      Beatrix’s flip is examined more than Sable’s, though. We see her doubts about Brahne build in a few scenes before she flips, the other characters express some justifiable hard feelings about it, and, without getting into spoilers, later in the game she is explored still further.

      FFIX isn’t the most serious or gritty game ever, but it hits most of its story beats really well, and would actually be a good candidate for one of Shamus’s long-form analyses, as it does an awful lot very well.

      1. Joshua says:

        I did like that a lot of the characters seemed fairly genre-savvy, or bad things happening due to writer-fiat were often subverted, at least early in the game. One instance that I can recall is with the Bounty Hunter that takes Eiko captive, and her efforts are fairly short-lived, and yet at the same time she doesn’t fall for Zidane’s “I’m going to try something” gambit.

        The game’s not perfect, as Steiner and Garnet’s defense of Brahne (“She couldn’t possibly be doing something evil, there must be another explanation!”) goes on for WAY too long, and Kuja’s capture of the whole party/Hostage for McGuffin gets very tropey really fast.

        I’ve never played X, so wouldn’t know how to compare, but IX also has a really slow start to the plot compared to the other ones I’ve played (mostly IV and VI). Might be an interesting series to review though.

      2. Nimrandir says:

        I can’t remember how much of FFIX Shamus played, although he mentioned it during his FFX retrospective. How easily can one access it these days? I still have a PS2 sitting in my living room, so I’ve never had to worry about it. Also, I only re-purchase the original Final Fantasy and Baldur’s Gate — way too often.

        For what it’s worth, I’d like to see an analysis of FFIX by Shamus, to see if others think it holds up as well as I do. It’s probably my favorite game in the series, with probably my single favorite character (Vivi).

        1. Chad Miller says:

          FFIX has enough rereleases and ports that if you have a computer or current-gen console you can play it. I hear they even kept the loading times!

        2. Hector says:

          Steam version is available with just enough updates to be playable.

          1. Nimrandir says:

            Okay, I need more details here, because ‘playable’ lives on a crazy sliding scale between ‘literally did not function for some time after release’ and ‘only runs at twice its original frame rate and thrice its original resolution.’

            I mean no offense; I have come to the conclusion that I personally have no quality or convenience standards compared to the rest of the gaming public. I played FFVII less than two years ago, swapping discs around with no concern for wasted time. I downloaded and played Morrowind earlier this year, without any of the graphical mods deemed essential by other players I know. I merrily sit through Monster Hunter World load times on my PS4 which are deal-breakers for people who accepted them the year before. I really, truly am curious how unplayable the initial release of FFIX was.

            1. Fizban says:

              I’m currently replaying FF9 on the Steam version, and it seems fine to me.
              -The 3d models are in high res but the static backgrounds can’t just be rendered differently, so there’s a weird but kinda charming clash between them. You can see it in the screenshots on the store page at full size, like the one with Vivi. The worldmap is still sluggish, and the “loading times” are still in- presumably the pauses are hard-coded. So it takes a bit to get a save down, and sometimes a battle will take a long time to load, but no worse than the original.
              -It still uses the memory card slots within slots system, but as if you had a ton of memory cards, so you can save up to 15 files under each “slot.” A bit awkward and no modern quicksaves, however:
              -I’ve had one game crash (out of 12 hours played), but it also has unmarked autosaves in some spots: I lost a boss fight and quit out, but hitting continue put me back at the boss fight, and I avoided losing a big chunk of time during the crash later because there was an autosave from the last time I’d entered the worldmap.
              -You can adjust volume and remap buttons in the settings, but doing so only affects the game when you’re loaded into a save file, so it always starts up loud and you have to use the default layout to load the save. A fairly minor annoyance. It displays xbox button icons for my xbox controller, so no conversion confusion there.
              -The store page mentioned an xp increase option that I haven’t seen, but there are two easy mode settings you can turn on, one to instantly learn skills, and the other to just max out your wallet if I remember right.

              If you’d be okay replaying on the original hardware then the Steam version is fine, unless the high res/low res clash bugs you. They might have been able to do more modernizing, but what’s there is more than some ports of modern games.

              1. Nimrandir says:

                Thanks for the information. That sounds more than playable, so I can maintain my pie-in-the-sky hope of a FFIX retrospective.

  14. Ninety-Three says:

    But Li has you client inside

    Typo patrol.

    1. Joshua says:

      And here:
      “Maybe she’s a cool character in other works, but here he’s so moronic”

  15. Syal says:

    no pun intended

    None taken.

    Don’t remember if we’ve beaten up all four of the Sinister Six yet, but if we have that would have been a way to try to redeem Sable here; instead of mooks breaking in, it’s all the bosses, and she tells Spider-man to go ahead while she wades into some ridiculous fight. You’d probably still want to punch her, but at least it would feel like she’s pulling the same cutscene nonsense on the villains.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Then it looks like she’s taking away your chance to settle up with the rest of the Sinister Six, which probably wouldn’t feel much better. Unless you meet her later on, in traction or a full-body cast.

      1. Syal says:

        Not if you’ve already beaten them. Then she’s just making your earlier victory stick.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          That’s still negating a player victory in my book — even worse than the ‘boss fight into cutscene finale’ foul.

          1. Syal says:

            By ‘already beaten them’ I mean at least half an hour earlier in an unrelated event.

            1. Nimrandir says:

              If they’re back at full strength, it’s still going to make the player’s prior victory seem pointless (note that the Arkham games don’t repeat boss battles against supervillains, except for a couple in DLC and Origins’ reuse of Bane). If they’re still beaten up, why have them there in the first place? It’s not like this bunch are all that fond of each other.

              The only way I can possibly see this working is if Spidey himself delegates Sable as the clean-up crew. He’d better also have a really snarky quip saved up for the occasion. Even then, I’d be a little annoyed.

  16. Jabberwok says:

    I’m starting to feel like ninety percent of AAA games would be improved if they weren’t allowed to have cutscenes at all.

  17. The Rocketeer says:

    Now, I could definitely be forgetting some things, but I’m kinda shocked by Shamus’ indifference to Norman Osborn’s life. What exactly has he done to deserve death, again? I mean, aside from the simplistic logic that anyone who isn’t the hero’s friend is a villain, and villains deserve death meted to them by the universe (though not by the hero; it’s in such poor taste to swing the blade yourself), all I can think of that Osborn’s done is probably break some campaign fincance laws (is appropriating public space and money for campaign events even supposed to be wrong in this comic book setting, much less illegal?) and recklessly pursue some medical breakthroughs. I think accidentally creating the Orchid from Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and breaking Martin’s brain is… not actually that bad in this setting? I think the odds are better than even that any name in the New York phone book in this setting is either someone who’s been transfigured by a superscience accident or a family member of the same. There should be a support network for this stuff that dwarfs Alcoholics Anonymous/AlAnon. Norman probably should have set Martin up with one of those, I guess, but Martin also seems to be doing alright for himself: an orphaned lab accident who grows up to be in charge of two prominent, successful organizations? Martin’s living the American Dream! And Norman’s pursuing legitimate medical ends here, not trying to build and sell some sort of bioweapon or whatever. And doing so out of deep concern for his family, which is relatable and makes him more of a tragic figure than an outright malicious actor. No saint, I suppose, but I’m really not getting the vibe that Spider-Man should feel clean just letting Martin stab him several times in the chest and abdomen and exsanguinate squirming in a pool of his own piss.

    Also, I realize Norman is evil because he’s the Green Goblin. Except that he isn’t the Green Goblin, and if I’m interpreting the foreshadowing correctly, his son Harry is more likely to become the Green Goblin due to (I’m blown out of my fucking socks with surprise) getting transfigured by well-meaning but reckless super-science. Except Norman still is the Green Goblin, because comics land is an absurd fatalistic eisegete’s paradise, and writers and audiences alike not only accept but celebrate analyzing everything and everyone through the lens of previous, alternate continuities and incarnations, irrespective of what has happened or will happen in the story at hand. I think it’s bizarre and a little troubling if Norman Osborne can deserve to be painfully murdered by an insane superpowered terrorist due even in small part to a karmic echo of things “he” did in other incarnations of his character. Comics are…

    1. Shamus says:

      * He shut down Otto’s research lab for petty selfish reasons and showed up in person to rub Otto’s nose in it.
      * Called in Silver Sable and her army of fascist goons, allowing them to terrorize the city.
      * Created Martin Li, which is supposedly bad in ways the game never articulates.
      * Creates Devil’s Breath, a silly science super-plague, and has his chief scientist drive it around the city for whatever reason.
      * Took credit for the capture of Martin Li, even though Spider-Man did all the work.
      * Used the near-death heroics of Jefferson Davis to create a press event for himself and boost his re-election campaign.
      * Actively worked to cover up his company’s connection to the super-plague.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        Gosh, I’m having trouble keeping it all in my head. I guess it comes from not having played the game.

        The worst stuff is the stuff with Martin and Devil’s Breath, obviously, yet that stuff also either really unclear or nonsensical in a way that makes me look askance at the writer more than trying to incorporate it into a nuanced reading of the character. Emotionally, waving the bloody shirt over Jefferson Davis’ fresh corpse is probably worse than the rest, especially given our connection to Miles, but I’m again not sure how we’re supposed to receive this in the context of this setting, and I also get distracted by naming the character Jefferson Davis, a creative decision I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fit my head around.

        On one hand, I guess I shouldn’t question Norman’s theoretical death since, narratively, we already have someone else established for the Goblin, who could easily rationalize villainy by blaming Spider-Man’s negligence for his dear father’s death. And tonally this game has been cavalier about murdering lots of people. But Spider-Man should still want to do his level best to prevent Norman being murdered by Martin, even if it makes no sense to.do so by trying to save or redeem Martin. And the mass murder issue is really something we should want lessened, not added to, although in this configuration we get that old, uncomfortable situation of little nameless people’s lives being disposable but even villainous characters being too precious.

        As things presently stand, it would make more sense to me if Otto and Martin were stopped, letting Spider-Man put an end to the crimes branching ultimately back to Norman’s callousness and negligence, but with Norman’s role in this history thrown open for the public, a fitting turn for a character grown great on public approbation who doesn’t pull triggers himself, and what Martin and Otto should have desired all along but didn’t. Exposure forces Norman to reckon with the consequences of his actions, a prime opportunity to reform from his selfish ways, but predictably for a man of his low character, narcissistic Norman is instead driven deeper into misconduct in his sudden desperate circumstances. This establishes fertile ground for future drama with Norman in a more directly antagonistic role, and could be used any of a hundred ways to coax out the Green Goblin in whatever form it may take.

        I have no idea what actually happens, of course. This just seems like an obvious row to hoe.

        1. John says:

          Huh. This is the first time I have ever encountered the phrase “waving the bloody shirt” outside historical accounts of political campaigns in the aftermath of the Civil War–by which I mean the real, historical American civil war and not anything to do with Marvel Comics. Neat.

          1. The Rocketeer says:

            And looking back on it I used it wrong, I think, since Davis was alive at the time, and receiving an award? Swing and a miss! I thought it was a memorial for him dying. Although, he dies at the event? Was this before or after he orders Beauregard to take Fort Sumter? Was this the first big attack by Martin? Or was there another event afterward, and Norman Osborn was there, too, being a sleaze? This plot makes the horseshoe-shaped dent in the side of my head hurt. I can no longer understand anything but swinging a greatsword in Monster Hunter: World. In a few more months the local news is going to tell people to be on the lookout for me after I wander away from the home.

            1. Nimrandir says:

              There’s your problem. The weight of a greatsword slows you down and gets you hit. That dent’s probably from a Kirin hoof! Try something more mobile, like an insect glaive.

              Wait — what game are we talking about again?

      2. *Shutting down Otto’s lab: this is an assholish thing to do. I don’t think someone deserves to be murdered with a sword or thrown off a building for it, though.
        *Called in Silver Sable and her goons: in fairness to Osborn, what else could he do? The NYPD… uh, PDNY is clearly out of their depth against Fisk’s goons, let alone the Demons. The Avengers are occupied. In the real world, martial law would also be declared, it’d just be the New York National Guard rather than some European mercenaries. Sable International are fascist thugs but they’re well-armed, well-trained fascist thugs, they’re the best someone like Osborn has got against supervillains.
        *Created Martin Li: the footage makes it clear that this was an accident, Li is just delusional and thinks Osborn murdered his parents on purpose for no reason.
        *Created Devil’s Breath: He didn’t try to create a bioweapon, he was trying to cure the disease that killed his wife and would kill his son. Having the chief scientist drive it around the city is nonsensical, but in-universe it seems rational. Nobody ever goes “Osborn, that was stupid, you should have put it in some heavily guarded security with a billion guards.”
        *Took credit for Li’s capture: iirc it’s the media that does this, and it isn’t really made clear why since Osborn was nowhere near the site of Li’s capture. In any case, while it’s a dick move, Spidey doesn’t do what he does for glory. He doesn’t even seem bothered that Osborn gets the credit. It’s a victimless crime, and again definitely not something that someone deserves death over.
        *Used Davis’ heroics to bolster his re-election campaign: That’s just ordinary politics. For what it’s worth, I found Osborn’s speech to be tasteful. He praises Davis’ bravery and the police in general, puts the medal on Davis, and then steps away. It’s only a little bit sleazy, mostly it comes off as legitimately honoring a hero.
        *Covered up Oscorp’s connection to Devil’s Breath: Again, what else could he do? Announce “hey guys, we created a deadly bio-weapon but I’m not going to destroy it because it might have medical applications?” Destroy it, thus dooming his son to death? It’s not like Osborne wanted to unleash a bio-plague on New York. He wasn’t selling Devil’s Breath to the highest bidder or anything. His only realistic options were to destroy it, dooming Harry, or keep it somewhere safe while Oscorp refined it into something with its intended beneficial purpose.

        Osborne’s only crimes are being an asshole and a dumbass. If he deserves death for that then so does everyone in this game besides Peter, Miles, and Aunt May.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          Doesn’t Peter tell Aunt May and Miles to take shelter at FEAST after finding out that Li is a mass-murdering superpowered insane terrorist with the means and intent to kill again?

          1. Oh, Peter’s a complete dumbass. He’s just not an asshole. I was saying every other character of substance in the game- Yuri, Otto, MJ, Silver Sable, Norman, Martin, Fisk- is both an asshole AND a dumbass. Dumbasshole.

            I really don’t like the writing in this game.

      3. Redrock says:

        I mean, that’s a huge failure on the game’s part right there. They never manage to make Osborn look all that bad beyond relying on your pre-existing knowledge of him being a major villain. Creating Martin looks like an honest mistake, and a lot of his other bullshit is framed as driven by sincere love for his son. Yeah, he’s thoroughly unpleasant, but no more so than the average grubby politician. Asshole, yes, one of the cruelest villains in Spidey canon? Not really, no.

        It’s something I keep coming back to – the game sometimes really relies on your pre-existing knowledge of Spidey lore, except when it doesn’t.

  18. Olivier FAURE says:

    Sooo… I don’t think of myself as a hardcore feminist, but the two comic book characters depicted above are sexualized to the point it feels incredibly gross to me.

    Like Shamus can hate Sable’s costume in the game (I think it’s decent, it conveys her character well enough), but it’s still leagues ahead of the latex dominatrix suit she wears in the comics.

    1. No less ridiculous than Spider-man’s skintight spandex which hugs his Spider-ass in glorious next-gen graphics. There’s also a costume which is literally just the mask and boxers, so feel free to salivate over Spider-man’s rippling abs, broad shoulders, and slamming thighs.

      Not that this bothered me in the slightest! For people who are of such an inclination there’s nothing wrong with them appreciating Spider-man’s hotness. It just hardly seems fair to turn every female character in the game (save for Aunt May) into a violent, angry, dour jerk wearing seven layers of clothing for fear of accusations of sexism.

      I also loathe Sable’s design in this game. Her comics design is at least distinctive. There’s an easy solution here that makes everyone happy: put her in power armor! Her men are already wearing it, it would allow them to riff on her comics costume while also turning it into something more realistic for a professional mercenary to wear, and best of all it’d provide an actual reason for why an unaltered human could ever get the better of Spider-Man, the guy who can bench press an elephant and outrun a sports car.

      1. Syal says:

        I think the only good thing about the game’s design is that it clearly signals Silver Sable is not going to become a love interest.

      2. Olivier FAURE says:

        That’s still not sexualized.

        The underpants costume is played like a joke, unlike, say, He-man’s traditional outfit.

        Compare to Arkham City’s Catwoman, whose every move is meant to show her in a sexy pose (eg her slide move shows her boobs to the camera). If you want a male equivalent, I guess Dante in DMC is the closest you get.

        1. So if you were playing, say, Tomb Raider, and there was a sequence where Laura trips on peyote or whatever and comes to in her undies, and this unlocks an “Underwear Laura” costume, you wouldn’t consider that sexualized either?

          Yes it’s played for comedy. That doesn’t mean it isn’t sexualized. They aren’t mutually exclusive- and even if they were, you’re free to play through the entire game in the underwear costume if you feel like it, thus divesting it of the humor of the original scene (albeit creating plenty of new unintentional comedy.)

    2. Chad Miller says:

      While I totally feel you about Silver Sable, Black Cat doesn’t bother me so much for some reason. Maybe it’s because her character is a thrill-seeking cat burglar so it feels more appropriate to her character than Sable, who is supposed to be a serious mercenary.

      That said, this feels like a counterargument to the hypothesis that Sable is in this game to plug the movie with Black Cat? If you told me it was just a movie about Silver Sable, I could totally see aging her up and reinventing her as someone older and more practical, like a sort of Marvel analog to Amanda Waller. Telling me you’re putting her in a movie with Black Cat of all people makes me think that they’re aiming for some Hollywood chick badass duo thing and would only tone down the “sexy” just enough to keep it from looking completely ridiculous on a (young) live-action actress.

      All that having been said, there’s a counter-counter argument to be had that this could have been malicious compliance.

  19. Nessus says:

    Random art note #1:
    In the big main header image of Spidey taking a selfie (do you think he could be duck facing under the mask?), the costume texture on his left shoulder is twisted the wrong way around for the position his arm is in: the peak of the deltoid is rotated ventrally by like 2-3 inches from where it should be. Looking closer, the entire upper arm topology is really messed up when his arm is raised and rotated like that.

    That’s not really that weird: its almost impossible to make a CG body topology that behaves naturally in all positions. Only way to fix it is to go WAY overboard with the physical simulation layers, or to just have multiple topologies optimized for different kinds of poses. Kind of like how in the old practical effects days, they’d have to make separate animatronic heads for extreme facial expressions, because there’s a limit to how far a static rubber sculpt could stretch before it stopped behaving like flesh.

    Even big budget moves end up with these sorts of problems visible in the finished scenes, and in games it’s downright normal, so it doesn’t really bother me, it’s just I’ll never be able to unsee it now. Sort of like how in the “group shot” headers in the Mass Effect: Andromeda articles I couldn’t unsee Liam’s gun stock clipping through his forearm.

    Random art note #2:
    The guns Silver Sable is holding in the artwork just below the “Can we blame Sony again” headline appear to be extended barrel versions of Deckard’s “PDK” blaster from “Blade Runner”. Looks like someone got a CG mesh of the gun, and stuck a big chonky 90’s style extension over the front. Looking closer, I think the entire figure art is a paint-over of a CG figure. She’s got that action figure-like body part segmentation that you see a lot with simple CG figures, and the distal head of the right bicep and the crease where her upper thigh meets the hip are wrong in exactly the way you often get with CG figures. And her face looks like someone drew “ink” lines over a no-frills OpenGL render of a Poser figure face.

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