The Best Part of Madame Web Happens After the Credits

February 17, 2024

This post contains spoilers for Madame Web. There are exactly two good things in Madame Web. No, it’s not the meme-worthy line about moms and Amazons, which doesn’t even appear in the movie. Neither is it all of the winks toward Peter Parker nor the young female Spider-heroes who (spoiler) have only two brief scenes […]

The post The Best Part of Madame Web Happens After the Credits appeared first on Den of Geek.

Developer Shift Up’s Stellar Blade (formerly known as Project Eve) isn’t scheduled to be released until April 26, but the PlayStation 5 exclusive is quickly shaping up to be one of 2024’s most divisive games. 

This rather odd story gained momentum a couple of weeks ago when Stellar Blade’s developers released a gameplay overview of the upcoming action title during a State of Play event. Though seemingly a pretty standard trailer released during a fairly uneventful presentation, the reactions to that video made it clear that quite a few people quickly became infatuated with the lead character’s highly sexualized design. 

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Unless this is your first day on the internet, you’re probably not going to be surprised to hear that gamers are leaving…enthusiastic comments about a highly sexualized female character. For that matter, this is hardly the first time that such a game has featured a stylized and sexualized female character as a playable protagonist. Bayonetta, Lollipop Chainsaw, NieR:Automata and the Dead or Alive franchise are all fairly notable examples of that oft-used design trend, and Stellar Blade was clearly inspired by some of those titles. 

So what makes this particular game so divisive? Well, it comes down to a few things. 

First off, it should be noted that Stellar Blade is South Korean publisher Shift Up’s first Triple-A game and is being developed by their new Triple-A subsidiary branch: Shift Up Second EVE Studio. Previously, Shift Up primarily developed mobile titles like Goddess of Victory and Destiny Child. While popular, those games developed a reputation in some circles for their sexy anime character designs and aggressive Gatcha microtransactions. Destiny Child was actually censored in certain international markets as the original game featured some notably explicit artwork. 

Mind you, Shift Up has never shied away from that aspect of their games. In an interview with GamesRadar, Stellar Blade director Hyung-Tae Kim stated via translation that the team put “special attention” into the design of the back of that game’s playable character, Eve. While he says that’s partially because “the player is always facing the back of the character when they’re playing” he also states that he “would like to see someone who is better-looking than myself” when he plays a game. 

That statement gets to the heart of this situation. Simply put, some find the design of Eve and the team’s attitude (as well as the attitude of some Stellar Blade fans) towards her design to be problematic or simply creepy. Some are simply uncomfortable with that general approach to character design (or this specific instance of it), while others argue that this “fan service” style feels regressive at a time when female character designs in major games are regularly criticized by some gamers for apparently not being sexy enough. 

There’s a bit more to this story than that, though. Issues with personal uncomfortableness aside, some critics of Stellar Blade suggest that the developers are leaning into the sexuality of its lead character to generate hype for reasons other than the game itself. Those criticisms are compounded by the studio’s history of highly sexualized titles with questionable microtransactions and their prior inexperience with Triple-A games. For what it’s worth, Stellar Blade‘s developers say the game will not feature microtransactions, though the base game will cost $70 and the Deluxe $80 edition of the game includes bonus cosmetics, an XP boost, and more.

On that note, I will mention that there was a story going around about a former employee of Shift Up who reportedly faced harassment at the company for their public support of feminist views. However, those reports have not been verified and some of the original information regarding them appears to no longer be available. For additional context, though, there have been numerous documented instances over the years regarding the growing cultural clash between gamers/gaming and feminism movements in South Korea. Undoubtedly, that history of conflict is contributing to this controversy to some degree. If you’d like to know more about that subject, I highly recommend these articles that explore the topic in much greater detail.

I should also point out that Stellar Blade’s trailers so far seem to be a pretty accurate indication of the final game’s content. Stellar Blade recently received a Mature ESRB rating for, among other things, “Blood-splatter effects,” “revealing costumes,” and “breasts that jiggle during combat.”

As noted above, Stellar Blade’s developers are certainly not shying away from that aspect of the title. Given that their recent gameplay trailer is nearing one million views and was the most-viewed video for an original IP revealed during that State of Play event, their approach seems to be working from a sheer marketing perspective. Even a quick look at any discussions about this game will reveal the enthusiastic statements of those who insist it is their duty to pre-order the game for its “plot,” “culture,” and to support the broader ideas they seem to believe the title represents. 

That may be the most fascinating thing about this story. Yes, there are those who support Stellar Blade and those who criticize who are currently arguing online. However, the “controversy” over Stellar Blade (such as it is) more often seems to be fuelled by those who see this game as a representation of bigger political and social ideas and are supporting/criticizing it because of how they believe it fits into their broader beliefs.

To be very honest, this whole thing seems to have taken on a life of its own that extends well beyond the game itself or anything that has actually been said about it so far. Such is the state of online discourse. It’s not that there aren’t genuine debates happening about this game that cover all conceivable viewpoints, but rather that this title quickly became a lightning rod that has brought existing arguments to the forefront and is inspiring others to weigh in on them for the first time.

Regardless, Stellar Blade has gone from an under-the-radar 2024 release to a title that has taken on a life of its own in comment sections everywhere. Whether any of that contributes to the game’s sales or quality remains to be seen. 

The post How Stellar Blade Became 2024’s Most Controversial Game appeared first on Den of Geek.

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