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Pop CultureJuly 21, 2017

Sam’s Celebrity Game Reviews: Sniper X with Jason Statham

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Next up in Sam’s Celebrity Game Reviews is Sniper X with Jason Statham, in which Jason Statham problematically gets people to shoot other people with their phones.

It would be an understatement to say that first person shooters are popular games. Your Calls of Duty, your Battlefield 1s, your Halos are the cultural behemoths among videogames. They sell millions, they dominate the competitive gaming scenes, they’re what your casual gamers play. Even if you don’t play videogames, you’ve at least heard of Halo.

Reader, I am very bad at these games. Almost pathologically so. Ever since Goldeneye came out on the N64, I’ve just had an inability to aim quickly, shoot quickly or do anything that would enable me to progress in these games. I’m not sure if it’s a lack of reflexes or a desire to look all around me before making decisions that involve killing artificial human beings, but whatever genetics/God gives to people to make them good at first person shooters, I was not given any.

I’ve not played any first person shooters since then, excluding a brief sojourn into Halo, which at age 12 I decided was ‘aggressively not for me’. Every now and then I get tempted, though. The graphics have become so good! Some of them have interesting stories! My friends are playing this new one and I could finally be one of those gamers that goes online and plays with strangers and forms that kind of community! Then I remember that being bad at a video game is one of the most pointlessly frustrating things in my life, and I return to my safe places (video games where you can turn the difficulty to novice/very easy/casual).

The state-of-the-art 2016 iPhone graphics of Sniper X.

Cut to Sniper X with Jason Statham, and I’ve found a first person game that I can not only play, but I appear to be very good at.

The premise is simple. You play a sniper who has to kill Middle-Eastern military people with very white names. Even though the game is not explicit about where exactly you are in the world, why you’re killing these people, who you are exactly, or why Jason Statham the actual human being is giving you orders – the design and graphics are absolutely certain that you are killing Middle-Eastern military people.

The missions are all the same, but surprisingly fun for what is essentially an on-rails shooter on a smart phone. Missions last about a minute, you have to shoot a number of people in this amount of time, if you don’t, you lose. You’ve played a video game before, you know how they work.

The shooting is scarily intuitive and easy, it’s literally as easy as sending a very short text on your phone. The ease of shooting is actually a little bit mortifying. With console games, there’s usually some kind of pressure or even literal vibration when you fire a gun, some kind of response, but when you’re doing it on your phone there’s a strange dissonance where you go, “Wow. That was too easy! That (fake) person is dead! That’s weird!” Never has it felt so satisfying to shoot (fake) people in the head! (That’s a terrifying thing I never thought I would say, but 2017 is a different, beautiful, terrifying world.)

Nope, this isn’t any specific country in the Middle East. Not at all.

Like most celebrity-fronted games, Jason Statham’s link to Sniper X with Jason Statham is very tenuous. I can only assume, similar to Tom Daley Dive 2012,  in that the developers had the bones of this game down, and needed a face to sell it. And who better to sell your sniper-simulation game than tough guy Jason Statham, from films such as Spy and Fast and Furious: Mo Bros, Mo Problems?

Where this game gets strange is that Jason Statham himself is a character in this game. Your character is doing jobs for the real life Jason Statham. He’s not playing a character, and it’s definitely his voice (or at least a voice actor doing his easily imitated accent). For some reason, Jason Statham is working with a sniper to kill Middle-Eastern military people. Why does Jason Statham want these people dead? Who put Jason Statham in charge of this? Is he the most qualified person to be in charge of this kind of operation?

I don’t know if the game answers these questions, because I didn’t get that far. Because another mobile game trope that Sniper X with Jason Statham one hundred percent adheres to is that you need to pay hard-earned human dollars and watch ads to proceed. Witness:

The most literal image of the pay-for-play system in mobile gaming.

And thus the illusion of Sniper X is ruined. I’m not that great at this game, it just wants me to think I am so I want to spend more money on it, watch more ads, and make people more money. Jason Statham the human being isn’t really invested in me killing these Middle Eastern military people, which is probably a good thing for his continuing brand and celebrity.

Amount of game played: About two hours, before it started to ask me for money to proceed and I rapidly got bored of it, as often happens when things that were once free now cost you money.

Amount of [insert name of celebrity] in [insert name of celebrity game]: The title, and Jason Statham barking orders at you. If you didn’t tell me this was a Jason Statham game, I might not even recognise the angry looking man with no hair who fronts it. Jason Statham gives you your orders, which is a bit distressing, like we’re being initiated into some Jason Statham murder cult.

A Middle-Eastern military guy from no specific country whatsoever.

Amount of $$$ spent on microtransactions: At some point, to proceed in the game, you have to spend real life money to upgrade your guns. They hide this behind as many screens and options as possible, as if to conceal the fact that yes, you do need to spend money in this game, you don’t get Jason Statham barking orders at you for free.

Amount of shameless promo: None, other than the option to watch ads in order to get tools to make the game easier for you.

Should you play this?: If you’re looking for a celebrity-fronted mobile game, you could do this worse than this. It’s diverting enough for a good half hour, and I definitely didn’t regret any of the time I spent on it. It does get you too accustomed to shooting things with your phone, which may be a skill you need for the upcoming end-times.

Next in this celebrity-branded series: Nicki Minaj: The Empire.

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