911 Operator Review – is this new simulator worth your time?
911 Operator, a game about the difficult work of people that manage emergency lines and services. Your task is to answer incoming calls and to react properly – give first aid instructions, advice, dispatch a correct number of firemen/police/ambulances, or sometimes – just ignore the call.
We all know what a difficult job working in the emergency services is, whether it be as a police officer on the beat, a paramedic attending the scene of a brutal assault, or a firefighter rescuing a cat from up a tree. But one side of the emergency service rarely gets any praise or recognition: the people who answer your distress calls to 911. There are tons of games out there that puts you in the shoes of firefighters, police officers and paramedics – finally, the 911 operators get the spotlight.
The majority of the game is played from a view of a map of a city. What I really liked about 911 Operator is that not only does the game have maps of more well-known cities such as Chicago, London, Munich, Moscow and New York, but you also get the option to choose a location to operate in. Finding yourself handling emergencies at addresses and areas you may recognize is a really nice personal touch.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the game is voice acted too; taking the 911 calls with an actual person speaking really gets across a sense of urgency. It can be quite distressing sometimes as well. For instance, taking a call from a scared lady whose crazy ex-boyfriend is breaking into her house as she’s on the phone to you and hearing the emotions of everyone involved really adds to the immersion of the game. The only parts of the game which aren’t voice acted are the addresses when they are mentioned on the phone, which I fully understand – it would be a rather unpleasant task to voice every single possible address around the world… these are just replaced with mumbling, which is fine in this situation.
911 Operator puts you in the driving seat of an emergency dispatcher; on top of handling the calls, you also have to manage how and where to distribute your emergency teams. Every couple of seconds, you are presented with a randomly-selected 911 call. You then need to select which dialogue responses to use in order to get the correct information out of the caller; usually, this will consist of obtaining their address, when the event happened and whether anybody is injured. These answers will give you the information you need to decide which of the emergency services you need to send to the scene. Sometimes you may need to send two or even all three services!
Some of the calls quite obviously require emergency attention, but some situations may not warrant emergency services, like a teenager complaining of stomach pain after eating a not-so-fresh burrito; you can choose to either comply with their request and send an ambulance to check them out, or you can persuade the caller that maybe they just need to go see the doctor for food poisoning. You have to be very careful how you handle these types of calls because whilst it will free up one of your emergency teams, you may also incur a fine or complaint if it does, in fact, turn out to be a legitimate emergency.
Some calls may even allow you to resolve the problem yourself; this can be done through giving correct first aid instructions or advice. Doing so reduces the need for emergency services and can often lead to the civilian just needing to drop into their nearest hospital or police department instead for assistance.
Whilst dealing with the inbound 911 calls, the game also throws in random “events” which haven’t come through the 911 call system. These events have already been predetermined as to which of the emergency services is required, so you have to filter them into your already hectic schedule with the 911 calls. If you don’t attend the events within a reasonable amount of time – ‘reasonable’ being dependent on the nature of the emergency – you will lose reputation in the city; it’s a matter of juggling the priority of all the emergencies on your plate at any one time and can be quite tricky at times.
Before each day, you are able to select from your force of emergency service employees to create teams and equipped them with the right gear. UI for this can be a little janky at times, as it is all done on a drag-and-drop basis, but you have to drop the item in the exact right spot rather than it just clicking into place as you might expect.
The in-game UI doesn’t offer much either. As mentioned, you get the chance to equipped your teams with different gear – police officers might get rifles and bulletproof vests, or firefighters a set of tools designed for dealing with car crashes and not fires, and it would be really helpful to be able to see which pieces of equipment the team you have selected has. Sometimes I ended up sending a squad of police officers with weak weaponry and without bulletproof vests to a gang warfare scene and it really didn’t end well for them.
For the Aficionado
Apart from the problems with the UI, I also had some technical problems too. Upon trying to launch the game, whether to continue a previous save or start a new game, it would sometimes crash. This happens on the loading screen; you’ll be waiting for an unusual amount of time only to find that the game has crashed in the background. I couldn’t nail down a permanent fix for this problem, and it isn’t unique to just me either. Others have complained about it on the forums as well. The workaround is to just keep reloading the game until it works, which was a real pain.
The gameplay mechanics and overall design of 911 Operator both made it a hugely enjoyable experience for me. Initially, I shrugged off this game as being one of those janky simulator games that you really need to be an enthusiast to fully appreciate. I was completely wrong. I’ve spent a good twelve hours on this game over the course of this week and loved every moment of it. The game is well worth the $14.99 price tag, even for those who don’t usually like the simulator genre.