Experience the logistical and decision-making challenges of an emergency services controller.
Genre: Simulation, Strategy
Developer: Jutsu Games
Publisher: PlayWay S.A.
Release Date: 24 Feb, 2017
So you play this in a series of sessions known as ‘duties’. At the start of each duty you can spend the cash you’ve earned from previous duties on combinations of new vehicles, new staff and new equipment for the staff. You can shuffle your staff around their vehicles, in case you have empty seats left vacant by injured staff (which happens a lot, they’re off sick for a few days). Once you’re happy with your team (and usually having spent every last penny) you then start the duty by deploying your vehicles around the city map. Blue police, white medics and red fire crews. There are coloured dots around the map to mark stations/precincts – more important for ambulances which need to return injured civilians to the hospitals, less important for the police who are always moving around on patrol.
Then you start the duty and the clock starts ticking – you can speed up time, slow it down and even pause. Incidents start popping up on the map, colour-coded according to service required, and you have to select nearby unit(s) to send there. The incidents can be one single colour, 2 or sometimes even all 3. Once you’ve sent a unit you can just leave them to get on with it and switch your attention to the next one. Sometimes the event starts off small but then for example the officers come under fire, people become injured, transport is needed to pick up perps etc etc so you often have to send additional units to clear the incident, and you can end up with multiple units tied up on one incident while others are popping up all over the place. It can get quite hectic, as you’d expect.
Around 1 in 3 incidents is initiated by a 911 call (not all of them). There’s voice acting for the callers and you have to select multi-choice responses to gather information. The most important info is the address of the incident, and once you have that then it pops up on the map so you can send your units while the caller is still talking.
Each time you successfully deal with an incident you get reputation points for it. If you fail, time out or ignore one then points are deducted. At the end of the duty you’re presented with a shopping list of your results, with reputation points and cash totals at the end. Failed items lose you 3 or 4 times more points than what you gain for success, so it’s important to cover as many as you possibly can, which is why you need to spend your cash on more and more vehicles and staff.
Rinse and repeat…
There are two gameplay modes:
The game sets you a series of 6 cities and you have to work your way through them. There are two sub-modes within this mode: Unique Stories – you have to maintain positive reputation in order to progress but the game throws everything at you so it’s harder to keep your head above water; Daily Routine where there’s steady difficulty and you don’t have any problem gaining points, but you have to collect a certain number of points in each city in order to unlock the next one, so you have to play multiple duties in each city to build up your points, and each city is more difficult than the last, so harder to get points.
2. Free Game
You can pick any city in the world and the map for it will be downloaded. You can try lots of cities or stick to your favourite one. Either way, the cash and reputation points for the city are saved from one duty to the next so you can build it up, buy more items etc. and all your previously played cities are kept in a nice list.
I first saw this game when it appeared on Greenlight. There was an example of one of the 911 calls used in the game which at first seemed like a prank call with someone ordering pizza which then turned out to be a coded hostage situation. Wow! I thought. They must have a huge database of real 911 calls and there will be all kinds of interesting stuff like this to experience. Then I read about playing any city in the world! I was blown away, this game was going to be incredible!
The reality I’m afraid is more mundane. That pizza call is by far the most interesting call in the game, and there are very few others. It’s like the trailer for a bad movie, looks great but then you find out the bit in the trailer is the only part worth watching. Within 30 minutes of playing the calls already start to repeat, and by the 2-3 hour mark I knew them all by heart. As for the city maps, there are no landmarks or anything recognisable, they are just street networks, all look the same just in different shapes. The only way I can discern London from any other city is by the shape of the river. Everyone in every country in the world says the same thing in the same American accent.
Sound & Vision
The layout of everything is nicely done, easy to understand, with good use of colours. It’s not a game you would play for the graphics, it’s more functional than fancy, but pleasant on the eye. Background music is unremarkable but not annoying either. You’re too busy paying attention to the calls to notice it anyway.
There’s a short tutorial to start. There’s not all that much to learn so you get into the meat of it soon enough. You can select easy, medium, hard difficulty and it also ramps up in career mode. In general, the difficulty is dictated by how quickly the incidents appear. It also gets easier/harder depending on how big your team is, which is dictated by the amount of cash you earn and so on. What I will say is that there’s not much in the way of new/different mechanics being introduced – just new types of vehicles/staff/equipment – and the game consists of doing the same thing over and over in various degrees of intensity.
It’s very good in this department. 15 good achievements, trading cards, workshop, level editor and Steam Cloud – it would be nice if the game ran on Linux so I could use this.
Here’s the thing. I’ve played This Is The Police. The concept is very similar and the price is only a little more, but the quality, variety and sheer amount of content is absolutely vast. You can play for hours on end and never see the same incident repeated, plus there’s a rich storyline and all kinds of other goodies to keep you enthralled. I’m sorry to say that 911 Operator pales in comparison. I think I would be happy to get 911 in a sale but not at full price because I’ve been spoiled in this genre.
As long as you have no preconceptions it’s a perfectly competent and enjoyable game, Steam reviews are Very Positive and rightfully so. However, for me it’s a bit of a disappointment because I had such high hopes about the quality of the 911 calls and the maps.