You know when you see that one game that looks interesting, but something always stops you from jumping in? Well that was me with 911 Operator. The concept looked good, but the many price drops to 89p on the E-Shop made me think it would be a trash game. Maybe I could pick it up when I have less to play.
Well, it got a Deluxe Edition and I finally took the plunge. Yeah, it is really something and I am ashamed that I ignored it for so long. I was expecting something that was a good idea, but was such low quality I’d bounce off it quickly.
Yet what I found was a mesmerising game that is full of excellent touches and has plenty of character. There are many ways 911 Operator could have approached the concept, but I think it nailed the choices.
So, you take the roll of a call operator for the emergency services and are tasked with making sure the various units from the police, ambulance and fire (but no AA – nostalgia joke alert) are positioned around a city and can respond to emergencies as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
It is a pretty simple concept actually, guiding units to locations to do their job. What you find out really early though, is a single night can get overwhelming very, very quickly. As events happen all over the place almost seemingly at random. Some pop up as markers on a map and you need to react.
You also get calls come in that you need to handle personally and judge what actions are needed. This can include cats stuck up a tree, possible car jackings, to even what seemed like domestic abuse cases. Not every call though requires you to act with sending a unit. As you’ll also get wrong numbers, butt dials and other things.
I love getting these calls, as the first one I got took me aback. The call was fully voiced and it felt completely real. It started with a women in the middle of what seemed a massive panic attack. Of course I thought this was going to be someone being run over, having a heart attack, victim of a mugging. Something major. It turned out her cat was stuck up a tree!
I dismissed this and basically let her know it was a waste of my resources. Turns out, I am quite the mean-spirited person and got sacked that night. It was a slow night, I had spare fire units locally and could have sent one of those.
What? I mean what?
You are graded on your performance and the little things you do can have an effect on your end of shift score. I have been fired from my role too many times because I cocked up too much.
What really works in 911 Operator’s favour is what worked for the old Championship Manager games. By moving away from trying to recreate something in real-time 3D explorable worlds, you are presented with a simplistic interface that manages to convey all the emotion and information you need.
There is more to this than just reading and reacting to the city map though. You have to do some resource management, making sure you have a right number of units out for a particular night. You can buy new vehicles, hire new squad members, firearms, etc. Then make sure you use them in the right way.
Not enough on the streets and incident will get out of control, too many and you waste money. Each of which can have a negative impact on your results, along with all the other little things during the shift that can have an effect too.
There are shifts where things a actually rather quiet and relaxing, which off-set the busy shifts rather well. However a nice touch is how quickly things can spiral. I won’t go into too much detail here, as there are some really cool surprise moments within the game.
Aside from the campaign, there is also a free-play mode which allows you to choose almost any city in the world to work in. I say almost, because in all honesty, I have not done a full on fact check on this. The list blew me away.
Want to stop gangs in Stoke? Arrest criminals in Aberdeen? Fight fires in Franfurt? You can do that. Hell, even my current home town of Chelmsford (It is technically a City, but I refuse to accept it as one) is in the game.
I was intrigued, was the list of cities just that, a list of names and randomly generated maps? So I took look at Chelmsford in the game then compared it to the Chelmsford on Open Maps. Initially I didn’t see it, but after a couple of minutes of looking I spotted it. It is 1:1 map data in the game. Here is the proof.
I am sure the technology isn’t that spectacular to those in the know, but I though it you know what, fair enough for the likes of London, Liverpool, New York, Paris, etc. But for the smaller cities? That is an amazing level of detail and dedication.
It did leave me with one minor gripe, but maybe not one to blame the devs for. Having all those cities is wonderful, but a shame I cannot give the game a British feel when playing a UK map, or an Italian feel in Rome, or a be working with the Guardia Civil in areas of Spain. The tone is still very US centric. I get why, it would take an almighty effort to do that. So it’ll get a pass.
The game itself ranges from challenging to absolutely brutal at points, depending on the difficulty level you choose to play. But the options are great to have. Now, I am not sure how true to life the experience is, but it certainly stressed me out playing and I felt a sense of relief if I made it through a shift with relatively little deaths and such.
The Deluxe Edition includes all the DLC packs that were made available for the base game. Adding in extra missions and other items such as emergency vehicles and equipment.
I really am ashamed I missed this first time round and if like me you have too, then 911 Operator Deluxe Edition should be all the excuse you need to jump back in.
Code provided by Sonka for review purposes