911 Operator Review

By Marc Hollinshead, 11 months ago
The influx of indie titles of all shapes and sizes on the Xbox marketplace has given us the chance to experience a myriad of adventures in the comfort of our own homes in recent years. Gunplay, puzzles, heart wrenching stories... it's all there for us. From bog-standard titles to ludicrously baffling, you'd imagine that we've seen it all. 911 Operator has attempted to thwart that notion. Presenting itself as a serious strategy game, this is a title that does a commendable job in what it sets out to do, albeit with a few stumbles along the way.

911 Operator

911 Operator has you playing the role of an emergency dispatcher who takes various calls from civilians in potentially dire situations, as well as managing the activities of the service vehicles. One may be quick to make the assumption that a game with a name like this would be bordering on being plain stupid, but everything is actually handled tastefully and doesn't make light of the real thing, at least for the most part.

With that in mind, before getting into the meat of the title you will be presented with a number of notices and tips on how to react to particular emergency situations, both as the one taking the call and making it. While giving you a bit of insider knowledge for the game, these are actual real life tips and it quickly becomes clear that the developer wants you to take it seriously. From first aid pointers to spotting the warning signs of a stroke, there is a lot to read if you take the time to delve into it.

It takes time to get used to the mechanics in 911 Operator. The three core gameplay elements will be hastily introduced as you play, the first of which is the preparation before each "duty". This is where you manage your teams of officers, equipment and vehicles before heading out. Police, ambulance and fire services of varying kinds will be apportioned automatically for each duty, but you are still free to customise your services.

A bit of bedtime reading.A bit of bedtime reading.

In the shop, you will be able to spend money earned from previous duties and stock up on new staff, vehicles and equipment. These items range from simple pistols and med kits, to special police devices and fully automated machine guns. However, unless you really fork out the cash for extra vehicles, a lot of this can often feel useless. It can be hard to see how effective these items and the individual members of staff really are as statistics are minimal at best. Aside from two statistics per member of staff, there are no explanations for each item and what it will achieve, so you may find yourself dropping the dollars for absolutely no reason. It regularly gives the illusion of an upgrade rather than a visible change when dispatching units during gameplay.

The second and third segments of gameplay are for what you've been training. Each duty will take place on a map of a specific city with your units scattered across the grid. As the duty progresses, incidents will continually pop up, demanding your intervention. The map will alert you of a police, medical or fire related emergency, giving you freedom in how to respond. You can either chose to send one or multiple vehicles to the incident, or ignore it completely if you think it isn't of high risk.

Combinations of the three will also begin to creep up, so it ends up becoming a game of juggling as you decide where specific units are best suited. Certain units are more efficient than others; for example, faster vehicles can be used for smaller incidents, whereas van-based units can be used for larger incidents where more victims and suspects are confronted. The speed at which time passes can also be altered, so pausing to get your bearings and assess your units will become a regular strategy when aiming for the best results.

A building on fire or a cat up a tree; you decide which is more important.A building on fire or a cat up a tree; you decide which is more important.

Once you understand which vehicle is best for each incident, the game can become very enjoyable for a time as the challenge adapts to the amount of units you currently have at your disposal. However, while there are promises of a huge number of unique incidents to face, you will quickly discover that the same approach will be used for a lot of them and it can turn into a slightly laborious process when the element of surprise will lessen the more you play. After a couple of hours, your fourth collapsed bridge won't nearly be as alarming as your first. Backup will be required for a few shootouts, but eventually you will grow numb to the danger that the game implores you to address. Only when you are pushed to the absolute limit in unit management will you find the game to be at its best.

The third and final part of gameplay is the most intriguing. Throughout a duty, you will periodically receive calls and it is up to you if you respond or not. If you do, you will be faced with a particular scenario that tests your skills as an emergency dispatcher. This is where reading the loading screens will come in handy as you will be required to answer professionally and acquire the most important information as a real dispatcher would. Prank calls should be ignored, vulnerable civilians should be reassured and suspicious callers should be probed for what they're hiding. Voice acting can be hilariously bad at times, but then the brutality of emergency services is also taken into account as you listen to a father crying over his dead daughter.

A few calls in, just like your unit management, you will find enjoyment and challenge in working out the best approach to a situation. However, the more duties you complete, the more you will hear the same call in need of the same response. It diminishes the challenge and almost comes down to muscle memory as you click the correct response that you know will lead to the same outcome. It feels as though there was the potential for more but the developer only had a limited amount of resources to use. The fun factor won't decrease entirely, but for a game that relies on instincts and careful planning, repetition is something that we wish we wouldn't see so soon.

I don't think this is an emergency...I don't think this is an emergency...

If you desire to go beyond the career mode then 911 Operator also has a free play option. Here, you are able to download the map of any city of your choosing (if the server connection permits it) and play it. While there is a little extra freedom in customising your team and units, the core gameplay remains the same. You will receive calls, manage your units and probably come across multiple cats up multiple trees. This is a mode for those who wish to dig deep into the game and experience a unique challenge, but if you are satisfied with what you play in the campaign, you probably won't find yourself here for long.

There are 14 achievements that make up the 1000G that 911 Operator offers, and most of them should be acquired through natural play. However, if you perform extremely well in a few duties then you will be rewarded accordingly. It's a list that may need a little extra dedication, but an avid achievement hunter should have no trouble if they are chasing the completion.

Check out our Best Xbox Simulation Games Available in 2018 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

911 Operator is a game that most would assume to be a laughably bad title. However, the game proves that wrong as it takes itself seriously and tastefully addresses the pressure that emergency services no doubt feel in reality. Approaching situations strategically will generate the best results, and handling emergency phone calls is an exciting concept. However, when you begin to hear the same call twice, or another collapsing bridge appears, the initial rush from encountering these for the first time quickly diminishes. Nonetheless, the fun factor never disappears entirely, so you will garner the same amount of enjoyment out of the game in correlation to the time you invest in it.
3 / 5
911 Operator
Positives
  • Takes itself seriously while also educating gamers on real emergency situations
  • Enjoyable element of strategy in juggling units and phone calls
Negatives
  • Repetition creeps in quickly
  • Benefits of items aren't all that clear and feel a bit wasteful
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent just short of 7.5 hours dealing with buildings on fire, childbirth and an unfortunate caller nearly blowing up their kitchen every ten minutes. 9 of the 14 available achievements were earned in the process. An Xbox One code for the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Marc Hollinshead
Written by Marc Hollinshead
To summarize Marc in two words, it would be "Christian Gamer." You will usually find him getting stuck into story heavy action-adventure games, RPG's and the odd quirky title when he isn't raving about Dark Souls and Mass Effect. Outside the world of gaming, Marc attends and helps out in his church on a regular basis and has a not-so thrilling job in a supermarket.