First of all, this game is in no way related to Ryan Murphy’s popular 911 TV show and the outlandish accidents that the team deals with in each episode. Instead, 911 Operator is more of a simulation of what life is like for brave people such as firefighters and police officers.
Although the player is assigned the role of someone who works in a call centre responsible for directing first responders to where they are needed. This might seem like a simple task, but even the tutorial does a poor job of explaining what is going on to the point that the outcome of completing it is more likely being fired for under performing.
It doesn’t help that there isn’t much to do and the game itself isn’t too concerned with hiding this fact. Although players are meant to put together a team of firefighters, paramedics and police officers along with various resources to tackle different situations within a location, it’s not possible to do much besides directing these brave people to where they are needed. That’s the whole idea of the game. Occasionally players get to talk to people that need help and select appropriate responses, but even these interactions don’t have enough depth to feel that unique after doing a couple of them.
If anything goes wrong, like when putting together teams or directing staff to people in need of help, then players are presented with vague error messages. It’s difficult to know what is wrong if the error message is just “You have some invalid teams”. Elaborating on why this is happening would be very useful.
The game is played from a top-down grid perspective with little icons representing staff members on-call and places that have requested help. Unfortunately, the controls and the user interface itself make it difficult to efficiently manage various tasks at the same time. For example, a pop up for emergency calls that need to be taken is intrusive and makes it difficult to see other tasks. Also, sometimes emergencies appear too close to other landmarks, which makes it difficult to spot them right away.
Although it makes sense to use a basic overview map to facilitate directing the first responders to places, it still does come across as lazy, given that different maps feel too similar because of it. A bit more SimCity like attention to details would have made a huge difference in a game like this. In fact, it’s a bold move for the developers to include locations (when choosing one) that need to be purchased with real money next to ones included with the game. Surely, it would have made more sense to stick them in a separate section or make it easier to distinguish between what is included and is premium content.
Perhaps it’s fitting that the best aspect of a decidedly below average game comes in the form of first aid tips that offer honest info on how to deal with serious situations, such as treating burns and some interesting trivia from the lives of first responders.
911 Operator is definitely an interesting idea that could have been used better. Instead it feels like its many shortcomings don’t make it worth spending the time playing it. It’s clear that the development team meant to do some good here, given the use of correct terminology and trivia on how emergency systems function. Still, the game’s execution leaves a lot to be desired and it just doesn’t make it worth playing that much.