23/05/2017

☆ Review: 911 Operator - *Whisky Tango, Charlie…and I’ll have a rum and coke* ☆

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The last Polish game I played was The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt which I played, or rather, inhaled for a solid month back in January. I recall something dawning on me whilst playing it, namely that I have always thoroughly enjoyed video games that come from Eastern Europe, there’s something about the mood of the landscape and the way of life in that area that the native game developers are able to channel into their video games. 

Whether it be multi-million-selling franchises such as the aforementioned Witcher series, underrated gems like S.TA.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl or flawed but fun games such as Hard Truck Apocalypse, Boiling Point and Planet Alcatraz (come on guys, translate the sequel for me!) the games always seem to have real character and a sense of boldness and personality.

I just wanted to say all of this so that you, the reader fully understands why I removed my trousers when I realised whilst reading the accompanying press kit that 911 Operator was developed in Warsaw. I clicked the install button with a Gary Busey grin.
Some background on the developers first, Jutsu Games (from their website - Jutsu (術) meaning technique, method, spell, skill or trick) have only one other game under their belt, a mobile game called ‘Modern Wizards’ and so this marks their first foray (hopefully of many) into the PC market. Reading into the company further, 911 Operator was funded mainly through Kickstarter and has already won Poland’s most prestigious video game award, Digital Dragons 2016. They also involved the services of actual emergency dispatchers to improve the reality of the game. With all this in mind, how did the game turn out? Fantastically.

The game starts off with a brief overview of what to do and what not to do during real-life emergency situations such as when dealing with a fire or how to attempt basic first aid. As well as being informative, it’s a very neat way of clueing you up on what may lay ahead.

The game plays out in two sections, firstly you are presented with a map of the city (in free-play mode you can choose your own city which downloads from Google Maps, very cool indeed) and respond to various 911 calls ranging from cats stuck up trees to burning buildings and car accidents. You command the emergency services (fire department, police and ambulance) from a top-down view and they roam the streets until an incident is raised and you can then command them to the scene and resolve it. Whilst doing this, you will also get calls through (which are fully voice-acted) and require you to make swift decisions on how to respond to the situation. For instance, they may have a friend who has been stabbed and they need to stop the bleeding until the ambulance arrives. The second part of the game is set in-between levels where you buy more vehicles, staff and equipment, money is raised by resolving calls efficiently. I found the game is very, very addictive.

Ambient and incidental sounds are constantly playing in the background, so even when it’s relatively quiet for a few precious moments and you are waiting for the next call to come though, you can hear distant radio chatter, this really adds to the immersive experience of 911 Operator. 


"In the main game, there are pre-set cities that make up the levels but in free play mode you can play any town or city in the world, ranging from California to Llanwrtyd Wells (home of the World Bog Snorkeling Championship)"

There is a comparison to be made to Papers, Please in that you play the part of a real world job but I feel that 911 has more replayability and depth.

You can speed up the game to your preferred pace, the length of your shift is represented by a clock at the top of the screen, you have this amount of time to successfully resolve as many incidents as you can. I would advise you to play close attention to some of the more innocuous calls as they may not be what they seem…

One of the things I noticed which I thought was a great touch was how the real-world police stations, hospitals etc all match up to on the game on your chosen map, this adds an extra layer of realism to the proceedings and I was thrilled to be saving lives in sunny Cardiff for a few hours.


"As the game progresses, you earn money from having a good reputation and this allows you to buy better vehicles to deal with emergencies quicker. There is also a surprisingly deep character and item system in play between levels where you can buy new guns, bullet-proof vests etc. for your team."

The game gets frantic after the first few cities, with lots of different emergencies requiring you to pause the game and take stock of which need to be dealt with first. The variety of calls and the fact that you sometimes have to discuss a certain emergency ‘live’ on the telephone, trying to work out what is needed and how to advise the caller whilst also dispatching services to other smaller crimes/situations is exhilarating. This multi-tasking and building of tension really make the game. 

I found myself playing for quite long stretches and really feeling a sense of achievement when I completed a city successfully, cursing myself when scrolling through the missed instances that I had no time or resources to deal with, the speeding offenders that managed to get away because my fastest police bike was heading towards a gang fight, or the husband that dies of a heart attack because my helicopter was transporting victims of a house fire it’s…well, it’s awesome, quite frankly. 

The game is also very balanced when you fail a city you know that if replayed with just a few key items or that one extra police car you could have saved everyone in that burning building…

Summary:
In summary, this is an extremely unique game that is brilliantly designed, it’s also not without humour, calls will come through from a child needing help with his maths homework or someone’s phone going off in their pocket, they all add up to create a convincing world that demands that you visit it. 

Serve and protect people, save those lives.

Right, enough of this reviewing nonsense, I’m off to sort out the rife gang warfare that plagues Berwick-Upon-Tweed.

Game Link: Steam
Dev Link: Jutsu Games (術)
















Reviewed By Britt
(from @kingdomofcarts)