911 Operator is a realistic simulation video game developed by Polish studio Jutsu Games and published by PlayWay and SONKA (depending on the system). In the game, the player assumes the faceless role of a 9-1-1 telephone operator who must answer phone calls and dispatch police offers, paramedics, and firefighters to emergencies around the city.
The game is not necessarily a new title. It originated as a successful Kickstarter campaign, that saw them getting 4x the amount requested, which ran from July 21 to August 20, 2016. The game was initially released on PC in February 2017 to generally positive reviews, shortly followed by iOS and Android on November 9 and then the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on November 28th. This leads us to the newest release, the Nintendo Switch, on October 26th, 2018!
Let’s take a look at how Nintendo’s hybrid console handles this emergency simulator…
The map screen which you’ll be playing on presents players with a 2D blueprint-like layout of a city. Depending on what mode you are playing, this could be one of the 6 cities that feature in the Career mode, or just about any major city on the planet. Yes, you read that correctly – upon going into the Free Game mode, you’ll see a list of hundreds of cities to choose from. Alternatively, you can zoom in on the world map to try to find your local city to use as the backdrop of the game.
I loved this feature and I did what pretty much anyone would do, not only find my city but find my own address on the map! This truly helps the game have more replayability as there are hundreds of potential maps to play on. I’m just hoping that if I continue to play in my region that one day, I’ll call in-game and request police assistance!
On the map screen, you’ll take control of a number of vehicles with their own unique crews which include firefighters, police officers, and paramedics. 911 Operator basically consists of you working as the operator for a single shift. Generally speaking, your job is straightforward, analyse the situation based on the requests you get via an on-screen alert or direct phone calls that you receive.
In a sense, this is very much a more realistic version of This is the Police, but more focused on the overall dispatching of officers rather than embedding a story around this mechanic.
Based on what type of situation you encounter, you need to ensure the correct vehicle, team and support are sent to each of the valid requests in order to assist. It isn’t very difficult to figure whom you need to send where on the map, as everything is colour coded. You have the ability to speed up or slow down time to allow you to make sure you have your units going where you want them to go. At times, you may have a singular need for one of the emergency response vehicles while other incidents may call for multiple units.
Upon arriving at a destination, the game presents players with a breakdown info screen of what is happening at the scene. You’ll not only see your team, but you’ll also hear from others that may be there as well. If there is a shootout, you can check this to see if anyone is injured and the overall status of the situation. Otherwise, if it is something small then you simply wait for the situation to get resolved. After an event is resolved, the crews will remain in the area until you direct them to another location.
You have to be careful with the placement of your units though as you do not want too many on one part of the map and leave the other side bare. This will lead to you not making it in time to save someone’s life or a stolen car getting away! This will ultimately have a negative effect on your reputation.
The phone calls in 911 Operator are interesting as they are a varied list of scenarios such as a fire in someone’s kitchen, a workplace accident or even a child-stealing their parents’ phone and accidentally calling 911! The game can be lighthearted in that way, but it also can go the totally opposite direction. It’s a bit of gut-punch when you get a phone call from a parent upon discovering their child committed suicide or when a guy accidentally cuts his leg off and seemingly dies from blood loss while on the phone. You get the point, it can be fun but also pretty dark. During the conversation, you’re able to make dialogue choices, such as asking for details of the incident, location, and any other relevant information.
The ultimate goal you are fighting for in 911 Operator is a good shift where you resolve as many incidents as possible. This will give you Good Reputation points as well as money. In the career mode, a good reputation on a map will promote you to the next city. You’ll find that the career mode is pretty short, beatable in a matter of an hour or two but don’t let that stop you from continuing the game in Free Play. With the money you gain from your shifts, you are able to buy new vehicles, items to equip on your characters as well as hiring new staff. However, you go through the money very quickly as nothing is particularly cheap – just like in real life.
911 Operator is an interesting game that truly shows what it is like to be the person at the end of the phone who has to direct emergency crews around cities. This won’t make you envy the job but hopefully, give empathy. The game suffers from the repetitive nature of the missions, but I don’t think anyone is expecting fast high-octane action. For the price, I imagine fans of strategy and simulation games will get the most out of this title.