911 Operator might be simple is the aesthetics department, but for what it lacks in flash it makes up for it in being a well-designed strategy title.
911 Operator isn’t exactly what you think when reading the name. Vehicle dispatch simulator might be a more accurate title but that clearly doesn’t sound as clean as 911 Operator. The concept is pretty simple. The player is in charge of sending units of different types around a map to respond to emergency situations. Fires, robberies, medical injuries of all kinds are here for you to save the day.
At first glance the concept and presentation make 911 operator feels very simple to a negative degree. Everything is represented in a flat UI with units be represented by rectangular icons and logos. The presentation does leave a lot to be desired but the simplicity is key when factoring in later challenges as the difficulty in managing the chaos increases.
The first couple of cities are apparently low crime areas. With simple crimes being committed like speeding and an occasional fire might break out every now and again. These first areas are simple to navigate and achieve a safe city. As cities grow larger and have more elements to combat against is when 911 operator becomes and addicting chaos fighting simulator.
In later cities, each unit has more than one task but a lot of curve balls can be thrown in to make the player have to think of the fly. On the police side of things, units might start needing backup because they are under fire or are outnumbered during a robbery. Using critical resources to help out those units might leave a speeding felon unconfronted.
As the difficulty increases additional units also become available that add more strategy into the mix. Police eventually have Bike units that can maneuver and get to crime scenes very quickly. Making them the go-to when it comes to catching a speeding vehicle or providing backup in a dire situation, but if you need a transport they clearly can’t throw a criminal on the back of their bike. Making them need an additional transport needed on the field to worry about.
Before tackling every city players have the option to edit their units. Adding more vehicles and units in each squad can help increase productivity and decrease the time spent at each stop. This is where the strategy of having a good blend of different units becomes crucial to achieving success.
When you break down what 911 Operator is really about what you find is a strategy game mixed with some time critical elements. The only thing that sticks out is the occasional call players have to answer and pick dialogue options. These require the player to get crucial information like an address quickly so you can provide help not only in a swift manner but the right type of help as well.
When looking at 911 Operator as a whole package its achieves its goal but like how I briefly mentioned before the presentation is a bit odd. The developers included a message that playing with headphones is the preferred method of play. This is because at all times there’s a radio like a background noise in an attempt to add atmosphere. With and without headphones I found this to be very strange.
The issue I have with this is that the background noise is not always actual words. But a jumbled mess of sounds that got put through a “radio call filter.” With headphones, this doesn’t really add anything to the mix other than something to break the silence, and when playing on a TV or in portable mode on Switch, let’s just say I got a weird look from my significant other when she heard the commotion. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but there is no music or any type of alternate background substitutes.
There is a part where actual voices can be heard though and us through the actual voiced 911 calls during a level. Most of the calls coming in are automatically reported for the player and a simple pop up appears on the map to respond to. The actual “calls” element is usually only a small portion of your calls.
This is sort of a double-edged sword because it definitely takes more time to get through these calls and doing them over and over would require a lot of voice work and patience. 911 Operator attempts to give a good balance of the voiced and simple calls, but the frequency of the voiced calls feel a bit too far apart for my liking.
The other issue I take with the calls is that there isn’t much of a challenge when you figure out the flow of each call. When a call is received you have different dialogue options but 90 percent of the time as long as you choose the address section of the choices you will be successful. Something that required a little more digging and variety to get to the information needed would have been nice.
This makes the overall package of 911 operator a bit of a mixed bag. As someone who enjoys a really good management sim, I became addicted once the later levels hit their stride. The chaos is fun and getting a higher score is something I wanted to do. But the 911 voiced calls started to become annoying on repeat playthroughs. So much that I feel like they could be removed entirely and it would actually help the final product.
Even with the shortcomings, I had a really good time with 911 Operator. It isn’t going to win any awards for presentation and style but the design of the systems is spot on to provide an addicting strategy game hiding beneath a criminal justice paint job. And who doesn’t love justice?