Game review: 911 Operator – a job simulator that doesn’t quite work
It’s fun sending squad cars and ambulances into the back streets of Hong Kong and other cities to handle emergencies, but that quickly fades as the PC game lacks the extra dimension to do the genre justice
Job simulators have become incredibly popular, regardless of how boring the career really is. Games allowing players to drive vehicles – planes, trains, trucks, even commuter buses – are common, but less so is this new wave of niche jobs. Always wanted to be an immigration officer? There’s a game for that. Run a newspaper? Can. Become a game developer? Yes, that’s covered.
And now, your dreams of answering calls, sending out squad cars, responding to emergencies and generally dealing with endless morons drunk dialling can now come true with 911 Operator (available for the PC). The set-up is simple: a 2D city layout with icons representing various vehicles in the vicinity. It all comes down to analysis – clicking on emergency icons, picking up the phone and deciding whether it’s worth immediately sending out emergency workers.
Working out where your vehicles are going, which events demand attention and how to manage everything is a large part of the game’s appeal. High-quality voice acting also helps, whether a freaked-out woman in a car crash or the guy ordering a pizza who may or may not be in a hostage situation.
The first hour or so of play is fairly innovative, dealing with fires, crime, and general chaos in your city. But the limitations of the game’s budget soon appear, and it eventually becomes repetitive: you’ll start ignoring the on-screen notifications and just match colours with emergencies: blue for cops, white for medics, red for firefighters.
There isn’t any real depth beyond the simplistic screen management. That’s partly down to bad research, but also to developer laziness, and it hampers the overall career arc. Still, it gets more enticing again in free play mode, which allows you to download maps for almost every city in the world.
That added sense of familiarity keeps things slightly fresh, especially when you’re sending squad cars to the back streets of Hong Kong, but serious upgrades will cost you – and the game already costs HK$100.