911 Operator review for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also On: Xbox One, PS4
Publisher: SONKA
Developer: Jutsu Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

As problematic as This is the Police was in many ways, in retrospect, as a police/emergency services simulator, it looks like better and better with every passing year. It had a story that kept everything moving along at a brisk pace, and it balanced that out with the duties associated with managing a city’s police force. This is the Police 2 showed how far off the rails things could go if you focused too much on the people instead of the action — and with 911 Operator, we see the problem with focusing entirely on the day-to-day operations of a police station, with no broader story or context.

Of course, management sim aficionados may say that’s kind of the point of the genre. Whether you’re managing a farm, a train, or, in this case, a city’s 9-1-1 network, games like this are designed to get you into the rhythm of the job — a somewhat gamified version of the job, sure, but, ultimately, a rough approximation of what it’s like to do the same thing day-in, day-out.

Mind you, 911 Operator feels different to me than any Farming Simulator I’ve ever played. Where those games lulled you into a state of zen as you performed the same tasks and routines over and over, 911 Operator does the exact opposite. Between the constant barrage of phone calls from angry, frightened people, calls for assistance from first responders who are watching a situation escalate right in front of them, and, above it all, the regular blare of sirens, the game seems like it’s designed to make you feel as tense as possible.

That, too, is kind of the point here. Without doing any research whatsoever, I’m going to go ahead and assume that there aren’t many jobs as tense as that of someone who answers 9-1-1 calls all day. You never know what the next call will bring, and this game reflects that. Sometimes you’ll hear from a parent who’s just discovered that their child has overdosed on pills, sometimes you’ll get a call from someone who’s being threatened by a menacing neighbour, sometimes you’ll send officers to respond to a car that’s run a red light only to find that the situation has escalated into an armed standoff — it’s a nerve-wracking experience, and it’s one that never lets up the entire time you’re playing the game.

At the same time, though, if you’re hoping for some kind of emotional payoff after having your nerves put through the wringer, you’re not going to find that here. Your reward for getting through a day without making too many mistakes is not being fired, and maybe getting to move up to a bigger city with even more problems. Again, it’s true to life, but it’s not totally satisfying.

If that appeals to you, then the good news is that 911 Operator makes doing your job relatively easy. You have a map, you have your fleet of emergency vehicles, and you move the vehicles around the map as the situation dictates. The one problem with this set-up is the same thing we saw in This is the Police: it’s very easy for a situation to spiral out of control, and the simplified nature of the game is that there’s no room for crisis management. One wrong decision, and it’s pretty much impossible to salvage everything that comes afterwards.

I suppose, though, that if you’re the kind of person who wants to get a taste for what it’s like to be a emergency dispatcher, that kind of setup will appeal to you. Personally, if I’m playing a simulator I’m going to stick with farming zen, but if you want a bit of tension to go with your management simulation, then 911 Operator will give you just that.

SONKA provided us with a 911 Operator Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: B