So there I was in Nashua, doing some back-to-school shopping with my younger daughter at the Target in the Pheasant Lane Mall (a charming place where the parking lot is in Massachusetts, but the mall itself is in sales-tax-free New Hampshire). To pass the time I looked through the bargain PC game rack. There, in the under-ten-buck section, I found a game called Emergency 3 from Strategy First.
The box looked interesting: “Accidents, natural disasters, police operations, your decisions can mean life or death for those involved!” Hey, I’m there for that. “New: Real-time physics: falling debris, crashing buildings.” Price was right — I picked it up.
There are twenty missions on the game disk for the campaign game. All but one start with a short (approx. 30 sec.) movie showing how you got into that situation to start with. (In the video clip I just linked to, the train consists of boxcars filled with fireworks and tank cars filled with liquid oxygen.) During game play, you’ll be interrupted from time to time by more cut scenes as the world turns progressively to dung in front of your eyes.
This game was originally produced by a German company, which explains the German uniforms worn by the firefighters, the European-style sirens, the German scenery, and the bizarre abbreviations for the vehicle types. DLK, for example, stands for Drehleiter (mit Korb), and is a ladder truck. RTW stands for Rettungstransportwagen, and is an ambulance. RW is Rüstwagen, an equipment truck (which you’re going to need if you want your Jaws of Life or chainsaw).
The game is rated T for blood and violence. (After you have your EMTs pick up a patient from the ground a little red pool of blood remains.)
There’s a Los Angeles mod you can download that puts in US trucks and uniforms, and adds another 19 missions to the game. I believe there are other mods, too. That one’s housed at a Dutch fan site (waves to Abi).
So, anyway, after firing this puppy up I’ve hardly returned to The Sims 2.
I am now about to comment on a review of Emergency 3 from Gamespot, pointing out a few places where the reviewer went astray.
Emergency 3, the latest real-time strategy game from publisher Strategy First, attempts to capture the urgency of life-and-death situations that arise from sudden and unexpected events like train wrecks, automobile accidents, structure fires, explosions, and even failed bungee jumps. But as exciting as it may sound, Emergency 3 delivers much more frustration than dramatic tension, thanks to clumsy controls and the trial-and-error nature of the mission design. The flaws are made all the more apparent by the fact that most of the missions are actually creative and interesting, and that the overall premise of the game is a promising one.Exciting, aye. I found the controls pretty straight-forward. And, my friend, there’s nothing trial-and-error about the mission design and solutions, provided you apply the principles of the Incident Command System.
First, as soon as you have an inkling of what kind of situation you’re looking at (which will be during that mini-movie and the screen listing mission objectives while the scenario is loading), try to figure out what kind of incident—police, fire, EMS—and what general type of unit you’ll need initially. Then, as soon as you can, start ordering up strike teams (multiple units of the same kind) and staging them around the game map. It takes time for the units to arrive on scene, so if you’re waiting for need rather than anticipating need, you’re not going to do too well.
Up here in the Great North Woods, if I need a medical evacuation helicopter there’s a minimum of 42 minutes flight time from the moment I call for it until it arrives. Heck, it can take me half-an-hour or more before I get to the location to see what’s going on. Therefore it behooves me to call for one long before I know for certain whether I’ll want one.
So, if you think there are going to be casualties, order up a bunch of ambulances now and stage them somewhere nearby yet safe. (In this game you can kill your responders. Which, just like in the real world, decreases the number of responders and increases the number of casualties at the same time. Which puts the “uck” in “suck.”
You’re aided in this by the fact that you can highlight multiple units at once and send them to the same location as a group. And when some person or unit gets finished with a task, send him or it back to staging to rejoin the pool. You’ll find it’s handy if you know where to look for the resources you need.
…You’re given specific objectives to complete and you must use a variety of rescue units to do so.We do get a bit unrealistic here. Under ICS the span of control is three to seven, with the optimum being five. In this game, once you get beyond the simplest scenarios, you’ll be giving orders to lots more than seven individuals. This makes it lots more challenging than it strictly needs to be. On the other hand, how often do you get to simulate the Finance Sector?
…Once you figure out how to address each type of scenario, the challenge is derived from micromanaging several units at a time and balancing your budget.
But as compelling as the setup is for each of these missions, they play out in an aggravatingly rigid step-by-step process that leaves little room for error.Well, yeah. There is just about no room for error out here, and the only way you’re going to have a chance in heck is by using a step-by-step process. You had darned-well better ensure scene safety (e.g. sending a cop to stop traffic or an engineer to secure the power) before you send in your other people. If you don’t you’re going to have rescuers lying on the ground needing rescue themselves.
Out here in the world, because we all use the same step-by-step process, a passing paramedic on holiday was able to join in one of our recent snowmobile rescues as if she had been a member of our team and trained with us for years, even though none of us had ever laid eyes on her, or she on us, before that particularly rotten night by a trail deep in some woods.
The missions will try your patience by requiring you to follow a very specific course of action every step of the way. It’s up to you to figure out what you need to do, be it hunting for a tiny, nondescript control box to turn on a traffic signal to divert traffic away from an accident, or searching for a fallen jumper who has been washed downstream and ended up underneath some underbrush. Chances are the jumper will die a dozen times before you actually find him, and when you do find him, you’ll have to figure out exactly which rescue unit to use to save him.I’ve found there’s quite a lot of freeplay and options in the way you go about solving each scenario, provided you use sound principles. And you do have to pay attention to details. If you don’t notice the tire marks and the broken guard rail by the river, you’ll never win the scenario because you won’t find all the patients. For that missing bungee jumper, please note that search dogs are available to you. (There are three different rescue units you could use, as it happens, of which the best is probably the helicopter.)
Once you’ve got your strike teams staged around the area, you can start forming up task forces (groups consisting of different kinds of units joined to carry out some specific task).
That brings up another flaw in Emergency 3. There are more than 30 rescue vehicles in the game, but there’s no explanation of what each one actually does, or how to use them. There are the standard fire trucks, ambulances, and rescue helicopters, but then there are much more specialized units like fire boats, K9 units, and salvage trucks. Each unit serves a very specific purpose, but there’s often very little indication as to what that purpose actually is. There .pdf manual included with the game doesn’t explain much of anything, and the in-game tutorial only shows you how to use a handful of different units. There is a bit of brief text accompanying each unit, but you can’t access that until you’re already in the midst of a mission.Okay, the manual could contain the unit descriptions. And you may not know at first (though it seems pretty obvious in retrospect) that the little guys who have rotating yellow pyramids above their heads marked with a nuclear trefoil are contaminated by HAZMAT (which suggests that you ought to set up a decontamination station to herd them all through before everyone in town is contaminated, and before they keel over and die).
For one thing, the units don’t always go where you tell them to. Occasionally they’ll find their way without any problems, but other times your medics will end up wandering off into the middle of a forest when you try to get them to cross a bridge or enter a building. Other times, your units will get stuck in a confined area and will just give up and quit moving.You want to bet me that doesn’t happen real-world? That isn’t a bug, it’s part of the simulation.
Even more frustrating is the artificial intelligence (or lack thereof) of the civilians. Rubberneckers will stroll out into the middle of traffic on a four-lane highway to get a look at an accident; pedestrians will walk right up to a burning building, and so on. Since most missions require you to keep the casualties to a minimum, it can be extremely frustrating when absolutely everyone in the game has a death wish.Oh, baby, let me tell you about that. That’s maybe the most realistic part of this game. (Even after you use the police helicopter to tell people to evacuate you still have to send in firefighters to pull some of ‘em out by their collars.)
The artificial intelligence in this game will have you questioning whether or not any of these people are actually worth saving after all.A conversation that all of us have had back in the ambulance garage at one time or another.
The game sounds considerably worse than it looks. Even if you forgive the blaring sirens, which seem somewhat necessary given the subject of the game, the sound quickly gets repetitive, even annoying. Each time you issue an order you’ll hear the same confirmation phrase from your workers, and you’ll always hear the same grunts and moans from the people you’re trying to rescue.When I give an order I expect to hear it acknowledged with the exact same words each time. Sailors never get tired of saying “Aye, aye!” or of hearing it. And after a while you notice that the grunts and moans of the people you’re trying to rescue do all sound the same.
Despite its flaws, Emergency 3 does have a few enjoyable moments, due entirely to its unique premise. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough to carry the tedious mission design, awkward controls, and aggravating artificial intelligence that pervades almost every moment of the game.I don’t know about that. I’ve been playing it a lot, and as soon as I get through all the missions with outstanding scores (you get medals if you do well enough on one scenario or another), I’m going to pick up Emergency 4, maybe without waiting for it to hit the bargain shelves. (Emergency 4, so I’m told, has highway flares and traffic cones. A whole new world opens up….)