911 Operator is a hard game to try to quantify or make sense of. It's one of the hardest strategy games I've played, but playing it solely as a strategy game and ignoring some of the human costs that lurk — often unmentioned — behind the decisions you make would be doing it a disservice.
It has a few serious flaws that stop it from being a must-play, however: The game's score hinges entirely on your reputation. Finish a day with negative reputation, and you'll be fired, but the game doesn't tell you what you did wrong; you just see its impact on your reputation score. One early event sees someone call you to order a pizza. Tell her it's a wrong number, and you lose a chunk of reputation. Instead, you need to tell her this is an emergency number and delve deep into the fact she's calling you for help with her attacker in the room, all concealed under the guise of calling for pizza. The game doesn't communicate this to you; you just work it all out with trial and error.
You work most things out with trial and error in the game, giving it the feeling of many oddly detailed simulators with slightly janky mechanics - not many games are going to ask you to move police cars around a city while simultaneously delivering accurate medical advice to a caller on the phone in lieu of sending an ambulance because god knows you don't have any of those going spare right now.
The pace is a little slower in the freeplay mode, and it'll even let you choose which town you want to play in. This seems to be remarkably detailed, as it let me play in the small town of Lydd (population 6,567) that I grew up in, as long as I was willing to suspend disbelief that my hometown was now entirely populated and protected by Americans. The fire, police, and ambulance stations were even in the same place.
911 Operator is a strategy game that dares to capture the feeling of being an ordinary person trying to do an extraordinary job in the most mundane way possible, and in its own way it works. In many ways, it works too well, with the thready movement of your assets around the quiet map often being less than thrilling.
But isn't that the point? The reality of the job is probably what you would expect, and for those of you that have found yourself nodding your head thoughtfully throughout this review, the game is for you. You already know if you want it or not. But if you like your video games to be heavy on the video games and less on the concept of work as play? There's nothing here to convince you otherwise.