This is an Emergency! We need an uninstaller for this game, stat!
The first fifteen minutes of Emergency 2012 don't feel particularly special or unique, as you're taught how to command the various emergency services and prepare them for the worse situations. This bog-standard intro, as we soon discover, is simply lulling you into a false sense of security. As the first missin begins, there are huge gusts of wind and a car is knocked off the road by a flying wheelie bin. Seems tame enough... then the tower from a cathedral falls out of nowhere and crushes the car.
It's a very 'what the hell?!' moment, but nothing compared to the follow-ups. Soon afterwards, you find yourself putting a fire out on London's Tower Bridge, after a couple of gigantic icicles fall down and plough through the windscreen of a lorry carrying hazardous chemicals. Pretty insane, right? Well how about this - in the very next missions, you're asked to throw tear-gas grenades into French rioters and lock them all up, after the Eiffel Tower has been torn down.
Fires! Injuries! Riots! It's all happening in Emergency 2012
See, Emergency 2012's main problem is that it's incredibly difficult to work out whether developer Quadriga Games is being serious or not. The cutscenes had us laughing out loud, yet dive into the gameplay and there is nothing to suggest that the experience is meant to be anything less than serious. Even through all the badly optimized code, the odd graphical issues and the hilarious way that vehicles spin on the spot, Emergency 2012 appears to take itself completely seriously, which in a sense is rather worrying.
On each mission - set in a real-life area - you are tasked with cleaning up the mess after a huge catastrophe. At your disposal are the various emergency services, ranging from firefighters to the police force to medical teams. The game provides a handy step-by-step checklist at the top of the screen, and you must simply complete each point quickly and efficiently.
Unfortunately, laying out your tasks in this form gives the gameplay a very mechanical feel, and exposes the complete lack of depth. Each mission is usually a simple case of 'select firefighters, click on fire, select doctor, click on injured person, select police, click on rioters' and so on and so forth. You are able to tackle problems in any order you choose, but the majority of the time it really doesn't matter anyway.
That's not to say that Emergency 2012 is a walk in the park, although the difficulty levels are usually far too unforgiving. You can make a single mistake in a mission, such as forgetting to put a police barrier up, and the entire level will be lost. It doesn't help that the interface and selection methods feel very cumbersome, with a variety of left-clicks and right-clicks needed that do not feel natural at all.
Yes, that really is a flooded skyscraper with a huge whirlpool nearby
It's not just the gameplay that feels robotic - characters and elements in the game move in the most ridiculous ways, to (accidental) hilarious effect. Ambulances, police cars et al will spin on the spot if you ask them to drive in the opposite direction, while rioters and looters will simply stand on the spot and allow policemen to walk up and detain them. There are plenty of strange graphical glitches too, with characters moving in odd ways.
Graphically, Emergency 2012 is not exactly a looker. During the tutorial, you are taught by a guy who looks like he has come straight out of an early Playstation 2 game, and there's a visible blurriness to everything on show, with horrible jagged edges and very average textures to boot. The game is also badly optimized, with huge loading times and jolts in action every now and again.
As you can probably tell by now, we're not exactly huge fans of Emergency 2012's take on saving the world, but that doesn't mean we completely hated it. If you're able to look past the sheer mental design of it all, there is a better than average RTS on show, with huge fires to fight and plenty of tactical elements. In fact, if you take the insane situations you are presented with and see them in a hilarious light, Emergency 2012 may well provide a good number of laughs too.
The fireman are a little dumb, and will only attend to fire if you tell them to
The multiplayer elements are also fairly enjoyable. You're asked to work as a team with up to three friends, keeping people safe and treating the wounded in a variety of scenarios. Each player can opt to look after a particular section of the map, or dabble in each other's business and work as a team. Talking to each other is essential, and it feels lovingly tactical. Many of the single-player's issues are still very much present, but playing with friends makes the action a lot more bareable.
If you aren't planning on delving into the multiplayer gameplay, however, then Emergency 2012 is most likely not going to be worth your time. The cumbersome gameplay and completely unrealistic settings and character movement provide quite the opposite of an immersive experience, and within an hour or two, you'll be exiting to Windows and filling your time with more entertaining games.
EMERGENCY 2012 VERDICT
Emergency 2012 is available for PC in Europe, and is coming to the US on January 5th, 2011.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Getting a multiplayer game going with three friends.