This medical crisis game brings the stylized life and death drama of Legacy Interactive's Emergency Room games to the unpredictable city streets of Los Angeles. Through 35 missions, players take the role of the paramedics who provide the crucial first professional treatment to victims injured on the streets and sidewalks of L.A. Informed medical strategies and clear thinking under pressure are required to effectively treat critically wounded victims in the midst of the chaos of a downtown in crisis.
Taking the action out of the hospital and into the streets is a major improvement from the Emergency Room series of games. Though 911 Paramedic shares the same game engine as Emergency Room: Code Red, the lack of four walls provides the gamer with the desirable combination of lots of action without needless trips between rooms.
One of the major changes is the lack of a theme to provide a backbone for the game, a welcome omission from previous titles. The game centers around your actions in the field, caring for a variety of patients. Budding paramedics choose to play on one of three levels, with the easiest providing hints as to what to do next. The normal level provides some explanation of physical exam findings and the effects of certain treatments, and occasionally coaches you with what to do next with those comments. The expert level provides no commentary.
Every case starts in your ambulance with banter between the medics and the dispatcher. Some of the discussions over the radio would clearly be outlawed by any EMS agency, though it's fairly easy to ignore them. The driving scenes are brief, and by the looks of the scenery, there are some very unfortunate areas of town that seem to be involved in just about every run (in other words, the video clips are limited).
A few of the scenarios are introduce by a video clip, during which you usually watch your partner interview the patient. Pay attention to these: They may help give you ideas as to what happened and to what you need to do. Otherwise, the approach to each patient is fairly formulaic, just as real-life EMS care follows tried-and-true algorithms. Always check the vital signs first; the game usually allows you to check all of them before acting on each of them to try to restore normal function. As you progress through the ranks from EMT-Basic to EMT-Intermediate and finally EMT-Paramedic, the scenarios get more involved and you get to play with more tools. Your partner becomes increasingly helpful, alerting you to changes in patient condition.
The game still suffers some of the pitfalls of the earlier titles in the medical series. When a procedure should be repeated (for example, rechecking vital signs), the game does not recognize that you want to do something twice, and thus you do not get useful data. Also, the game still faults the player for doing extra steps of the physical exam even though in real life they take little to no time. While points aren't always deducted, the comments following your action do not inspire confidence. Doing procedures (like starting an IV) still involves some unnecessary steps, but in the grand scheme, this isn't as big a problem as with the earlier games, when each scenario was completely bogged down by this problem.
The most glaring problem with the game involves the information that is given in the "easy" and "normal" modes. When describing a patient's breathing, the game will suggest that the patient needs definitive airway management, and suggests intubation (placing a breathing tube down the throat). When you do the recommended action, you are faulted for taking too aggressive an action. Similar responses occur with using a backboard or starting an IV.
The faults mentioned above are, in the end, relatively minor and easily overlooked, especially if the player isn't already medically oriented. The game engine lends itself to patient scenarios that end quickly, and this game finally delivers. Enjoy, wear gloves and drive like a bat-out-of-hell.
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