For gamers who've begun to weary of the collect-the-resource-and-build-the-units formula of nearly every real-time strategy game on the market, Emergency: Fighters for Life's unique premise will come as an extremely welcome change of pace. But thanks to clumsy execution and pedestrian production values, Emergency winds up smack in the middle of the "could have, should have" category.
In Emergency, you're more or less a plenipotentiary of emergency response and disaster relief: It's up to you to dispatch and control (from the usual oblique overhead perspective) police, medical personnel, and firemen, as well as vehicles such as fire trucks, ambulances, police cars and paddy wagons, rescue helicopters, fire-fighting planes and boats, bulldozers, and more.
Many of the situations facing you are garden-variety emergencies - fires, flooding, a football riot, a derailed roller coaster, airplane crashes, boating accidents, and sundry types of vehicular mayhem, to name a few. But others are considerably more calamitous, if not particularly original: a nuclear meltdown (Chernobyl, 1986?), a poison-gas attack on a subway (Tokyo, 1995?), and a crash at an air show (Ramstein, Germany, 1988?).
It's no biggie that some of the missions here are based on real-life tragedies, but it would have been a nice touch if the developers had shown a little imagination and turned to some more obscure and bizarre disasters like The Great Molasses Flood (Boston, 1919) or the London Beer Flood (1814) for inspiration.
That's nit-picking, of course, and no one would give a hoot if the game's biggest shortcoming was the lack of weird accidents and emergency situations. But the truth is that Emergency has so many faults that it could use some major rescue work itself.
One of the keys to a successful response to an emergency is recognizing the scope of the accident and identifying obstacles, especially those that could pose a threat to rescuers. Unfortunately, the graphics in Emergency's mission camera - which displays a "detailed" view of the area - are so teeny-tiny that it's almost impossible to spot many crucial objects you need to manipulate.
In one mission, for instance, you need to flip a switch that turns on a "traffic jam warning sign" so a helicopter can land on the freeway - but the hot spot on the post housing the switch only takes up one or two pixels on the 640x480 display, and there's nothing to indicate that the post is anything other than, well, a post.