Review by Old Rooster
Is There a House in the House?
No, there may not be a Dr. House, famed diagnostic physician of
the current T.V. series, but we do have Doctors Carter, Pratt and
Lewis, all fresh from County General, and all voiced very nicely
by their respective actors. ER, the game, places you as a
new intern in Chicago's County General Hospital, ready, willing,
and potentially able to heal the sick and further your career.
Legacy Interactive has really done a fine job of late with the
Law & Order spin-off games, particularly number 3Justice
Is Served. For these, they secured top-notch writing and
acting, presented in a context of very satisfying gameplay. Fortunately,
we find a similar level of care and craftsmanship evident with ER,
perhaps with some room for improvement as regards gameplay in
Much in the same vein as one of my all-time favorites, Theme
Hospital, ER is part sim, part RPG, part strategy. The TV show
is both medical drama and soap opera. ER, the game, is mostly
soap operasometimes literally, in your recurring need to wash
up! First, of course, you need to create a charactermale or
female, with appearance options. Then, in RPG-like fashion, you
have a number of stars you can assign to personality traitsintelligence,
constitution, dexterity, charm. A bit oddly, perhaps, these affect
your skill in specialitiesgeneral surgery, orthopedics, cardiology,
toxicology, neurosurgery, pediatrics. You start with 10 stars, having
the potential to build to 40ten for each trait.
"Do a Good Job, Keep Your Nose Clean, Save Some Lives"
In a very effective tutorial (there is no manual), Dr. Carter takes
you patiently through the steps and nuances of your beginnings at
County. There are a lot of rooms, nooks and crannies for you to
explore in the two stories of the ER at General. Dozens of staff
and patients wander about, presenting opportunities for interaction.
Through each of the seven episodes, you have the overall goal of
improving your skills, ability to heal and, as importantly, your
career status and potential advancement. Whoever said doctors were
in it just for love of the sick? You'll find you have three "stats"
that not only need constant improving, but also can dangerously
diminishhygiene, energy and composure. You need to occasionally
shower, work out in the gym, take naps and build relationshipssometimes
with willing nurses (only heterosexual affairs are encouraged).
Much like The Sims, conversation bubbles arise above the
heads of approached NPCs, presenting options for interaction, enabled
by a substantial menu at the bottom of the screen. As the game progresses,
there may be accumulated payoffs or setbacks, depending on how the
"staff" come to view you.
As the pictures demonstrate, ER is presented in a bit dated,
but still very effective, 3D top-down world, with ability to rotate
and zoom. It ran very nicely on my moderate level system. Script
and voice acting are excellent, particularly from Dr. Carter (Noah
Wiley). Indeed, interface, mouse/keyboard control, an effective
minimap and other technical aspects of the game are well done. Yet
this is a good place to comment on the strange lack of a manual,
either paper or on the CD. The tutorial is thorough, but I had to
make notes on keyboard commands and interface labels for future
reference. There should, at least, have been a card containing such
"Out, I Say Out, Evil Spirit!"
Well, no one really says that, but one feels like our intern is
performing an exorcism when he/she employs healing skills on a patient.
In the ER, our intern learns to triage, call for help ("curbsiding"),
assign to a bed, ask for lab tests, and actually lay on the hands.
Sometimes this humorously animated little sequence works, sometimes
it doesn't. It's all part of the learning. Actually, the sequences
and options can become a bit redundant, maybe like the real life
of an intern. Saving this, however, are the interaction possibilities
(which can become weird if you want them to be), the career advancement
concern, overall personal "health bar" worry, and the
scripted events in the seven episodes. These range from the mildly
serious to the mostly humorous. You'll deal with the results of
a car accident, a fire at a superhero convention, the loss of power
due to a wrecking ball crashing through the wall, a clown, a wealthy
socialite, and others. There are major tasks within each episode,
as well as many minor objectives, all keeping you busy within your
shift. All the while, of course, you have your personal health,
relationships and goals to keep in mind. It can be hectic, but not
as much as Theme Hospital, and you can save your game within
episodes, thank goodness!
"It's Important to Lead a Balanced Life" Old
Aficionados of pure sim and RPG games might well scoff at this
cross-genre representation of the famed TV series. The game is admittedly
not as deep or detailed as Planescape
Torment or The Sims 2. But ER does
bring these game styles together to create an entertaining, fairly
unique play experience. As you modify your character and move through
the episodes, you'll be kept busy, but not in a frantic way. You'll
need to balance your actions, relationships, prioritiesservice
to self as well as others!
ER is not a terribly complicated game, with a setting and
tasks that are limited in scope. Yet fans of the show, and those
desiring a bit different sim experience, will undoubtedly find laughs
and enjoyment in this light-hearted depiction of an intern's first
What I Liked Most About ER
- Rather unique setting with good TV show tie-in;
- Excellent scripting and voice acting;
- Fine tutorial;
- Decent graphics with moderately low system requirements;
- Reasonably effective melding of RPG/sim elements;
- Readily accessible for most players (but watch Teen rating);
- Creative, sometimes bizarre situations.
Shortcomings of ER
- No manual (tutorial is good, but I like a manual);
- The healing novelty can become redundant;
- Perhaps too much emphasis on humor and soap opera;
- Teen rating, but too simplified for many mature gamers;
- "Stat" build-up is superficial, as are many relationships;
- Little in the way of replayability.
Release Date: May 31, 2005
Four Fat Chicks Links
P4 1.2 GHz (2.0 GHz recommended)
256 MB RAM (512 MB recommended)
T&L capable video card with at least 32 MB RAM (128 MB recommended)
2 GB free hard disk space
Where to Find It
Links provided for informational purposes only.
FFC makes no warranty with regard to any transaction entered into
by any party(ies).