Ever dreamed of becoming a Surgeon? To work in a high pressure, high stakes environment, with life and death on the line? No? Me neither, but Surgeon Simulator allows you to do just that with it’s tongue firmly in it’s cheek (metaphorically speaking of course!). Playing as Dr Nigel Burke, it is your job to perform a variety of operations on the human guinea pig that is Bob, who, for reasons that are never explained, is in need of a complete overhaul. Tasked with performing operations ranging from tooth extraction to heart transplant, it is your job to use the tools and whatever means necessary to get the job done.
Surgeon Simulator Anniversary Edition originally began life on the PC, with the latest edition coming to the PS4 via PSN. Developed by bossa the idea is simple – via a first person viewpoint you take control of Nigel’s hand, controlling the fingers with the bumper buttons and rotating with either the Sixaxis motion controller or the right anologue stick. The ability to move the hand up and down is mapped to L2 by default, but this can be flipped via the options menu if you are left handed. With me so far? Good, because this is where things get tricky. From here the object of the game is to perform various operations, using the controls to manipulate the hand into obeying your every whim, from answering the telephone in the menu screen or causing mayhem the moment you are let loose with a variety of sharp objects as soon as you enter the operating theatre.
The game explains the controls via an imaginative menu screen taking the shape of your desk, with various objects for you to play around with. This section is a lot of fun, and if I’m honest I’ve enjoyed the desk area almost as much as the operating room, playing around with the various items on the hunt for secrets and hidden Easter Eggs as I hone my skill with the games controls. Gone is the simple button push to pick up items – how you place the hand as you bring it down on the item and the angle of the hand and fingers all come into play, with each having to be correctly aligned in order for you to carry out tasks and operations successfully. To begin with this is equal parts frustrating, annoying and swear at the television difficult, but after a few hours with the game it does slowly click into place. I’m a good few hours in and the controls are getting easier; never before have I felt such joy at the simple act of picking up a pen in a way that allowed me to use it as a pointer!
If you expect to go into your first operation and come out a medical marvel, think again. Surgeon Simulator does not waste time holding your hand and from the menu screen you are immediately thrust into the game, your first task being to perform a heart transplant as Bob, the brave (and equally misinformed) soul lies anaesthetised with his guts hanging out, waiting for you to begin the operation. The tools available are lined up on either side of the patient (test subject perhaps might be more apt), and a timer intermediately begins to tick away the seconds in the top left of the screen, while in the top right, Bob’s blood level and the amount of blood he is currently losing are displayed. Should the blood level reach 0, it’s lights out for Bob and probably a lawsuit for you. All the while music reminiscent of a 1980’s action film plays in the background (think The Terminator meets Grey’s Anatomy).
Jumping into Surgeon Simulator for the first time can be a little daunting. The tools available to you and what they do, instructions for performing each operation and the order in which to remove the organs, and then what to do with them once they are liberated, are all questions that you must work out through trial and error, with no explanation other than your main objective given. At first this struck me as odd, but then I realised it was both a bold and brave move on behalf of the developers. This simple lack of explanation made me realise how much we now rely upon tutorials and simple set pieces designed to spoon feed us as gamers into understanding the controls and set up to each game. The minute you start to have fun is the minute you throw all your dreams of becoming a super surgeon out the window, and after an hour you will be guaranteed to be thundering through each operation with about as much finesse as an elephant at the ballet. Kudos must go to bossa for doing this, as it forces you to experiment with the various items and tools at your disposal, and pretty quickly all preconceptions of becoming the greatest surgeon the world has ever seen are forgotten. Instead, you take the game for what it is and immediately start to have fun as a result – what happens if I use this hammer (yes, hammer) here? What does this injection do? All explanations are gone, and allowing you to experiment and play in order to better understand the mechanics of the game is a stroke of genius.
As I have already said Surgeon Simulator is difficult, it is a game that needs time and patience to master. Picking up items and then using them in such a way that they snip and cut just the right part of the patient can be awkward, and the controls are hindered sometimes by the camera angle, with the hand you control often blocking the item you want to pick up, or the organ you are currently trying to remove from your patient’s chest cavity. There is the option to move the arm should you have a PlayStation camera, but as I do not, this is a feature I have been unable to make use of. Co-op play is also available, should you have a spare controller and a friend who you trust enough to aid you get Bob on the road to recovery. This is a lot of fun, provided you both don’t take it too seriously. Having made that mistake in my quest to beat my previous time for the heart transplant I very nearly went from surgeon to patient in a matter of seconds, however I don’t think PS4 controller removal is an operation that the game itself offers.
Surgeon Simulator Anniversary Edition is an addictive and fun game. Not for those that balk at the sight of blood (however virtual) or those who have little patience, Surgeon Simulator is a modern take on the classic board game Operation, but with gorier details and next gen graphics. Easy to pick up but tricky to master, Surgeon Simulator is as impressive as it is frustrating, and with Morpheus support currently in development, this may just be one of the first in a wave of indie games to make the move from PC to PS4 in the coming months.
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