Emergency 3 is a real-time 'management' game where the player has control over all emergency and maintenance services, and must use the right units and personnel to deal with a wide range of unexpected events and keep the local citizens safe from all kinds of harm. It was the first game in the Emergency series to be entirely in 3D, as well as the first to allow modding.
The basic game involves responding to various events (not all necessarily emergencies), by using a range of vehicles and persons to prevent a situation from worsening and eventually to remove the sources of danger. The player's main responsibilities for a scenario are to determine the dangers, request appropriate vehicles and/or personnel, and direct them around the scenario area, micro-managing to the point of (for example) commanding a firefighter to move a piece of debris or for a policewoman to divert a particular car. Once units arrive on scene, micromanagement will be the most important issue - both emergency personnel and civilians have extremely low levels of self-preservation. Missions end when all incidents are controlled or if one becomes uncontrollable, with scoring based on factors like harm caused, budget spent, and time.
Events may take multiple 'stages' to handle, or can cause other unexpected results. Broken traffic lights can be fixed by a single engineer, but need police to direct or stop traffic to avoid crashes; medical emergencies require a doctor to analyse and stabilise and medics to evacuate to an off-site hospital; a burning car might need to be extinguished, then cut open to rescue someone trapped inside (before even beginning to treat them), and then towed away. However, most fall into one of four major types, similar to the divisions of units: Fire, Rescue, Police, and Technical.
- Fires are potentially the most dangerous, as almost everything on a scenario's map is potentially flammable and fires can be caused by a wide range of events from lightning to cigarettes and rapidly spread beyond control. The heat from a fire can also be harmful to unprotected personnel and civilians, as well as causing other events such as toxic fumes or blocking traffic. (Although some individual scenarios have partially-destroyed buildings, fire can only actually destroy small structures and most items will remain standing if uninhabitable.) Firefighters also play a large part of rescuing the injured from dangerous civilians, and are able to use a number of tools and equipment.
- Rescue refers to health emergencies, both individual (usually not specified by the game) or caused by other events such as exposure to heat, chemicals or radiation, assault, or even being hit by a train (usually fatal). Personnel and civilians have health bars which can be decreased by these kinds of dangers; once it falls low enough they are incapacitated and must be treated or they will eventually die. Civilian health bars can only be seen after analysis from a doctor.
- Police deal with a range of crimes from petty pickpocketing to robbery to shootings. Although an emphasis is placed on non-violent resolutions, the player has access to armed responders if necessary. Police are also important in public safety by directing or removing civilians from dangerous areas. Like fires, crimes not stopped can often lead to further emergency events.
- Technical issues rarely form emergencies by themselves, but engineers may be required to open broken gates, repair damaged emergency vehicles, or even lay bridges and move large debris.
Changes from previous games
Emergency 3 uses a fully 3D game engine, allowing free camera movement and rotation (although it is limited to a range between 'top-down' and 'isometric' with a similar small range of zoom) and an improved ability for multiple-level areas (from highway overpasses to buildings). With no 'fog-of-war', the player is able to see all events on a map, with the exception of rooms inside buildings where the player has no units.
User modifications can also be made and applied, altering almost every facet of the game- maps, units, abilities and of course missions.
Emergency 3 unfortunately also retains some less-useful features from previous games - orders cannot be given while paused, and units will do nothing unless specifically told (firefighters will extinguish all fires in their area when the first is safe, but doctors will stand by while a civilian dies or even if they themselves are being harmed, and cars will often ignore anything in their way, like personnel, civilians, or other traffic, causing further disasters and potentially explosive pile-ups).
The player can 'rent' a unit, paying each time they request it, or purchase at ten times the price but with no further outlay. The number of units on a map is only restricted by a player's budget. Not all vehicles are available or useful in most scenarios.
Personnel and individual equipment can only be delivered or accessed from certain vehicles; some vehicles can also be used to evacuate injured or arrested civilians, but most are only used for specialised tasks.
- Equipment Vehicle: Used for transporting all types of firefighters to a location, comes with a full complement of equipment from extinguishers to axes to inflatable life nets, and includes floodlights for stationary illumination.
- Fire Truck: Has a powerful water cannon on its roof with further reach than individual firefighters, and can be used for transport, but carries only axes and extinguishers.
- Aerial Ladder Vehicle: Has an extending ladder and platform that can be used to reach upper floors, and a (person-operated) small water cannon.
- Fire Extinguishing Tank: A heavily armored protective vehicle with an extremely powerful water cannon, used for very hot fires and transport to dangerous areas.
- Towing Vehicle: Used only for transporting car wrecks, with no equipment or personnel seats.
- Decontamination Vehicle: Used to decontaminate people (who must be taken to it by protected personnel), but not for evacuation.
- Motorboat/Transport Vehicle: A small vessel that can retrieve people and objects on the water's surface and return them to land, and its associated truck to transport it to the body of water.
- Fire engine (plane): Used for combating large fires or fires in difficult terrain, but slow to recharge and potentially harmful to persons caught in the spray.
- Fire extinguishing boat: Able to fight fires on or near water, with the longest range water cannon.
- Fire Fighter: The most versatile personnel unit, able to fight fires with extinguishers and hoses, free people from vehicles, cut down trees and bushes, move small debris, break open doors and other weak openings, use a life net to rescue people from high above, lead people to safety, and carry injured people to a triage location.
- Fire Fighter Variations: Respiratory gear or NBC protective suits can be worn in addition, which provides increased safety in certain environments but prevents them from using some tools.
- Fire Brigade Diver: Can find and mark sunken objects (but not retrieve them), and rescue people in water.
- Emergency Car: Used only for transporting an engineer (who already carries any necessary tools).
- Salvage Vehicle: Able to move heavy loads such as large debris, or retrieving sunken objects.
- Bridge-laying Vehicle: Able to lay a pontoon bridge (only on preset map locations). Each vehicle can only lay one, and the bridges cannot be retrieved or automatically used for pathfinding.
- Engineer: The only unit that can operate and repair machinery, from control boxes to (criminal) explosive devices, and able to repair (lightly-damaged) player vehicles.
- Patrol Car: Used for transporting unarmed police and detained citizens.
- Personnel Carrier Vehicle: Able to transport a larger number of police (6 versus 2), as well as marksmen, and carries deployable spike strips.
- Special Car: An armoured version of the Personnel Carrier, which can also be used to transport sharpshooters and provides access to stun grenades.
- Police Helicopter: A very capable unit; the fastest way to transport all police or detainees, able to track vehicles and civilians, and equipped with a flood light and loudspeaker.
- Water Cannon: Unable to carry any personnel, but equipped with a water cannon that will push back crowds (regardless of innocence). Not able to fight fires.
- Policeman/woman: Unarmed, but able to assist in public safety of people and road users. They can block areas by sending civilians away, interrogate (and if necessary arrest), stop or divert vehicles, and place roadblocks.
- Police Psychologist: Able to negotiate with criminals, calm down particularly frightened or shocked people, and general analysis. Not able to arrest people.
- Marksman: Armed with a handgun, which can injure but not kill (directly, though gunshots will kill if not treated by a doctor), and able to use stun grenades for even-less lethal responses, and still able to interrogate and arrest.
- Sharp Shooter: Armed with a high-power rifle which is a 'guaranteed' kill, although they will refuse to shoot innocent targets. Cannot move while aiming, and can't arrest people.
- Emergency Ambulance: A "fly car", designed to quickly get a doctor onto a scene to determine what other units are required.
- Rescue Transport Vehicle: Transport of units to a scene and a single injured person to an off-site hospital; evacuees need a doctor to be stabilised and can potentially die during evacuation otherwise.
- Rescue Dog Vehicle: Used to transport a dog (and its handler) only.
- Rescue Helicopter: The fastest rescue vehicle, and able to airlift injured from otherwise inaccessible locations or evacuate (though not evacuate a person who is on the airlift stretcher).
- Intensive Transport Vehicle: Can be used for personnel transport, or evacuation of up to nine injured, and will automatically stabilise them once on-board; also able to accept injured directly from firefighters (who would otherwise need to be analysed and treated by a doctor).
- Doctor: Required to analyse a person's injuries, stabilise them, and if necessary resuscitate (for a short period after death). Able to treat harmed player units, but not to the point that they can be 'used' again. The female version (gender is random and unimportant) is named the 'Lady Doctor'.
- Rescue Medic: Used to safely move injured on a stretcher after analysis by a doctor, and move them onto vehicles for evacuation.
- Rescue Dog Handler: Consisting of both the dog and handler, and used to search for people though not directly rescue them.