Welcome to the hospital! Here's your crazy storyline, extremely eccentric doctors, and more medical jargon than you can shake your stethoscope at. The Trauma series is back, this time with Trauma Team. You're not simply a lone doctor this time; now the entire hospital is under your control.
For those who have played the Trauma Center games, Trauma Team will have a lot of familiar elements, while at the same time introducing a lot of new gameplay styles. The game follows the struggles of six different doctors affiliated with the Resurgam First Care University Hospital, six different interweaving storylines that come together from time to time as the characters work together.
You can play each character individually, switching between them whenever you feel like doing something different. Each of the storylines is presented within a timeline, however, so playing through some of the episodes in order means being able to first diagnose a patient with one doctor, then perform surgery on them with the next. It's interesting seeing how the characters and their plots blend together, and it feels much more like a functioning hospital than the other Trauma Center games made things look.
Much of the characters and their specialties will play fairly similar to the previous Trauma games. For example, the first character, a mysterious fellow by the name of CR-S01, plays pretty much exactly like the previous games, using surgical tools and precision to perform operations and keep patients alive. There is also a woman by the name of Torres who acts as first response, which acts like a superficial surgery mode, except that you must divide your attention between multiple patients, making sure that no more than a certain number of them lose their lives. The orthopediatrist, a big man by the name of Freebird, plays much like the rest, except his surgeries depend more on a steady hand and less on speed, since there are no vitals to monitor as you set bones, hammer in pins, or excise growths.
The other three characters play very differently from the rest of the series. The first, an endoscope technician by the name of Tomoe Tachibana, plays more like an FPS set in some long, dark, slimy tunnels. You need to navigate a probe through the insides of your patients, treating tumors, draining pools of blood, and trying your darndest not to smash into the guts of the person on your table. The controls here are a little funky, using the Wiimote to move back and forth by moving your hand closer and further from the screen while holding buttons. Selecting a tool also differs from the rest of the game, and while it's not a great deterrent, it's really jarring when coming from any other mode.
There are also two difficulties that dictate how tough the surgical modes play out, so if you want more or less of a challenge, then you can make your pick. They also come with additional objectives, such as trying not to crash into a patient's inner walls, getting below or above a certain threshold of 'Bad' or 'Cool' ratings, doing things in a particular amount of time, and more. These all affect your ranking, which proves really how good of a doctor you are.
Cunningham, the diagnostician, and Kimishima, the medical examiner, play out much more differently from the rest of the series. As Cunningham, your job is to find out what's wrong with the patient in front of you. This involves looking at the patient's mannerisms, reading their chart, checking out a variety of scans, and asking the patient questions. After collecting a variety of symptoms, you input them into a computer (called RONI, who is the sidekick in many ways), then match them up to possible diseases and causes.
This mode is pretty interesting, acting like a hot-headed doctor ripped right from a television show. Things get complicated quick, requiring you to read things like EKG readings and repeatedly grill complicated patients who don't feel like helping you. It can also be a little frustrating, as oftentimes there is one thing that you must do to progress things, and finding out what that one thing is can sometimes be a monumental pain to accomplish.
Kimishima, the medical examiner, plays much more similarly to Cunningham, in that she doesn't actually perform any surgical work. Her mode of play, Forensics, plays out much more like an adventure game, one where you must make deductions, follow leads, pore through evidence, investigate crime scenes, and pick through witness testimonies in order to find out the cause and reason for a person's death. Connecting pieces of evidence builds upon other pieces of evidence, eventually leading to a final conclusion that you must use your 'solid evidence' to prove.
If there's one thing I don't quite like about the forensics portion of the game is the sheer length. It doesn't take too long, but it's about three or four times the length of any other game mode, and breaks the flow of the title as you play through the various characters.
If keeping your patients alive and hospital in order is a little too much for you, there's always the co-op mode to have you a friend working together in various modes (neither the diagnosis nor forensics support anything beyond the second player's ability to point at things, however). Depending on the mode, either the two of you take turns making surgical movements, or work at the same time, sharing a toolset and, if you're good, doing twice the work. It's pretty fun to treat patients together, though it can definitely lead to some jeering and taunting if you're anything like me and my buddy doctors.
There's a lot of new content in Trauma Team, perfect for anyone who is coming to the series fresh. Conversely, the ability to play the 'standard' mode of Trauma Centre via CR-S01's storyline will also please those who just want some more of that (and maybe they could also try the others, time and interest permitting).
None of the modes are perfect, each suffering a couple flaws like the inability to move forward without doing every single task in the diagnostic and forensics modes, or the peculiarity of the controls in some of the surgery modes, but they're each pretty fun in their own ways. The best part is, if you don't really like a character's game, you can skip it entirely and watch the story unfold as you play through other doctors' campaigns.
In the end, it seems that Trauma Team has something for everybody, whether you like to take your time, be rushed to save multiple lives, be on the investigative side of things, or just play some ol' fashioned surgical gameplay. It's fun, especially in co-op, and it's clear that any fan of the series will be just as much of a fan of this.