After two years in early access, Not For Broadcast is finally here – and it’s a treat for anyone who’s watched the news and thought “I’d like a go at that.”
It’s also a must-play for fans of The Day Today, Brass Eye, or any other show that Chris Morris so much as glanced at. However, instead of casting you as some assuredly smug news anchor who’d regurgitate Fifty Shades of Grey if it was on the autocue, this FMV game plonks you in the broadcast booth of a British news studio.
On top of that, the anchors you work with, while ostensibly professional, are happy to launch verbal barbs at their guests, and each other, when the moment presents itself. Paul Baverstock is a delight as Jeremy Donaldson who, as the game progresses, grows increasingly contemptuous of his guests. Or perhaps, more accurately, he becomes less concerned with hiding his contempt.
That said, most the performances are top notch and the ones that aren’t are deliberately bad. It’s a testament to the talent of Not For Broadcast‘s actors that can convincingly convey the cringeworthy awfulness of a bargain-basement drama troupe. The performances are so entertaining that it’s easy to get carried away and forget you’re there to do a job.
Your job initially entails switching between cameras, loading tapes and generally making sure things run smoothly. There’s not an awful lot of work involved initially but Not For Broadcast eases you into the role. Soon you find yourself bleeping out swear words, fiddling with a waveform to counteract interference and more (make enough mistakes and the audience will tune out, ending that section). The latter is the most tedious task you’re charged with, with but no-one said running a news studio was easy.
What makes Not For Broadcast such an enthralling experience is the way that the core storyline insinuates itself into both studio life and your home life. Aside from tweaking the broadcast, flipping between the four camera angles when appropriate, there are interactive novel-style sections between each of studio sections. When I first dove into Not For Broadcast in early access, these had me rolling my eyes; they felt like an afterthought at best.
But the main story, which features a far-left party coming into power, eventually converges and the decisions you’ve made during those interactive novel sections can have horrifying ramifications for your virtual family. You can, likewise, influence the in-studio story, choosing which of two pictures to use to depict Advance, the party in question. Donaldson and his co-host Megan Wolfe will then modify their tone appropriately.
At least, that’s how things start off. I did, initially, feel a little off having a pop at Advance because, ultimately, it was punching down. But the further you push on into Not For Broadcast, the murkier things become, both in terms of Advance and the people who oppose them. Instead of censoring swear words, you’re being asked to censor guests, bleeping out anything that calls Advance into question.
Be warned, if you are considering purchasing Not For Broadcast, while there’s plenty of silliness, it gets quite dark, particularly during its later chapters. How dark? Suicide, euthanasia and more all figure into the mix. No matter what decisions you make as you play, you’ll be thoroughly uncomfortable by the time the credits roll.
I was tempted to churn out the old War Games quote, that “The only winning move is not to play,” but it’d be a mistake to miss out on Not For Broadcast. My one gripe is that you can’t skip the game’s “Lockdown” episode. Yes, filming under lockdown was a grand achievement, but if you’re replaying the game, trying to get a different ending or discover how your choices influence the storyline, the Lockdown episode just gets in the way.
Not For Broadcast’s multi-windowed interface is a little reminiscent of Night Trap, but it’s a world away from the bad FMV games of old. The icing on the cake is the way you can pore over each broadcast, listening to all the sneaky little asides you missed because you were too busy putting together an audience-acceptable show.
Entertaining, funny and thought-provoking in all the right places, Not For Broadcast is a hugely engrossing foray into the nightly news arena. You’ll laugh your face off at times, but like the best satire, it’s also disquieting enough to have you uncomfortably squirming in your seat.
Not For Broadcast Review – GameSpew’s Score
This review of Not For Broadcast was facilitated by a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PC.