Not For Broadcast Review
Watching just 10 minutes of any news channel is enough to send anyone into a downward spiral these days. Thankfully, developer NotGames attempts to raise us all back up with Not For Broadcast, a full-motion, dark news broadcast simulator dripping with political satire in which you’re in control of what the general public sees. Comedy can be tough to convey in a videogame, combining humour and full-motion video is perhaps even tougher. Is Not For Broadcast a socially distanced business meeting (with cheese & wine), or is it just fake news?
Taking place in the 1980s in a fictionalised version of the United Kingdom, Not For Broadcast puts you in the role of Alex Winston, a janitor turned studio director for Channel 1’s National Nightly News, after the previous director flees the country. That’s quite the promotion, and one that Alex and his miniscule bank balance sorely need.
Alex’s first task is maintaining viewership for an election night broadcast, in which Advance — a far-left political party — gives a victory speech after an unexpected win. As the story progresses, Advance become much more sinister and introduce a number of radical acts, becoming more authoritarian with each broadcast. This then causes the rise of Disrupt, a resistance group whose main aim is to take down the corrupt government. It’s a concept that wouldn’t be shocking if it were real-world events, but the comedic nature of the game saves it from becoming overwhelmingly oppressive, such as drunken politicians slurring words during speeches, or advertisements to visit the town of Bumley. It’s all very tongue-in-cheek and Not For Broadcast does a great job of fitting in this humour in subtle ways, making you want to watch the adverts, interviews, etc without the pressure of keeping the audience engaged (which thankfully can be done by visiting the clips in the main menu once unlocked).
And whilst it may be tempting to sit and watch as all the chaos unfolds, Alex has a job to do. And oh boy, can this job get tricky. Thankfully, selecting the easier of the 5 difficulty settings available can alleviate some of the stress, as playing on the hardest difficulty will take some serious multi-tasking skills! Before each show, you power up your equipment, choose which adverts you wish to play during the breaks, and wait for your cue to start. Once the show is on the air, you must concentrate on a slew of screens, buttons, timers, and more to keep that viewer rating high. Above your desk are four smaller screens to the left, each one corresponding to a different camera angle (linger too long on one shot or take focus away from whoever’s speaking and you’ll drop viewers fast), and two larger screens, one showing the current camera selected and the other showing the broadcast feed that has a slight delay — essential for bleeping out all those swearwords!
Below these screens you have a control panel. Here you have the option of changing camera angles, choosing which images to flash up during the opening segments of the show (which will change the dialogue accordingly), the all-important censor button, complete with a very useful indicator to assist in timing it just right, three buttons to play the adverts you selected at the beginning of the level, and a frequency monitor. This monitor will periodically start to flash, and you must click and drag your mouse to match the changing wavelength to keep the broadcast signal strong.
Not only do you have to manage all of these mechanics, but some levels have their own unique ones, such as keeping a watchful eye out of the studio window and electrocuting any killer cuddly toys that are climbing up the signal tower. Which, as insane as that sounds, makes sense within the context of the narrative, as a sort of parody of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the country is on lockdown to stay safe from these murderous stuffed animals, bumbling government and conspiracy theorists included.
Interspersed between the frantic broadcasts are visual novel style sections, in which Alex goes about daily life, with choices to make along the way which affect the outcome of the story. It’s nothing flashy, in fact one of the very few gripes I have with the game is how generic they feel in comparison to the studio portions of the game. It’s just a few static screens and some text to read, but it serves as an engaging enough pause between the stress of pressing the correct buttons at the right times and censoring any foul language. Every choice seems to be trying to earn some extra money or appeasing issues within Alex’s family. Ultimately, each one seems to be a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario, and I was often left pondering the options for a few minutes before making a potentially ill-fated decision, which was the majority of the time it seemed. And just like in real life, my wealth was constantly in the red as I tried my best to navigate family life and keep my boss happy by going to work at short notice.
It’s worth noting that Not For Broadcast holds the current Guinness World Record for “Most Full-Motion video footage in a videogame”, with over 42 hours of live-action content. That’s incredibly impressive, even more so when not a second of it feels half-baked or unnecessary. The audio in these videos is also top-notch, particularly the actors' lines and how well they’re delivered really gives players an insight into the minds of these outlandish characters, such as co-anchors Megan and Jeremy, who take any opportunity to insult each other.
I went into this review fairly optimistic, Not For Broadcast was a game I was already aware of, but I had no idea how utterly bonkers it truly is, and I mean that as the highest compliment. The jokes are sharp, the acting is fantastic (a particular mention has to go to Paul Baverstock, who plays forever cynical news anchor Jeremy Donaldson), and most importantly, the gameplay is incredibly fun. If you’re a fan of shows like I’m Alan Partridge, or Brass Eye, the humour in Not For Broadcast will feel instantly familiar. Even if this sort of comedy isn’t for you, I’d still highly recommend trying Not For Broadcast for its entertaining gameplay loop, great acting, and fantastic audio. This is GameGrin reporter Mike Crewe signing off, goodnight everyone!
Not For Broadcast (Reviewed on Windows)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
Quite possibly the best FMV game ever, Not For Broadcast had me both laughing and scrambling in a panic when the channel's viewership dropped. Even if you’ve never had any interest in FMV games before, Not For Broadcast will surely change your mind.