Well that was an interesting experience. Now before I go into the ins and outs of Not for Broadcast I just need to take a moment to ask one very important question. Where’s the bloody rest of it?! I’ve never been so miffed to come to the end of the currently playable bit of a story in my life! This broadcasting sim is absolutely brilliant and I’m a little bit thrilled to be able to tell you why.
In Not for Broadcast you take the role of a cleaner at a TV station. Well at least you are for about the first two minutes of the game until you realise that the news editor has made himself scarce and you’ve just been given a promotion. Having absolutely no idea what you’re doing and being given tips from a voice on the phone you must then go forth and edit the National Nightly News as it’s broadcast live. Sound fun? No it doesn’t and it isn’t but in the most wonderful way.
So before we go into real detail lets try and give you sort of an idea of the genre Not For Broadcast is sitting in. This is a game of madcap multi-tasking so there is definitely a puzzle element here. It’s very story driven so you could call it a visual novel … it’s got sim elements … yeah I have no idea where to put this title. I think this is brilliant as Not for Broadcast is going to appeal to players from loads of different camps. There is a lot of really clever humor running through this game too. It’s very British humor so the dark sarcasm might not appeal to all but being a Brit myself I was right at home.
Your interface is the desk in the editing suite and this is where you’ll spend the actively playable sections of the game. Your desk is broken into zones and you need to keep an equal eye on all of them if you are to succeed. First you want to be watching you two main screens. One depicts what is happening live and the other what the viewers will see. There is roughly a two second delay between them which gives you a minescule amount of breathing room to do a bit of censorship should you need to. To the left of these are four more screens. These are your camera angles and you’ll be wanting to choose the best at all times. We wouldn’t want any naked bodies running around on national television before the watershed now would we? If you can imagine that all of these are functioning at exactly the same time you’re already splitting your brain in three directions. Then there’s the console.
While you’re trying to look at far too many things at once you’re also having to watch out for hazards like interference. This game is set in the 80s when fuzzy broadcasts were a very real possibility. You need to make sure everything is crisp and clear. At certain times of night your interference screen will come to life. You need to move a little white dot through a maze of objects. Hit one of these and everything is going fuzzy. This is while everything else is still going on. You’ll also need to set up headlines while bleeping out any swearing oh … and don’t get electrocuted it’s bad for your life.
So with all this going on you need to cue up adverts and make sure they run on time and check the viewer gauge. This thing is really important. You want that bar going up, if it isn’t your viewers aren’t happy and keeping them watching is sort of your job. Between your bouts in front of the editing desk you’ll have to play through some choice driven scenarios. I’m deliberately not going into these through fear of spoilers but the choices you make are really likely to matter when it comes to the overall plot. This isn’t something that’s been gone into in much depth yet but we’re only at the start of the Early Access road so that’s forgivable. There isn’t enough story there at the moment for your choices to matter. I’ve a good feeling this is getting remedied.
Right … all of the above clear and making sense? No? Good. Add to everything that I’ve just mentioned the story. Aside from being really funny it’s also very dark and dystopian. This game really shows us how easily we can be manipulated as a species and how television can be used as a very clever tool for propaganda. The most inconspicuous of news stories can be laced with all kinds of nasty mental poison. The question is are you going to show what big brother, (in this case Advance,) want you to show or are you going to have a few morals? Morals aren’t safe but being a good little zombie isn’t going to win you any points either.
Not for Broadcast begins the night of the election. Advance has won and just come into power. They seem all nice and cordial, (and drunk,) but there is definitely something fishy about them. We aren’t given all of the info straight away and I’m not going to go into any greater detail than that. Seriously just play the game, all will become clear soon enough. One thing I will say is there is a lot more going on during your broadcasts than you’ll pick up while playing. You have access to the archives between levels where you can re-watch the show as a viewer. You also have access to rushes. Rushes allow you to mute the screens from your broadcast and watch the bits you weren’t concentrating on live. I recommend doing this for added plot and a few extra laughs.
What really makes Not for Broadcast special for me is the aesthetic. You aren’t watching a bunch of rendered characters on tv screens. One of the reasons why this title is taking some time in Early Access is possibly that everything is acted out. These are real people you are seeing and that’s brilliant. I need to commend the actors, they’re really skillful and do a lot for the story. This isn’t dodgy FMV, in fact sometimes you forget you’re playing a game. Top marks for making us feel included.
I have very mixed feelings about Early Access games. You’re being asked to put a lot of trust in a developer by giving them your money so they can complete whatever project they’re working on. This is always a gamble but sometimes it’s one that really pays off. I’ve played everything there is for now and I can’t wait to see what happens next. It’s that weird, sad, feeling you get when your favorite TV show finishes for a season. You know it needs to end for a bit but you don’t want it to. This is very much the feeling I got here. Honestly, buy in now. If the devs run off with your money, (which they likely won’t,) come back and shout and me later. You won’t get a vast amount of playtime to begin with but be patient, I truly believe it’ll pay off as things progress.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Look and Feel - 10/10
Story - 8/10
Challenge - 9/10
Replayablility - 8/10
Brilliantly written fun.
This game has to be seen to be believed. The devs have taken a brilliantly clever look at the story-driven genre. Great acting and comic scripts make you really want to see what is happening next. The gameplay elements are frantic but definitely rewarding and the whole package is very well put together. This is an Early Access release that I absolutely recommend if you’re looking for something new to get to grips with. If Not for Broadcast was a complete article, going by what I’ve seen so far it’d be scoring tens across the board. For what we have, this is an amazingly good start.
Hailing from Southport England, Alex started his gaming career in the late 80s on a Commodore 64. Since that time he's either owned or played on virtually every console released. Alex happens to...