It’s been a long time since the idea of using full motion video (FMV) as a core feature in video games first emerged, but if you’re expecting Not For Broadcast to play like Night Trap or Phantasmagoria then you’re definitely living in the past. Not For Broadcast is a hilarious, emotional experience that will make you say “Just one more episode” long after you should have taken yourself off to bed.
In Not For Broadcast, the player will fill the seat of a producer at the National Nightly News — a fictional news channel that takes inspiration from all the major networks with respect to how widely it casts its characters, political alignments and approach to storytelling. At the outset, the job is simple — you’ll orchestrate conversations between the anchor and a reporter in the field, switching cameras and sound levels to make sure the audience stays engaged.
The real wonder of Not For Broadcast is how the very earliest episodes build towards some of the later game events very, very subtly. Innocuous characters that appear in the first few hours will return later to have bigger and more outlandish roles to play and whilst Not For Broadcast does get sillier and sillier, the slow descent into madness is executed nearly perfectly.
Without any spoilers, it begins with Not For Broadcast introducing tasks outside the actual focus of the job. The first hint of this is the need to choose which advert will play during the commercial break — forcing the player to disengage from the newsroom feeds, pick an actual VHS video off a desk and then put it into the player. Later, you can imagine the kind of hijinx that occurs just around the choice of video — but there are also numerous other “distractions” that the player will need to deal with, all of which are actually additive to the broader story.
On that note, Not For Broadcast ends up telling a fairly bonkers story that draws inspiration from more or less everything — both the far left and the far right are equal targets for satire, as is the obvious stupidity of Brexit and a number of other key, global decisions in both politics and at a social level. There’s a dystopian undertone to everything which enables momentum over the longer term, and yet it is nearly impossible to know which way things will pan out until the very end.
Set against what turns out to be a fairly sprawling backdrop of many characters and intertwining threads, the moment-by-moment comedy and general interest is what really keeps you attached to Not For Broadcast. There are characters in the newsroom who you’ll grow to like, care for and sympathise with, and you’ll use your role as producer to orchestrate some surprisingly critical moments in their lives.
Between these events, many of the sections in Not For Broadcast are implanted for nothing but laughs. Some of the adverts (most of them in fact) are funny enough to watch in their entirety, whilst some of the characters and segments will have you laughing out loud for one reason or another. It’s also amazing how diverse the mechanics in Not For Broadcast end up being, with rhythm games, spot the difference puzzles and hidden messages embedded in some videos.
So whilst Not For Broadcast remains pretty niche in respect to who will want to play it right to its conclusion, if you fall into that category it is absolutely brilliant. It’s clever, funny, well-written and well produced and despite the fact you’ll spend almost the whole game sat in one chair, it uses an absolute myriad of different techniques and mechanics to keep the gameplay feeling fresh, engaging and often unique.