At first, Not For Broadcast looks like your typical point-and-click game. This is not to be confused with Ministry of Broadcast though! As the name suggests, this has much to do with censorship and making people believe only what they see. Borrowing quite a bit of gameplay from Papers Please, the game injects a breath of fresh air into the genre. There is a lot of walking on eggshells and a whole lotta weird. Hopefully, our Not For Broadcast preview gives you some clarity.
Not For Broadcast is a satirical Full Motion Video (FMV) game. You, the player, take the reins of the broadcast station of National Nightly News. Watch as the events unfold on the screen and decide which parts of the show are transmitted to the public eye. Set in an alternative history of the second half of last century, you take matters in your hands with the fate of public opinion solely on your shoulders. Whatever you do shapes the “news” on your station, every single day.
Not For Broadcast is available for purchase on Steam.
STORY – It’s Not For Broadcast!
You are a young employee at the National Nightly News, or NNN (how convenient) who is in charge of the switchboard connected to the channel’s live broadcast. The story is set in the 1980s and features an alternate history of Britain. There is a mood of dystopia and uncertainty surrounding the nation even before you start your job. Needless to say, every day brews a fresh batch of doo-doo for you. The game is in Early Access but there is plenty of content for you to explore and soak in. The game in its current state isn’t lengthy and I finished my playthrough in around four hours. This is spread across different parts, called episodes, and NotGames have planned to integrate 10 episodes for Not For Broadcast once the game leaves Early Access.
You are greeted by a brief tutorial on how the switchboard works along with all the controls and functions you need to remember. But you need to be sharp, as time is ticking and you are thrown into the deep end very soon. The first day begins with relative ease. You have your normal news segment scheduled to run as planned with the anchors all prepped up and ready to go. These are the first of many characters you will be introduced to but are the most important ones as the channel mainly revolves around them. Throughout the game, there will be various story cues and indicators that may nudge you to make a particular choice or action but remember, the control is in your hands and you can override anything you wish to.
Pick A Side or Even Cause Chaos!
The beauty of Not For Broadcast lies in the open-ended story arc. You are met with the usual hoo-ha of political conspiracies where one party tries to defame the other and vice-versa. For this particular 1980s political satire piece, the general notion is that the right-wing party is the one just entity in the country and the left-wing is trying to steal everything, including your children. Well, the general notion until you step in to edit and censor the news. Time your edit, censor or segment right and you will either re-affirm people’s thinking or make them start questioning the government. The story follows the news anchors of NNN as they interview many celebrities and eminent personalities of the country and some things may spill out accidentally every now and then.
It is your job to ensure that any propaganda fodder is kept within the studio and that people are fed exactly what they should hear. Or, you may decide to go rogue and try to topple the existing foundations. Other than the usual bad-mouthing individuals on TV who cannot go two sentences without swearing, you have other people who may say things that shouldn’t be said out loud. If it so happens that you let a thing or two “slip” by, the direction of your journey ever so slightly changes going forward. Without spoiling the story too much, I can assure you that Not For Broadcast promises a high octane political mystery that is not just a satire but a whole “plot over a plot” setup. This is adequately interspersed with comedy and beautifully written characters.
GAMEPLAY – Deceitful Sense of Confidence
Not For Broadcast has the marks of being the spiritual successor to Papers, Please. If Contraband Police is the 3D version of Papers, Please, Not For Broadcast is the story version. The UI is well laid out in front of you and everything is one click away. You need to manage your camera angles, your active camera screen and the viewership ratings. The last part is very important as a dip in those ratings will most certainly spell a Game Over for you. As the days pass, you are introduced to the more complex elements. These gameplay mechanics make the game even more challenging than it already is. But, Not For Broadcast is best enjoyed with the pressure. You are rated on your editing and censorship skills and your viewer ratings. The game has a grading scale but that can be ignored as long as you’re having fun!
You have keyboard shortcuts as well as mouse controls. This does make navigating and operating easier but the real thrill is the decision making. A majority of the gameplay consists of pushing buttons and adjusting sliders but each action has to be planned. Except for the Censor button. That is just a very satisfying mechanic (with a purpose) added to the game. I don’t necessarily guarantee this, but you will most probably break a sweat after the filming of each segment. Don’t worry, that stress will quickly fade away as you get to watch your replay and revel in your sensational cinematography skills. This keeps repeating and frankly, I weirdly enjoy the struggle.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO – A Work of Art
Not For Broadcast has the best graphics I’ve ever seen in video games. They are just like real life! Well, that’s because it IS real life. The game embraces the FMV genre to its fullest and only the controls UI are rendered in-game. Graphics-wise, the atmosphere and cinematics generate an eerie sense of self-awareness. The game knows it’s being satirical and it isn’t afraid to accept it. Out of all the characters that stand out, the news anchor is the highlight of the game. Jeremy Donaldson (the character) steals the show in Not For Broadcast and each cast member adds a unique flavour along with him. The actors are flawless and well in their element at all times and you often forget that this is essentially staged and not real life!
The audio of Not For Broadcast focusses more on immersion than the score of the game. You don’t have much music and background score to listen to as the game plays out in (apparent) real-time. The sound design of the set and the “show” are top-notch and add a high level of realism. Everything, from the dialogues to the switchboard sounds, sounds authentic and well balanced. You can hear the efforts that went into creating the entire newsroom atmosphere. Not just that, even the videos shot outdoors have been meticulously created. Overall, Not For Broadcast is visually-appealing as well as a sound-masterclass.
Not For Broadcast was previewed on PC via Steam with a key provided by Game If You Are.