Not For Broadcast is an FMV game, a genre which is now infinitely more interesting than it has ever been thanks to games like Tim Follin‘s At Dead of Night. At the helm of The National Nightly News, you’re responsible for keeping the cameras where they should be, bleeping out any swear words, and… inciting a revolution against an insane far left government?
You’ll spend most of your time with the game sat in the editing booth. The live footage will play on one screen, and the broadcast on another, a few seconds behind. This is to give you time to edit on the fly – whether you need to censor that foul-mouthed politician or the man with a dangerously subversive opinion. The game will throw curveballs at you in the form of broadcast interference and environmental obstacles, and your own personal life will bubble on in the background, affected by the choices you make at work.
This is not a unique concept – we’ve seen similar things with titles like Orwell and Papers Please. But Not For Broadcast goes after its message singing and dancing (literally at times), delivering the “oooh, we’re already living in a dystopia” punchline with aplomb. There simply isn’t another game with the amount of nuance and spectacle this one has. It is at once the culmination of the FMV genre and the pinnacle of political/authoritarian satire in gaming so far. Oh, and it currently holds a Guinness World Record.
So – plenty of praise so far, but what’s it actually like to play? Well, it’s stressful. Extremely so, in fact. You get a gentle introduction into your new job – a friend walks you through swapping cameras, when to censor, how to please the viewers etc. Succeeding demands intense concentration for long stretches of time – my first session with the game lasted for about three hours and I felt like I needed a herbal tea and a cuddle afterwards. The stress is part of what makes Not For Broadcast so fascinating, though. Especially as tensions in the country escalate and you start to feel responsible for all of it.
There’s a bedrock of sincerity beneath Not For Broadcast‘s dark satire and diversions into full-on absurdity. One particular segment is a batshit insane “lockdown” riff which sees the population of Britain huddled inside to escape the wrath of killer children’s toys. You’ll have to keep checking out the window to zap the little bastards off the broadcast tower alongside your normal editing duties, and for a little while it seems like this is just life now – perfectly encapsulating that feeling of wondering when the actual lockdown was going to end.
In amongst all the humour – and there is a lot of genuinely hilarious commentary – there are moments of hard-hitting pathos and edge-of-your-seat drama. It’s all acted out superbly. The guy who plays lead anchor Jeremy Donaldson is like a raw, slimmed down David Mitchell playing Mark Corrigan with a spine. The chemistry between Jeremy, his co-workers and the endless procession of bizarre guests is nothing short of superb, and it’s so easy to forget that what you’re watching is a game.
Not For Broadcast overall thoughts
What Not For Broadcast achieves from the offset feels like the pinnacle of what the FMV format has been building towards all these years. It’s a brilliant idea, executed with precision and skill from developer NotGames. It’s a fantastically absorbing experience, quintessentially British comedy and political commentary all at once. If you don’t mind getting to grips with what can be a very intense gameplay experience (which can be tuned down a lot using difficulty options) Not For Broadcast will reward you immensely.
Never mind me – I’ll just be sitting here waiting for them to announce a VR version.