Historically, there are very few titles that manage to deliver an FMV experience without sacrificing quality. In recent times, that may be changing. Examples like Sam Barlow's Telling Lies remind people of how powerful stories and characters have to be to mine success out of the genre. Developer NotGames ventures into FVM territory with Not for Broadcast and their entrance is nothing short of spectacular, to say the least.
Not for Broadcast puts players in the control room behind the National Nightly News. You weren't supposed to be there, but as the janitor, you watched them do it enough to know what everything does. The only downfall is you got this role during a distraught alternate 1980s universe. You have to deal with a tense political environment, scandals, celebrities pictured outside of night clubs, health-hazardous toys promoted by the government, and so much more.
You would think switching from camera one to camera four is easy, but there is so much more that goes into it. Not for Broadcast's interface is simple to pick up yet difficult to master. Players have four different camera angles to choose from at any time. These are used just like any other TV program; to focus on the person speaking, capture the anchor's reaction to an announcement, or to get a wide shot for the audience.
Of course, it's more complicated than that. Players have to monitor what goes up for viewers through their master screens before it goes live two seconds later. You will come to appreciate the brief window between the broadcasts as you start censoring curse words thrown around by guests during live interviews. This is basically a skill check to prevent falling asleep at the wheel. You need to hold down the censor button throughout the offending sound wave. It's frustrating at first, but you feel like a TV god once you master it. In addition to that, you have to avoid signal interference through a simple Flappy Bird-like interface. Just avoid the green bits, and no one will complain.
Not for Broadcast puts you fully in charge of what advertisements play during breaks, and in what order. This is another balancing act, weighing factors like which companies like their products shown during primetime to attract more customers. Your choices matter to how the public perceives products. The game even presents you with moral choices, with some products offering personal gain for a primo spot on the lineup.
Not for Broadcast presents itself initially as a simple TV management simulation. However, after the first few hours, you realize your choices could potentially change the political landscape of an entire nation. Whether you choose to broadcast positive or negative images of political figures, you will find the National Nightly News team reacting to your every move.
The level of detail and effort put into the cast's acting deserves praise. The entire crew is surprisingly likable, with none of the cringe-inducing performances you might expect from FMV back in the 90s. During breaks, you find yourself helplessly listening in to the makeup crew dissing their colleagues or the usual work chit-chat. More interesting is seeing how celebrities and guest speakers sometimes fake their on-screen personas and then watching the mask come off as the cameras turn away.
Players will notice their actions influencing the course of the off-screen story as well. Not for Broadcast invests you with your family's financial and emotional struggles. You will find relatives affected by the government's actions, but you feel everything is going well for yourself. Would you take a hit for the general public or avoid any unnecessary repercussions to your income and family? Will you use the power you have to expose those in charge or cover up their twisted plans and scandals? Even in its initial Early Access version, Not for Broadcast nails all of this thanks to amazing acting, deep emotional investment, and compelling gameplay mechanics.
TechRaptor previewed Not for Broadcast on PC via Steam Early Access using a code provided by the publisher.