There was something to be said of the early days of gaming where including full motion video in your game was something that was celebrated. I remember playing the Crusader series and being blown away by having real, live people show up in the cutscenes in all their blurry lo-fi glory. For a long time though it fell out of favour, their reputation for feeling cheap and campy being below the standard that real games had set for themselves. But the indie renaissance coupled with the democratisation of game development tools has made them available to many more people who want to create hybrid video and gaming experiences, revitalising FMV as a mechanic. Not For Broadcast takes to this with all the gusto of an amateur improv trope and, whilst I might not have fully clicked with core game and its mechanics, I can certainly appreciate a bunch of drama nerds having a blast making a campy news show.

You are Alex Winston, janitor to the exemplary Channel One that hosts the National Nightly News. You’re thrust into the limelight when the former visual mixer, Dave, decides to leave the country on a whim and put you in charge. It’s no small matter either as your first night is the election night and the upstart political party, Advance, has won in a landslide. It’s your job to cover the results, censor the swear words and shape the view of the world at large with your coverage of their government. You soon learn the amount of power that the media has and how many shadowy figures will seek your assistance in wielding it.

Not For Broadcast has a distinctly lo-fi visual aesthetic, the core game elements being extremely basic in nature feeling closer to developer art than anything else. I do feel that this is partly deliberate as the whole experience feels like an exercise in campy, low budget theatre where the setting itself is as much of a joke as the overacting is. There’s quite a lot of investment in the FMV side of things, with nearly all the video streams having multiple angles and being done in single one-shot takes that can last up to 10 minutes a piece. So whilst I won’t be handing out any awards for visual fidelity here my hat does go off to the video production team.

Mechanically Not For Broadcast is a management simulator where you’re tasked with cutting together various live feeds into a single broadcast stream for the viewing public. It starts off simple enough with you given a few pointers about what makes a good broadcast (stay on who is talking, no longer than 10 seconds on one feed, reaction shots should last no longer than 3 seconds, etc.) which you’re graded on by the number of people tuning in, represented by a bar above your mixer. Things escalate from there with additional mechanics around ensuring the feed stays stable, censoring swear words (or political adversaries) and a whole number of other random things that you’ll need to manage to ensure you stay on the air. For the campaign missions though you’ll only get a couple of these at a time, but the challenge modes will throw the whole kitchen sink at you. Interspersed between broadcast days are a choose your own adventure dialogue which represents your life away from Channel One, although the two are heavily intertwined.

The first couple hours are pretty interesting as the game rapidly sets up the world and the main characters within it well. Whilst you’ll get the majority of the story from the broadcast day itself you’ll probably have to go back through and review a couple of the feeds to get the full picture of what’s going on, something that’s a little bit frustrating to do since the devs love the skeuomorphic approach to things, forcing you to fast forward/rewind through tapes to see what was going on. This seems to happen less often as time goes on however, the game instead offering up those story morsels to you in times when you’re actually able to pay attention.

I do have to admit that the mechanics started to wear on me after a time and, really, I should’ve switched to story mode rather than continuing on with the default difficulty. You see, whilst I get the need to include this kind of challenge, I have found myself enjoying these kinds of real time management simulators more exhausting than anything else. To be sure for the most part I’d be able to stumble through a segment, but getting to the end and getting bad grades just didn’t feel great. The more intense sections also actively prohibited me from engaging with the story, something which I really detest with games that are heavily reliant on their narrative. Again, I could’ve probably alleviated this somewhat by switching to story mode, but I do want to try and experience games the way that devs intended them to be.

There’s also the issue that there’s a lot of ancillary mechanics that aren’t explained quite well and what impact they have on the game. For instance at some point you’ll get stock in a company, but it’s not revealed that you can influence the price of that stock by playing ads (which, depending on the slot you play them in, have differing levels of effect). Similarly there’s a bunch of reputations that can be tweaked as well, which will also have an effect on how the game plays out. Whilst I can understand the mystique for some aspects, it would be nice to at least have a couple hints dropped in the game so I could get an inkling as to what’s going on.

The story does a great job of pulling you in along certain trains of thought, slowly revealing details that make you doubt your initial decisions. All the characters are given ample time to establish and grow themselves within the world, giving you plenty of ammunition to figure out how you want them portrayed in the world. It is all delivered in a campy, drama school level of acting which, depending on which way you lean, will be a bonus or a distraction. Sadly the mechanics got in the way too much for me to want to see it through to a conclusion, but I think I got enough out of it to say that the story was overall, enjoyable.

This leaves me in a weird place with Not For Broadcast. On the one hand I love the experimentation with mixed media here and, whilst the overacting might annoy some, I did find some of its more levitacious moments to be quite enjoyable. However it’s bargain basement construction and frustrating mechanics do mar the experience, the latter being the reason I gave up before I reached one the game’s many conclusions. Suffice to say for me to recommend this to someone I’d need to know if they either enjoyed campy theatre or if they had a bent for the experimental. Without that I feel like you probably wouldn’t get much out of Not For Broadcast because it really is…something else.

Rating: 7.5/10

Not for Broadcast is available on PC right now for $35.95. Total play time was 6.1 hours with 31% of the achievements unlocked.

About the Author

David Klemke

David is an avid gamer and technology enthusiast in Australia. He got his first taste for both of those passions when his father, a radio engineer from the University of Melbourne, gave him an old DOS box to play games on.

View All Articles