I fully appreciate the bells and whistles on display in a triple-A game. I love the ray tracing, the realistic visuals, the light reflecting off every surface with a billion megapixels working or something like that. It’s great, it’s brilliant… but sometimes it can feel a bit safe and dare I say it, a bit boring.
So when something comes along that is ambitious, unique, and a bit risky then I am all in. Not for Broadcast is one of those games that comes from a favourite genre of mine – the FMV (full motion video) scene. But it pushes boundaries, has loads of content, and is a triumph. Here’s why.
Not for Broadcast holds a Guinness World Record. See, it has the longest amount of FMV footage in a game, filmed at 42 hours, 57 minutes, and 52 seconds. It also has a cast of 155 actors, which is an amazing feat for this British developer. The game came out in episodes in 2020, sold and reviewed well on PC. Now the game has come to Xbox with the main campaign as well as two DLC bits of content included. There’s tons to get your teeth into.
Story-wise and we’re looking at a very good one, as it moves from slapstick humor to pastiche, to quite moving drama. You play the role of Alex who at the start of the game is a cleaner at the TV broadcast station that hosts the program National Nightly News. Due to the previous program director going on a bender, you have to step up and take over the role. Soon you are directing the camera feeds, pushing the censor button, and loading up the adverts.
Not for Broadcast’s campaign runs an overall arc of a story that focuses on the dawn of a new political party called Advance; they win the election at the start of the game. This party is getting rid of the rich and all their assets and sharing them among the commonwealth. All good, yes? But soon as the years roll by the country introduces euthanasia, nuclear war, and an ever increasing sterile nation. There is an armed resistance and an outbreak of electronic mechanics toys that force a lockdown. It’s a brilliant and ambitious narrative told through the eyes of a TV studio and some cut scenes involving you and your family. It has echoes of films and TV like Children of Men and Years and Years; very funny but full of sharp teeth.
How the gameplay works is pretty tricky at first, but it really doesn’t take long until it all becomes second nature. You, in the first person perspective, sit in front of a visual mixing desk and have to live edit the broadcast as you go. So you have four cameras to switch between, each with different shots of the studio or outside broadcast. You might have a wide angle, a close-up, and two headshots (two people in the frame). You have to switch between these feeds as the segment goes ahead. The general rule here is to focus on whoever’s talking of course. Then it’s about switching up the shots so as not to bore the viewers. As you edit in each section, the audience reacts to your decisions, the ratings go up and down according to your actions and at the end of the segment or broadcast, you get a grade and earnings depending on your skills.
This isn’t all you have to do. Sometimes you have to edit in time to dance numbers or musical acts. At others you’ll need to censor bad language before it gets broadcast or switch cameras before a nudist streaks into view. Sometimes you have to add laughter tracks and applause to terrible agitprop dramas. It’s a credit to the gameplay of an FMV that Not for Broadcast keeps adding new things to do all the time.
Out of the TV station, there are also a series of animated cut scenes where you have a couple of choices to make regarding your personal life. These work well but I do think that when playing through the campaign there are a few moments that drag before the dramatic ending, but overall it’s good, solid material. The two DLC packs are a nice bonus with one centering on an old-time telethon and the other that of a ghostly TV show.
Graphically and Not for Broadcast does a good job with the TV studio setup, as well as the animated cut scenes. But it’s all about the video work and I think the amount of work, technical planning, different locations, and cast should all be applauded. It’s a massive feat to pull off, but it’s done well. The cast themselves do a brilliant job of mixing the serious and comedic, but there are also dance routines, songs, raps, and a strange made-up sport.
Not for Broadcast is an amazing FMV achievement. Fans of the genre should most definitely check this one out as it delivers ambitious humour. Funny, charming, and brilliantly performed, Not for Broadcast sets a high bar and I can’t wait to see what follows it.