Not For Broadcast Early Access is a game that has been on the radar a few times, but not enough to take notice. Now, with Episode 2 unleashed, I had the absolute delight of playing the base game with this latest update.
Taking control of a VHS operated newsroom, you have to switch back and forth to live-action, queuing up adverts and staying on air while balancing the audience at the same time. Figuratively, of course.
The goal is to edit a live news programme, ensuring it’s safe for broadcast, and that the appropriate groups get their messages across; those on camera, and the shadowy undertones.
Not For Broadcast Early Access Review
You play Alex Winston, married to Sam with son Charlie and daughter Suzie (correct spelling?). At the start of the game, you’re thrown under the bus by co-worker Dave, a bit of a geezer.
He’s unable to get to the studio, so tasks you with running the operation, serving as an introduction to the mechanics. The newsroom, or cutting room floor, is where the majority takes place. In front of you are four screens of live feeds, an editing screen and one for broadcast.
There’s a few seconds delay, allowing you to censor any expletives. If you find swearing offensive, you’d best fuck off. To the left, your power supply, required to get everything going and restarted. On the right, the phone for instructions, and below, some tape decks to prepare your adverts.
Not For Broadcast Early Access is all about multi-tasking, but it has an artistic element too as you need to keep momentum, working on the fly. There’s no time for EDLs or post-production. Besides, you’re working in VHS. Look it up if it’s a new term.
I wasn’t prepared for this Not For Broadcast Early Access review whatsoever. Having worked with VHS editing suites, thankfully offline, I’ve experienced first hand queuing up tapes, referring to multiple monitors, juggling timelines, source material and sanity.
Why is this relevant? Aside from the review being from my perspective, it offers a bit of validity to the gameplay. It’s so on point with its amateur footage, massaging egos and where unprofessionalism is rife.
That’s no reflection on the quality of Not For Broadcast whatsoever. There’s a huge cast, quite a miracle during the pandemic when Episode 2 was put together. Everyone involved have fantastic reactions – on and off camera, comedic timing, and able to flex their acting chops.
Besides finding a new crush in Andrea Valls who plays one of the leads, Megan, Paul Baverstock who plays the other anchor Jeremy, is Edgar Wright incarnate. His delivery is impeccable, alongside his co-host. Even when off-camera, they manage to grimace, smirk, and roll their eyes at the right times.
Crawling out from both NotGames and tinyBuild’s arses for one moment, how does the game fair with the multi-tasking? It isn’t as tricky as anticipated, despite the number of curveballs thrown your way, in the form of distractions to throw you off.
Censorship is used for swearing but also content. You either press a button just at the right time to block the offending word(s), juggling this and the frequency the channel transmits on. As the narrative evolves, you have the option to mute the voices of opposing factions.
Alex can side with the political party, Advance, or the rebel faction, Disrupt – determined to, well, disrupt ‘order’ with chaos, or even remain neutral. Who is right? I found myself switching allegiances throughout – at times going with the best experience for gameplay, others, based on my tastes.
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The chaos that endures in Not For Broadcast Early Access mirrors what many us are experiencing in real life, but arguably more.. sensible. Then again, the Assets and Wealth Redemption Scheme doesn’t seem so off point.
There’s no agenda from the developers to choose a particular path or side with one side. There are no ideals rammed down your throat nor subliminal advertising in the VHS you queue up. However, I have an overwhelming urge to buy a sofa.
Between the editing are story elements with multiple choice answers that will affect the narrative. I wasn’t a fan initially but soon fell deep into ensuring Alex’s family were ok, before going back to the newsroom to fight off killer dolls or stop myself from getting electrocuted.
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At the end of each segment, separated by commercial breaks, you can replay the events again. The logic behind this is to get a better rating, (depicted in Teletext fashion – ask your nan), but more importantly, you re-live the story by telling a different one through editing.
My first day on the job was a disappointment as there was so much going on that the gameplay was distracting – I wanted to spectate. But, once you’ve completed your shift, you go to the archives. Here you can replay your edit in full, as well as watch the additional footage and adverts you may have missed.
The replay value (both gameplay and watching tapes) is brilliant. I genuinely watched through practically all my content. At the time you think you’ve done a great job, but playing back, you’ll see interference, or cutting off a presenter too early or late, or perhaps you used the wrong shot – even advert.
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Looking at the screenshots reminded me of Night Trap, but it couldn’t be further from it. Not For Broadcast is so natural with performances, the writing… everything. It’s like your favourite British sitcoms mixed in with a bit of Viz and Private Eye.
Aside from the topical elements, what with lockdown, Brexit, and everything else happening, Not For Broadcast is so current. Understandably, it has been difficult for the developers to put this together when we’re in lockdown #3 in the UK. As mentioned in the end credits, they ask us to bear with them for the third episode. I can’t wait.
Editing is one of my top three dream careers that I doubt I will ever fulfil, despite training in it. YouTube popped that bubble. Not For Broadcast gives me that opportunity to ‘live the dream’, and no doubt many more – even if you aren’t interested in the subject. Still, if this is what editing would have been like, perhaps I should stick with the writing.
Concluding this review, I was going to give it full marks, but realise that’s not in line with my Early Access scoring policy. Pah! I make the rules. Still, that makes it clear how I feel about it. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so much while playing a game as Not For Broadcast hit every beat. A truly unique experience, that was incredibly funny, but had moments of playing on the old heartstrings too.