Developer / Publisher –NotGames, Babaroga, tinyBUILD Games
Price – US $24.99 / CA $34.99 / EU €24.99 / UK £22.99
Release Date – December 14th, 2023
Input – 2 x Sense Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing
Store Links – PlayStation
Reviewed on – PS5/PSVR 2
Not For Broadcast above anything else is one of the more unique games I have played in recent memory offering up a mix of stock job sim type interactions along with an interesting political narrative rife with some dark comedy interspersed with some very serious overtones. The bulk of the game has you at the producers booth, messing with various buttons, dials and switches to ensure the “best” quality news show hits TV sets. Each live broadcast takes roughly 30 minutes more or less and not only tasks you with doing a good job, but offers you choices to steer the news in the direction you want by choosing camera angles, ads and even exposing the various persona featured on the broadcast for whom they truly are or protecting them by keeping their facade intact.
It’s that control over the final product and how it affects the current political climate or how the audience perceives featured public figures that makes for the most interesting aspects of the game, none of which would land if it wasn’t for the seemingly endless hours of recorded footage featuring a variety of actors. Like any news show, you’ll have to shift focus on the anchors, on field reporters as well the interviewees with many of the segments full of satire and bizarre humor. In one instance, my least favorite in the game actually, I had to keep the cameras on an acting troupe as they performed a way too long skit about bullying, jumping from camera to camera as each danced or spoke. It’s awkward to a point of painful but counter to that was a sports broadcast where 2 competitors were trying to not throw a ball in a can while the on-site reporter provided ridiculous commentary and if bouncing the camera between all of the people here wasn’t already hard enough, nude protesters show up forcing me to avoid capturing their nakedness on camera. On more than few occasions, guests may drop swears that that need to be bleeped out or interference may force you to mess with a dial and slider to keep the broadcast from losing reception. It all works surprisingly well save for that interference as I found the dial to be unresponsive at times causing frustration as my viewership dropped through no fault of my own.
The better you do, the more money you’ll make which applies to the text based choices in between broadcasts where you learn about your personal life and make decisions that add another layer to the story. It’s here where you’ll have to choose between work and spending a weekend with your wife, keep your kids on the “right” path and manage expenses which are once again directly tied to how well you do your job. These bits can feel chaotic as their may be some large time jumps in between each scenario, but they do serve in explaining not just your family dynamic, but the ramifications of the current political structure and how you’re being directly affected by the results of your broadcast. It’s ultimately that dynamic which will drive the choices you make throughout this roughly 10 hour story and don’t worry, should you miss what was said during a broadcast, you can rewatch what you made and listen in on what you may have missed so you can go into the next show ready to steer the news the way you want.
It can be amusing at times, frustrating at others and with each section lasting half-hour, it can also be draining as while each broadcast does change things up a little, they all play out in similar fashion with you just trying to put out a successful show. Not so bad if the news is entertaining but as I said, not all of the segments land and when they don’t, the pace seems to slow down and I found myself watching the studio clock more than the broadcast as I just wanted these sections to end. There’s more good than bad here, but what ultimately happened is I found myself playing through one broadcast during a game session and putting the game down for that day as I had enough whether it was a good show or a bad one.
Part of the reason why I kept this to shorter sessions is the presentation, which isn’t bad, especially when you consider just how much video was recorded for this and that those vids are the star of the show…it’s just not that immersive. The quality of those vids is very hit and miss with many looking extremely low resolution, and not in like an 80’s CRT kind of way but in a compressed to much kind of way. This affected the on-site reporting more than the studio stuff but when it popped up, it wasn’t fun to watch and ruined whatever was happening. Your studio isn’t anything special but does a decent enough job of making me feel like a producer…at least until I looked outside to the poorly rendered cityscape with matching weather effects. It’s the shortcomings here that are noticeable as most VR games that take place in a singular space tend to look much better than what’s on display here. The gameplay does win out and when I was focused on the broadcast, multiple monitors and tech in front of me, I forgot about the presentation and focused on all my tasks, but whenever I had a little respite, I looked around my little room and wished it looked a little better.
Confined to your studio, it’s all on the actors to sell the overarching narrative and, for the most part they do a great job of hamming it up and while it can be a little to tongue-in-cheek or just over the top, the light-hearted nature of it all, despite the more serious undertones, makes it quite amusing. When the cameras stop rolling and the anchors start bickering, guests make insane demands before they are live or you continue to see the aftermath of an on location incident, it’s all quite entertaining. Thankfully spatial audio is here and while it’s not really needed, it does add to the immersion and occasionally helped out when I was screwing up, directing my attention to what I was missing making overall solid audio package.
PSVR 2 haptics are in use though as much of the game is just pressing buttons, I honestly didn’t notice the sense controllers too much BUT during a storm, when thunder boomed, my headset rumbled ever so softly which I thought was a wonderful inclusion that did add to the less then realistic storm happening outside my window.
It can be funny, overwhelming, engaging and fatiguing and even though I enjoyed my time keeping the news flowing, after I got to around the halfway point of the game, I was more than done with the game loop. I’m sure some will find this much more entertaining then myself but I think for many, sitting at a producers booth while directing and sometimes re-watching broadcast can feel more like a job then a game. The asking price is fair for the amount of content and even replay factor should you find yourself invested in the narrative, I just think the audience for this will be fairly niche.
tinyBUILD provided The VR Grid with a press code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!