Reviews

Not for Broadcast VR review — Can you handle the stress of directing a TV show?

I’ve never worked in live TV, but I have helped out with live productions staged by local theatres and have seen how chaotic the backstage world can be in order to ensure that what the audience sees remains flawless.  If Not for Broadcast VR is any indication of the news world, then it seems the same holds true for live broadcasts. While obviously satirical and quite over-the-top, Not for Broadcast VR is still a fascinating look at the world behind the camera, providing me with an admiration for those behind-the-scenes individuals who ensure that our daily program runs without a hitch.

Not for Broadcast VR is a shining example of using VR to provide an immersive experience that no other medium can quite replicate. While yes, Not for Broadcast originally released without the inclusion of VR and was perfectly playable, being thrown into the world via VR and being forced to swing around a tiny room flipping switches, pressing buttons, fighting off threats, and twisting dials while attempting to keep up with the often off-the-rails newscasts works so well that I can’t imagine playing it any other way.

I was hooked from my first broadcast, fascinated by the brilliantly simple, but surprisingly stressful gameplay, and captivated by the well-acted and varied news segments. The game is split into two segments, VR based broadcasts and text-based home life sections, both of which feature choices which will impact the overarching story and sometimes determine which new segments make it on air. There is a surprising amount of story here, considering the gameplay would have worked just as well had there been no real overarching story and just a series of increasingly difficult segments to edit. Not only will you learn about and directly influence the protagonist’s life via the text-based segments between newscasts, but you’ll also become invested in the newscasters’ lives and their drama through watching their interactions between and during segments. It’s all quite immersive and provided so much more than I expected.

You take on the role of a lowly Studio Director on the brink of financial ruin that must quickly learn the ropes of live broadcasting from a well-meaning, but unprofessional, co-worker who seems far more interested in what is happening in his personal life than helping you. Your first broadcast is relatively simple and helps you quickly learn the ropes of keeping a multi-camera news segment interesting, but later segments have you fighting off fires, electrical issues, video interference, streakers, vulgar language, and so much more, all while trying to ensure that the broadcast continues without any hiccups.

While it sounds chaotic – and admittedly it often is – it is all relatively simple to control, thanks in part to Not for Broadcast VR ramping up its difficulty in a well-crafted manner, ensuring you are never overwhelmed by any new gimmick thrown at you. Your workstation features 6 monitors, four camera control buttons, three commercial buttons, a few switches and sliders, three VCRs, a phone, an electric board, and a fan. The middle monitor shows you what will be broadcast to viewers, while the right monitor is the feed viewers are actually seeing, but it is delayed by a few seconds to enable you to censor as needed. On the left are four monitors and four corresponding buttons which allow you to switch between them at will. Before any broadcast you must select three commercials to set in the three VCRs, and then during breaks in the newscast you must select which commercial will play. The phone is used at the beginning of newscasts to learn about what’s to come, while the fan is used to prevent overheating equipment. Switches and sliders are used to fight off interference, adjust sound levels, and more.

Your main goal is to keep the broadcast interesting and maintain or grow your audience. To do so you need to learn what types of shots make a broadcast exciting and switch cameras on the fly to keep up with who is talking or, during long spiels from a specific individual, which reaction shots or full group shots to pan to in order to avoid the feed becoming too dull. If you’re at all like me, you’ll be surprised how quickly you acclimate to choosing the correct shots just based on years of watching TV and your inherent ability to know what shots work and what don’t for a particular subject or conversation.

Once you begin getting the hang of how to properly run a broadcast, the game begins throwing a series of increasingly ridiculous obstacles at you which are sure to have anybody in your household concerned for your well being as they watch you mindlessly flail about in all directions in an often vain effort to keep cameras focused on the right individuals, fight off stuffed animal attackers (really), keep the power on, clear the broadcast pole outside using electrical pulses, adjust interference, run commercials on time, censor an ever increasing amount of words and topics, avoid electrical shocks, and more. Each news segment is a rush of adrenaline that tests your ability to multitask all while keeping you laughing and continuously impressed by the creativity on screen.

The story takes place during the 80s in an unnamed country where a new political party, known as Advance, is slowly gaining power and ultimately wins a landslide election victory, causing a string of radical events to occur as the country falls to an authoritarian regime. As the Studio Director, you’ll watch the events unfold live on air and through the text-based segments between newscasts, and witness how both the world and your life is affected. While it sounds serious, the game is mostly played for laughs, leaning into the absurdity that stems from political unrest and mandatory lockdowns.

Each broadcast runs close to a half hour long and is broken down into 5 to 15 minute segments which are divided via the commercial breaks. During each commercial break you will receive a score on how well the previous segment went. After completing a full news cast you will receive a breakdown of your score, including what you did right and wrong, the company’s thoughts on your performance, your wealth, and other statistics. You are then able to visit the viewing room which allows you to watch the entire broadcast again as it aired, view the commercials you chose, or view the rushes. The rushes are the highlight of the viewing room, as they allow you to watch the full segments of what was occurring on each monitor during your broadcast. This helps you catch any subtle dialogue or scenes you may have missed while focused on the main broadcast.

While Not for Broadcast VR is never too hard on its default difficulty setting, there are multiple difficulty settings to choose from for those who want a tougher experience or just want to enjoy the story without too much fuss. These settings can be adjusted on the fly during gameplay, which is helpful if a segment proves to be too much to handle or just becomes frustrating. Not for Broadcast VR also offers a custom setting which allows you to tweak various aspects of the experience individually, going so far as to allow the player to turn off certain gameplay tasks altogether, such as feed interference. No matter your level of VR comfort, Not for Broadcast VR should have a setting which works for you.

The only issue I ran into during my ten or so hours with Not for Broadcast VR was the interference knob not registering slight movements, it seemed to always go straight up or down, which made the interference segments nearly impossible to complete. I attempted to change the sensitivity, but continued to have the same issues, so eventually I turned off interference altogether. Not my preferred choice, but I wanted to be able to enjoy the game and that was the only aspect that was dampening my playthrough. Another slight issue is that a few of the FMV scenes which can be quite splotchy, as if they weren’t made to be blown up to the size they are in VR, though this was never a big enough issue to cause me to lose focus of what was occurring or to hurt the gameplay in any significant manner.

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Richard Allen is a freelance writer and contributing editor for various publications. While he enjoys modern gaming, he is a retro gamer at heart, having been raised on a steady diet of Contra, Mario, and Dragon's Lair.  Chat with him via @thricetheartist on Twitter.

90

Excellent

Not For Broadcast VR

Review Guidelines

Not for Broadcast VR is an often hilarious and surprisingly well-acted game, made better by its excellent use of VR and the sheer creativity on screen during every news segment. I found myself drawn into the story and gameplay from the very first moment, and it held my attention throughout its ten-hour duration. I highly recommend those looking for a unique VR experience to check out Not for Broadcast VR.

Richard Allen

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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