Story-driven games are some of my favorites in the industry. It takes a considerable amount of effort and skill to make a story for a video game that you can be invested in, bonus points if the gameplay ties into the narrative itself. Headliner: Novinews is a game that surprised me, in pretty much only positive ways. While it came out on Steam last year, as a console gamer, this is new. I was given the wonderful chance to play this game on PS4 for review, so let’s cut right to it.
Plot and Gameplay
Headliner: Novinews is effectively a visual novel with a pretty interesting choice system. You play the titular Headliner, and it’s your job to decide what your news station publishes. This includes everything, from crime reports to political columns and even medical issues. Publishing certain articles can vastly change public opinion, with some very intense consequences. The avatar you create goes through a day at work, and after making your choices of articles, you walk around town to view the results of your choices as you walk home. Choices on the walk home matter a pretty decent bit as well, as you meet a number of people in your city with various issues. A co-worker has medical issues; your brother has an employment opportunity, a shopkeeper needs help with sales, and so on. As you talk to these characters, you can choose to support them or get them to hate you. As you learn more about them, you can use your job to either help them succeed or put them in the hole. Believe me when I say every choice is important. My first playthrough was very lawful good, as I tried to help the most people possible. It wasn’t the hardest thing to do since their desires and problems were pretty clear, but it was interesting to work them into the Headliner job, as you have some quotas on certain days, demanding that you make a certain number of choices that day. In some cases, there is no coming through the day clean without hurting someone, so take your time to decide what you want to do.
As you are working the job, you obviously get paid! This pay can change depending on the stances you take, with some paths getting your pay cut and others giving you huge bonuses. This money can then be spent on things at the previously mentioned Shop, where you can purchase a few things to improve your apartment, some dog food for a stray, and even batteries for a friend. Your money can also be spent throughout the day for certain events, and a number of these are expensive. These spending choices are also important, so be ready to open that wallet.
It’s important to know that this game is pretty short. My first playthrough took maybe an hour, and it flew by. This is perfectly fine since to get the full experience, you really want to play through multiple times. Starting on the 2nd run, a new character and story get added, and some very interesting things happen that didn’t before. Some of these things can be a tad creepy, but that’s all I’ll say about it. It really makes it feel like the story evolves every time you play.
Visually, the game is pretty stylized. The character models are polygonal, in a smooth and clean way. It looks both dated and sharp, giving it a unique look that I’ll probably recognize forever. The game is also very colorful, with a few effects that will startle you the first few times they happen. I will say that some very violent things will happen, depending on your choices, so while it might look aimed towards younger people, it is very much a dark game. Just be aware of these scenes as you play.
Paired with the visual style is a soundtrack that lands right in the world on the screen. Most tracks are pretty chill and calm, while others carry loads of dread. Together, the visuals and music do a very wonderful job of drawing you into the strange world of Headliner.
I’m not sure what I expected going into the game, but Headliner: Novinews was a very pleasant surprise with dark twists at every turn. Each character was believable, and the story itself tackles very mature issues, such as the pains of medical insurance and the harshness of racism. In a few ways, the story can be a mirror to real-life issues and gives you many ways to view these issues. I also want to applaud the developers for adding gender-neutral pronouns to their character creation. It’s such a small but important touch that lots of games could benefit from. I must say that I really enjoyed my time with Headliner, and it’s been added to the list of games that I’ll recommend to most anyone I meet.
Headliner: Novinews releases on December 11th, 2019, on Xbox One and PS4, and is available in the Microsoft store.
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Wade L. Hilton
[Editors Note: Wade is a content contributor for 181GAMING. If you would like to have your content published on 181GAMING, click here]