The Political Machine 2008Publisher: Stardock
UK Price (as reviewed):
US Price (as reviewed):
It’s that time of the decade, again. The time when the political machine starts moving into full spin, the gloves come off and the adverts start going on for twice as long because of sponsored political messages... assuming you’re an American anyway.
If not, then all that happens is that you have to cope with a bunch of extra reports on the news about something that will both have no affect on you at all and simultaneously have the potential to change everything in your tiny little microcosm. And people ask me why I don’t vote!
Of course, like war, politics is good for business in a whole number of ways and, just as we have war profiteers and arms sellers, we also now have spin doctors and media managers. We have people like Jack Thompson and Vanessa Feltz whose job it seems only to wade into view of a camera and begin orating.
Only, now it seems like the games developers are getting involved too and have finally cottoned onto how much money there is to be made through a well-timed and suitably sardonic simulation game. And, surprisingly, that realisation might not be a such a bad thing as you’d expect...
Spin, DoctorThe Political Machine 2008
is, like its namesake, a very deceptive creature and what actually looks like a casual, sarcastic pisstake of American culture, is actually quite a detailed and appealing examination of political mispractices with some fiendish gameplay mechanics hidden underneath.
That said, The Political Machine
isn’t at all as revolutionary as you might be hoping – which is pretty fitting when you think about it.
Essentially a strategic simulation, the game casts players as one of the possible candidates to the American presidency. While there are a few options and scenarios which deal with Europe and the world at large, don’t get your hopes up if you want to get declared as Emperor of Lithuania – the focus is very much on the US of A.
Gameplay is the predictable, but instantly accessible and standard mix of ideas. The game is essentially turn-based and broken up into weeks and you can decide how long you want a campaign to run for when you start a match. Over the course of your campaign it’s up to you to lead your chosen candidate to the Oval Office.
The actual candidates themselves are possibly one of the most appealing aspects of the game – each one is presented as a extra-glossy bobblehead and the candidate list reads like a recent history of US politics, with a few comedy options thrown in for good measure. If none of the listed options catches your fancy though then you can create your own bobbleheaded frontman and plot out their skills and specialities as you wish.
Personally, since we’re always feeling guilty about the amount of electric getting burned up in the bit-tech
offices, we went with Al Gore and his rather ironic truths.
Choosing the right candidate is the most important thing you do in the game, which is slightly odd when you bear in mind what it is you’re trying to achieve. Each hopeful president has a bundle of RPG-like specialities that will affect how their campaign runs. In our experience the most important statistic was the Stamina stat, which directly influences how many activities and moves you can make in any given week of the campaign.