Name: The Political Machine 2008
Platform: Windows PC
The Political Machine 2008 is, at its core, a simulation of the 2008 election. Players are able to choose from dozens of stock political characters such as Barak Obama, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Mike Huckabee, as well being able to create their own character, all of which are represented as shiny bobble heads. If you’re nodding off at the very thought of this game then you might as well turn back – this is for those already interested in the game of politics, and should please anyone interested in the slightest at the concept.
The title plays like a board game, with each state and politician given its own set of stats. Depending on the character’s stamina, they are able to make different moves around the country to raise funds, give speeches, build headquarters, and buy advertisements. Depending on the state, the people might react differently, and there are constantly updated polls showing your lead, or deficit, in any given state. As the weeks leading up to the election progress, more options are unlocked, including the inevitable Vice Presidential selection, giving The Political Machine just about as much depth as its real-life counterpart.
There are plenty of choices to make once your campaign begins. You might bring your politician to states normally affiliated with their party to ensure victory in whatever red or blue states you choose, or you might decide to take your Republican to California or Democrat to Texas, trying to win the war on the enemy’s front. There are also synergies to the different choices, with certain buildings unlocking more speech options. You’re even allowed to decide what to speak about and what to advertise, be it what you support/oppose or what your opponent does. Going from state to state giving speeches on how your opponent opposes improving the economy and favors higher gas prices might be a great way to improve your status in a given area, while buying television advertisements explaining your own views might be a nobler path. There are limitless ways to play the game, allowing you to take your deepest political fantasies into a caricaturized reality.
Aligning yourself with special interest groups, hiring different political aides, and participating in television interviews add even more depth to the already somewhat convoluted experience, but without these options it wouldn’t really feel like politics. Much of the fun in the game is in its sense of humor, like being able to pick an Alien named Lord Kona as a presidential candidate. The game even allows you to create bumper stickers and buttons for your politician, complete with a personalized slogan, adding more merit to a purchase. Despite all of the satire and silliness, The Political Machine 2008’s simulation is unmatched, and the fact that the developers were able to keep the game objective is an achievement in its own right.
It has laughably low system requirements, and any computer made since the 2000 election should be able to run it without a problem, and at a $20 price point there are much worse ways to spend your money. The only big problem with The Political Machine 2008 is right in the name – 2008. Its shelf life is severely limited, and after November there will probably be nothing to bring you back. There are some fictional and historical campaigns that can be played as well, but the real meat and potatoes of the game is the current election, which will soon be over, and it will be four long years until The Political Machine 2012 comes out. Well, unless the election goes on an extra two months, then Stardock can add a “request recount” option to a post-game screen. Oh, political humor, you’ve got to love it.