|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Stardock||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Stardock||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 16, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1, 2 Online||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Four main campaign scenarios are available. Each is quite unique in both its setting and the issues at hand to be debated. The 2008 Campaign, set in present-day USA, features issues of current concern including global warming, our failing economy, energy conservation, and the War in Iraq, among other hot-button topics. The Race of 1860 plunges your candidate in the midst of an embroiled conflict between Northern and Southern states.
The Nation of Europa is a rather goofy interpretation of European politics where two-day work weeks, whether youre pro or anti-chocolate, and giving money to the homeless are among the hotly contested items of debate. Even stranger, The Emperor of Drengi is an intergalactic election where youll be building your campaign around such measures as galactic conquest, slave pit reformation, and terror star development. Each can be played in Campaign Mode, which pits your candidate against various opponents in a series of elections or Quick Play, which offers scenarios that can be adjusted and customized.
One of the more noticeable changes from the 2004 edition is the games slightly newer graphics. The cartoonish character renderings have been replaced with creepy bobble head candidates and the map itself has an updated 3D look. Menus and other interface elements have also been updated slightly, but much of the foundation in The Political Machine 2008 is about the same as its predecessor. The feelings of déjà vu will be hard to stave off for players who enjoyed the first game, but the newest version does have merit.
Part of what makes the game so enjoyable (aside from being able to flick the bobbling heads of presidential candidates) is the flexibility to create completely off-the-wall combinations. For example, despite a massive campaign fueled by mud-slinging, fake smiles, and smear politics my Bill and Hillary Clinton ticket failed miserably. They were unable to both sway the popular vote and amass enough electoral votes to take down the tag-team duo of Ulysses S. Grant and Rudy Giuliani in the Campaign Mode on the first go-around. If youre down for some present-day realism, the Barack Obama versus John McCain simulation is an interesting exercise, but the real fun comes from concocting your own presidential races. Additionally, the games built-in character editor lets you construct your own candidate from scratch complete with robotic limbs, goofy props, cool sunglasses or other oddities of your own choosing.
As silly and entertaining as it is, The Political Machine will not appeal to all players. Theres definitely a learning curve, particularly for those who are unfamiliar with the election processes. Also, the board game-style gameplay is excellent for medium length sessions, but the games repetitive nature and the closeness to the first title makes for limited appeal the second time around. Whether you have a passing interest in politics or are hardcore about your choice of candidate, The Political Machine 2008 is highly enjoyable regardless of your political leanings. Folks whose interest piques upon hearing the words political simulator and missed the original would do well to give the 2008 edition a shot.
CCC Staff Contributor