Political Machine 2008

You made a difference in 2004, and you can do it again in 2008. Civic-minded gamers, it’s time for you to step up to the plate for another winner-takes-all election cycle in the second iteration of Stardock’s turn-based campaign simulator, Political Machine.

Flush with the surprise success of the original game, the sequel is getting some major campaign finance reform, allowing it to run on a platform of change. Some of the major improvements you’ll see in Political Machine 2008 will include a fully 3D engine, a detailed character creator that lends itself easily to caricature, and campaign scenarios beyond the United States. You can kick off your campaign as one of the pre-made characters, which include bobbleheaded representations of all of this year’s candidates (and some non-candidates like Dick Cheney), as well as historical figures like George Washington and Harry Truman, or use the editor to create your own candidate from scratch and set your appearance, background, and values to your liking.

But choose wisely, as the voters have gotten smarter since 2004, and more opinionated. For example, many staunch conservatives won’t consider voting for a pro-choice, anti-gun candidate even if he runs advertisements in their state 24 hours a day and kisses babies until pedophilia charges are filed. You’ll also have to weigh your candidate’s stats - you can give him lots of experience, but advanced age comes with decreased stamina, which limits your actions per turn.

Since no one person can run a presidential campaign, you’ll need political operatives to get your candidate across the finish line. Agents like the Spin Doctor and the Web Master build your candidate up in the eyes of the public, while the Smear Merchant and the Intimidator tear down the opposition and discourage their supporters from voting. There’s also a brand-new technology tree where you can spend your campaign funds to hire new speech writers or dig up dirt on your political opponents.

For an extra boost in the polls, you can take your candidate on talk shows that bear a striking but entirely coincidental (we’re sure) resemblance to The Colbert Report and The O’Reilly Factor. Can you say “the Colbert Bump”? But PM08’s appeal won’t end after November. The game features many planned scenarios - hold elections during the Civil War, or in the far future where the problems with illegal aliens involve actual aliens - plus European Union maps, so you can run for office again and again. Because, let’s face it, making promises today is more fun than having to make good on them tomorrow.

May 7, 2008