Political junkies (defined as anyone who’s not already sick of the 2008 presidential race) will find this tongue-in-cheek strategy game based on the upcoming election a great diversion. As an armchair campaign manager, you’ll shuffle bobble-headed candidates (real life, historical, or custom-made) around the country in an effort to elevate their popularity, fundraise, and scam/convince the voters of each state (whose preferences are informed by actual polling data) that you’re on their side in various issues - from fixing the economy to Iraq to videogame violence - with ads, speeches, talk show appearances, and political operatives. If contemporary America isn’t your speed, you can play one of the three extra scenarios which include 1860’s America, Europe, or the alien world of Drengi from Galactic Civilizations II.
There are a few hanging chads that muck up the gameplay a bit. Random events, for instance - which can introduce special operatives, give you extra cash, or saddle you with some blowhard who wastes your time on the campaign trail - are handed out to the first candidate to visit the state they appear in, which isn’t really in the spirit of turn-based gaming. As in the original Political Machine, there are no consequences for flip-flopping on an issue from state to state, and the two-party limit makes Ralph Nader sad. Craziest of all, a weird bug caused Democrat, independent, and Republican voters of Texas to unanimously favor high gas prices. And on principle, I’d have liked to see some drawbacks to running a negative campaign. (Then again, playing dirty is a lot of fun.)
Even so, there’s so much charm veiling the spreadsheet that lies beneath the game that these quibbles are easily forgiven. PM08’s sense of humor, topical subject matter, and discount price ($19.99) make it a candidate I’d happily endorse.
PC Gamer scores games on a percentage scale, which is rounded to the closest whole number to determine the GamesRadar score.
PCG Final Verdict: 81% (excellent)
Jun 27, 2008