"The presidential race is split into forty one weeks. This gives you forty one turns to play out in the same time as your opponent to fly all over America and convince as many states as you can to vote for you. By any means necessary.."
Political Machine 2008 has been a bit of a blow to my eventual plans of world domination. I always imagined my glorious campaign would see me stampeding opposing forces with my herds of war-elephants while I lounge upon my luxury death-zeppelin and cackle evilly now and then. Turns out the key to political domination of America is to, quite simply, lie your pants off.
This might sound like a derogatory slur against the game, so let's loosen focus and start from the beginning. Political Machine 2008 is a goofy take on the predictably two-horse race for presidency that has you choose a figure from either major party (or design your own should you feel creative) then hit the campaign trail. Sans war elephants.
Not that my grey herd of stompy doom would feel completely out of place. The American map is split into the expected states and it's up to you to sway the majority of them to vote for you. Obviously, some states are more valuable that others: Texas is awash in sheer numbers while Cali can provide a staggering cash flow. Other states, the useless ones like Wyoming, have nothing of worth to offer.
You win these territories over in various ways. Jetting your candidate out there to give a speech is always a good start, especially after a little research on what the issues are beforehand. Then, during your rally, let loose a stream of bull, either telling the voters you're trying really hard to put the environment first or ranting endlessly about how much your opposition loves those whacky terrorists and wants to give them all your jobs. Want more options? Build yourself a media centre nearby and find your choice of topics quadrupled. Why trade blows over such mundane subjects as road tax and the fuel crisis when you can promise to undercover the truth behind the alien conspiracy -- or claim the other side are already allied with the little green men.
The Republican party can even be led by an invader from beyond the stars. Iíd make some joke about a power-hungry intergalactic warlord being in that particular party, but Iím not one to go for the obvious. I am one to point out how Iím above such tactics at the sacrifice of my reviewís focus, though.
The presidential race is split into forty one weeks. This gives you forty one turns to play out in the same time as your opponent to fly all over America and convince as many states as you can to vote for you. By any means necessary..
Buy yourself a heavy, drop him in enemy lands and have him stop people who dare vote against you from making their voices heard. Purchase a web designer so any ads you run in the territory you place him in are slashed dramatically in price. Fashion consultants increase certain stats while fixers will remove a specialist purchased by the opposition. Smear merchants will get those ugly rumours spread in states where people have the gall to prefer the other guy to you.
You can build HQs that help with funding as well as alert you to random scenes you can investigate for better or worse. Maybe youíll arrive and find a Hollywood star has pledged his support to your cause or perhaps youíll encounter a jaded journalist whoíll snipe away at your approval rating. But it all costs dollars, so youíll need to hold fund raisers in your richest states to gain capital. All the while, youíll see the other half busily doing the same.
Half-way in, you pick a running mate who you can use to strengthen your stranglehold on strategic states or help try usurp rival ones from your opponentís grasp. Youíll jet-set endlessly, make uncountable speeches, hire an army of goons and win the endorsements of foundations ranging from Christian clubs to programs looking to better the lot of African Americans. Apply these to the right states -- Texas needs its firearms, Utah needs its religion, New Jersey needs... I donít know what New Jersey needs. More Kevin Smith movies? You canít offer them that.
Weeks tick by as you war over see-sawing states, trying to vandalise a slight lead your opponent has gained in Michigan while trying to decide if itís worth flying over to Delaware for a token rally. The forty one weeks are inspired, ensuring that the game doesnít get too repetitive and allowing the campaign to be split into four quarters, each bracketed by election announcements broadcasting the well-being of each of your claims. The bobble-headed marker that represents your character, be it Mitt Romney, John McCain, Hilary Clinton or a slew of unlockables like Ulysses S Grant and THE Nixon all add to the sense of fun. Play your cards right, and youíll have Abe Lincolnís wobbly likeness at your fingertips.
Who would want more? Political Machine 2008 is niche, but not anywhere as near as niche as it seems. I donít have a lot of interest invested in American politics -- I donít even live there -- but I still ploughed through enough of the game to make Al Gore supreme ruler of the USA several times over. I liked the idea of then forcing you all to live in trees and eat nothing but ladybugs and worms. Here youíll not find a game that devours your life, but one youíll want to come back to again and again to see if winning over the USA is easier to do with Barack Obama or intergalactic marauder, Lord Kona. Admit it: youíre already curious.
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