The Political Machine 2008 Hands-On

Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States...on the easy difficulty setting.

In politics, absurdity is not a handicap. Those words from Napoleon Bonaparte are as true today as the day they were spoken and aptly describe the new political strategy game, The Political Machine 2008. Hiring intimidators to scare away pollsters? Enlisting the aid of smear merchants to write damaging jokes about the opposition? Absurd. And in the Political Machine, it's all part of the game.

Will this be the matchup come November?

We got our hands on this turn-based strategy game from Stardock and answered the question you all have on your lips: Who will be the next president of the United States? The answer: Barack Obama (at least on the easy difficulty setting).

We jumped into the brightly polished shoes of the junior senator from Illinois and challenged Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, to a 41-week campaign in the Political Machine's Quickplay mode. Obama is ranked highly in charisma and stamina, while wily McCain has earned credibility with his many years of experience. There are a number of other candidates to choose from, including Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Hillary Clinton, as well as such historical candidates as George Washington. But we went with Obama and McCain because it seemed like the most likely matchup come November. As you would expect, this turned out to be one of the closest elections in American history.

In the Political Machine, one turn breaks down to one week. The amount of stamina your candidate has limits the number of actions you can perform for each turn. Early on, the country is one giant mass of undecided voters, and it's your goal as campaign manager to sway them with lofty campaign promises...as well as blatant negative campaigning. You'll have a number of weapons at your disposal. Newspaper, radio, and television advertisements get your message to the masses but at an increasing cost. For each issue, which includes the war on terror, social security, and outsourcing jobs, you can choose to pledge your support or your opposition.

You can also give speeches on these same issues, although your candidate will take a big stamina hit in the process. With each visit to a state, you can choose to construct key buildings, such as campaign headquarters, outreach centers, and consulting offices. HQs will open up more key issues to talk about, outreach centers will increase your clout, and consulting offices will increase your political capital. These serve as currency on the special interests tab. Capital can be spent on some savvy political operatives, such as speech writers, fashion consultants, and spin doctors. Clout can be used to purchase valuable endorsements from the Christian Confederation (boost in traditional values) to the National Gun Owners Association (decrease in gun control rating). You get a party discount if the endorsement is within traditional party values--it costs less for dems to win the vote of the Environmentalists Club, for example. You can steal some of your opponent's thunder and win some undecided voters by winning the endorsement of a group that traditionally sides with your party's opposition, though this could hurt you within your party. Obama may sway some republican voters with the gun owners' endorsement, but he won't make many democrats happy.

Of course, no election is complete without fundraising. Each action in the game, even flying from one state to another, will drain your campaign budget. If you have enough stamina, it helps to hit the fundraiser button, especially in wealthy states loyal to your party. Obama cleaned up in California and New York, routinely bringing in more than $200,000 per fundraiser, but he floundered in South Dakota where he raised only $6,000.

And so the campaign season goes. You continually balance your budget, head to key states with plenty of undecided voters, wage advertising or smear campaigns, and touch on the hot-button issues in each state. We won Florida by preaching our support for social security and Ohio by promising to improve the economy. Even just visiting states and saying hello will give you a popularity boost. The only major milestone in the campaign is selecting a running mate--a surprisingly difficult choice. Although Bill and Hillary were available, we instead chose Al Gore, hoping to capitalize on his credibility earned as a champion of the environment in recent years. The weeks passed, and Election Day was finally upon us.

It's a surprisingly tense few minutes as the states slowly turn blue and red. From the east coast to the west, the votes roll in to decide the next president of the United States. McCain scored big in the South and Midwest, while Obama took most coastal states and the North. In the end, it came down to California. McCain won the popular vote, but the electoral votes from the Golden State put Obama in the lead for good as he narrowly edged McCain for the presidency.

Many of the issues George W. Bush faced in 2004 remain in 2008.

The Political Machine 2008 is not the most complicated strategy game out there, but it's a fun, lighthearted look at American politics. Although heavily based in satire--you can choose to appear on such late-night TV shows as the Coldcut Repertoire, an unlicensed Colbert Report--it's uncanny that the 2004 edition managed to predict 48 of the 50 states in the general election, as well as Bush to defeat Kerry. Who will win in 2008? Look for the Political Machine 2008 to hit stores on June 17 to find out.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Did you enjoy this article?

Sign In to Upvote

72 comments
GredegHeado-san
GredegHeado-san

@Bibliomaniac "What's with the new spate of political games? (This and Hail to the Chimp)" Come on, I'd hardly call two games a spate ;P It's because of upcoming election (sorry to state the obvious) :)

tomorrowsdead
tomorrowsdead

Cookie, I know this is kind of a belated response because I just now read this preview, but i can tell you right now, racism is still VERY prevailant in the United States. there are actually places where racism is not only prevailant, but still considered socially acceptable.

CraigDeaton
CraigDeaton

Since my previous post was CLEARLY misunderstood (or only partially read) by at least one reader that had all sorts of colorful character assassination as a riposte, I'll try it again with bullet points. I've played almost all of the election games over the years and I believe the coming campaign and election may be difficult to model using the conventional algorithms. Although we've seen some similar situations in America in the past, there are simply too many things about the current political climate and this particular election that defy the norms. * First truly viable female candidate * First truly viable black candidate * First truly viable octogenarian candidate * First almost viable Mormon candidate * Record-low approval ratings for the incumbent party * First democratic candidate that admitted to drug use (and inhaling) * May be first time there hasn't been a clear choice for the Pro-life crowd * Extremely short campaign due to long primary process (not the 41 weeks the game models) * America is in an extremely unpopular war - a factor only seen once before during Vietnam. * Record high gas prices (in case you hadn't noticed) * Even the oil companies are admitting that global warming and environmental issues are a real concern. I'll probably play the game because Stardock makes fun games, but I certainly wouldn't make a bet in Vegas based on what the game says is the likely outcome!

CraigDeaton
CraigDeaton

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

magusat999
magusat999

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

CraigDeaton
CraigDeaton

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

andyman08
andyman08

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

edos12
edos12

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

scissors
scissors

I still can't believe 8 years of disaster is over.... (we can only hope)

poppen695
poppen695

Thank god this is only a video game..and has about as much to do with real politics as a bag of wet mice does. I have to wonder if this isn't another leftist media plant designed to try and dupe people into thinking Obama is ubeatable so they won't go to the polls and vote. Truth is, Obama is unelectable, not unbeatable..but I will just let that prove itself in November, when the smart people come out of the woodwork, and we stave off disaster for this nation for another 4 years at least.

EvJune
EvJune

It looks too much like Political Machine (the original 2004 election game). I don't see enough improvement to make me buy it. I just recently got into the original again due to the upcoming election. The only thing this new one seems to offer is Barrack Obama (who wasn't even in the 2004 version), but you can create your own custom candidate and Obama isn't hard to make.

VegetaMaelstrom
VegetaMaelstrom

Interesting concepts in this upcoming game. Hopefully Stardock can get out a demo before the game becomes available. I've been very impressed with Stardock's recent games and awesome support after launching those games so I will probably end up getting this game. I'll create the most bizzare politician imaginable and launch smear after lie at my poor opponent. Republican style fear tactics might work as well.

SaiyanDragoon
SaiyanDragoon

No Libertarians? Bob Barr and Ron Paul will win.

fanirama
fanirama

Stardock makes good software. I remember buying a windows theming software from them and was very impressed. I'll surely buy this game. Sounds interesting.

edumazu
edumazu

when i foud out about this game i was totally: LUL WAT?

Termite551
Termite551

America still has racism, at least of the "That guy is black, be careful" kind.

eiadrtr
eiadrtr

im a mean lean political machine

Cookie2-0
Cookie2-0

IDarkNight do they have schools in spain? or did you grow up watching eddie murphys (R rated) stand up comedy routines. Seriously racism in America is common only on the big screen nowdays and you would do well to remember that

iceyintel
iceyintel

This game looks pretty good, its odd and different from others, but that is what makes games great.

Altair1337
Altair1337

this game looks like a lot of fun.

gandhios
gandhios

Bah, it's racist to imply behavior based on his race. Obama is no more protection against racism than anyone else. Overseas perception of race inequality in America is exaggerated. It exists, but its more complicated than white ruling blacks.

IDarkNight
IDarkNight

I think Obama is the best for USA. (im from spain) In one word: equality. he have equality with all the citizens. No to the racism!!!

Gorthin
Gorthin

ill try it before i buy it

careyahr
careyahr

If it's anything like the 2004 edition (which it appears to be), it will be fun for an hour or so, then you'll get tired of it. Little replay value.

shaz14
shaz14

O man this in my opinion if done in a certain way could kick up some fuss...

Mega-Tom
Mega-Tom

omg! lmao why would a cmpany want to make a game like this? Terrible

J2TheB
J2TheB

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Hoobinator
Hoobinator

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

brood_aliance
brood_aliance

I'm hoping for an Obama-Clinton ticket this November. Although, I wanted a Clinton-Obama ticket better, but Obama clinched the nomination.

missonrs
missonrs

Looks like if you want to learn more on politics then you should try this game.

breakitapart
breakitapart

If you like Socialism vote Obama or MCCain= they both suck...I can't wait until the next election or the next revolution (we are waaaaaay overdue).

speedjunkie4
speedjunkie4

I am just asking, but this is the strangest (But coolest) idea for a game. Go Obama!

nickythenewt21
nickythenewt21

This looks like a fun game. I might have to try it out. Hopefully you can make your own person, so I could have myself run for President. Or, maybe make non-presidential historical figures, such as Martin Luther King Jr.

Kounji
Kounji

Great headline Jon

vertigopm
vertigopm

lol wut this is actually a game?

inquisiter
inquisiter

'My fellow armadillows' I wish someone would produce a game that involves all plitical sytems so it isn't tailored(sp) to just americans

Glade_Gnarr
Glade_Gnarr

I thought this was a flash game, who would buy this? I'd like to play but only if it was free.

Dain_Bramage77
Dain_Bramage77

I'd like to try this game out. At least it's something different!

comthitnuong
comthitnuong

I wouldn't mind playing this game at all.

eiadrtr
eiadrtr

this game is going to suck.... espishly with bush around

dhfial1
dhfial1

Wouldn't it be funny if the game predicted exactly what will happen in November? Then instead of interviewing people who predict the outcome, news channels can just play this game.