The idea of a game solely about politics may be the most potentially awful ideas ever proposed. While many people do follow politics closely, there aren’t many of those people who will admit that it’s an “exciting” thing to watch. Developer Stardock (developer of the well-received Galactic Civilization franchise) cares none about that fact as they’ve been producing political games ever since the 2004 election between John Kerry and George Bush. The past two Political Machine games have maintained a certain charm adored by some but ignored by more, does The Political Machine 2012 cater to those some or attempt to snatch up the more?
The visuals in The Political Machine have been a staple of the franchise since its beginning, enhancing presidential candidate’s facial features to a near alien-like look. The Political Machine 2012 continues that comedic tradition with characters like Rick Santorum featuring a large polish sausage type head. The customization of characters is where the look of the game really begins to shine though. Through the customization, you can do things such as make your hopeful president to be an enjoyably awful representation of George Washington, a cowboy, or of course the candidate we all enjoy, a cowboy dressed like George Washington who is also a robot. Johnny 5/Washington for president in 2012.
Presentation is something that The Political Machine has on lock. It isn’t just the character models that are fun to look at but it’s also the country map and the menus in general .Presenting everything with a quirky, tongue in cheek vibe like Stardock has, gives a relatable feel to everything in Political Machine. The game never gets too serious while never shying away from the “a bit too stupid” moniker. The Political Machine is silly from head to toe, and when making a political game, that’s all you can ask for.
If you have an irrational fear of blue or red, stay away from The Political Machine as it is based all around these two colors placed on a map of America. These colors represent their respective parties, filling states in darker as the candidate becomes more of a lock to secure that state in the final vote. To achieve this dark red or dark blue color, you must fly from state to state either performing speeches, making ads, or building HQs. These HQs help you either gain money, PR Clout, or Political Capital. PR Clout helps you obtain large endorsements from major groups, ranging from the Tea Party Movement to the Christian America group. Political Capital is the more interesting of the two however as you use that to hire “operatives.” These operatives will then go out and either hurt your competitions campaign, or instead boost yours in a meaningful way. These ideas work out well but never affect the other competitor as much as you would like. You save up to hire an operative but the change in the game that operative was supposed to deliver isn’t felt until many turns later.
Throughout the election process you run into many different issues, such as every president does. You can make TV interviews with terribly named parody shows (Barry King Live, Bill o’ Malley, 60 Seconds), you can accept random donations, and even get slapped with a fat fine that if you don’t have the financial stability you need, could be the death of your campaign. The random events that pop out throughout the singleplayer do a fairly good job of livening up the experience but there just needs to be more of them. Apart from the fine, the other two events are fun to interact with the first few times but after a while become a bit of a bore, but more importantly, a waste of your precious time.
The idea of “just not enough” is something prevalent throughout the entire Political Machine experience as you begin to complete the single player multiple times; you realize there just isn’t much to it apart from your initial excitement of running across the states picking up voters. The only thing left to do would be to take the game online and go head to head against other players, which seems to be an intriguing idea, but there also seems to be no one online. Then after cruising some message boards I began to read that the multiplayer was buggy as hell even when they could finally find someone online, taking that idea out of the picture entirely. That only leaves you to go back through the single player, maybe advancing the length of your campaign from 21 weeks (weeks act as turns) to 41 weeks. The only issue with that is that the game was clearly designed with 21 weeks in mind as your awareness becomes maxed out throughout all states in about 25 weeks,. That then leads to you just flying around the map setting up random advertisements, and doing that for 16 straight turns is not fun.
For a game that is only 10 dollars, you can’t hold the issue of it not having 50 hours of content against it. But on the other hand, the player deserves to know that after playing The Political Machine 2012 for about four hours, you’ll be done with it. The presentation is as slick as can be and the controls and ideas in The Political Machine are all there, but they just don’t come together to bring you a lasting experience. That being said, The Political Machine 2012 is a slick piece of work and although it doesn’t last for hours on end, if you enjoy politics in any way, there’s some fun to be had with The Political Machine 2012.
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