Players looking to test their skills in hedging, flip-flopping, and hyperbole can try their hand at the game of politics in Political Machine 2008. Developed by Stardock Corporation -- who claim 2004's Political Machine correctly predicted the outcome of that year's presidential election five months beforehand -- Political Machine 2008 is a deep strategy game that delves back into the seamy and complicated world of political campaigning. Players take on the role of campaign manager for a selection of real candidates for the 2008 presidency, including John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney. Though the standard premise is to win the 2008 presidential election using the real candidates, players can also use imaginary or created contenders, and compete in historical or custom elections.
The game plays out much the same way an actual presidential election does. Candidates choose a party, and go about wooing the electorate on a state-by-state basis in the hopes of garnering the 270 electoral votes necessary for victory. The core of the strategy comes from balancing two key components of the campaign: money and political capital. Money helps players build campaign headquarters, buy advertising, and hire political consultants, but spending too much time chasing dollars negatively impacts the political capital that comes from grassroots organization. Conversely, a campaign full of stump speeches and rubbing elbows with local politicos makes it hard to raise the money candidates need to effectively deliver their message.
The game interface has taken on a 3D look, with each candidate represented by a "bobble headed" likeness. As in real life, appearance, attitude, and public opinion play as much of a role on a candidate's success as their positions on hot button issues like universal health care, the war in Iraq, taxes, or immigration. So while each candidate is judged on traits like intelligence, integrity, charisma, and stamina, a trip to popular TV shows like the Colvert Report and the O'Malley Factor could also help turn the tide. And if public appearances don't help, candidates can seek to boost a lagging campaign by surrounding themselves with spin doctors, cheerleaders, war heroes, movie stars, and smear merchants who would make old pros like Lee Atwater, James Carville, and Karl Rove proud. Players can campaign against the politically savvy computer, or test their wits online against real-life opponents.
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