The Political Machine 2012 (PC) [Download] review: The Political Machine 2012 (PC) [Download]

The Good Addictive, boardgame-styled mechanics
Roster of new political players allows for some interesting races
Low price

The Bad Mostly the same game as the 2008 entry
Design issues remain unaddressed
Gameplay features have been dropped
A few bugs

The Bottom Line The Political Machine 2012 updates the Beltway players and the hot-button issues, but keeps the same gameplay as its 2008 predecessor.

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6.0 Overall

Review Sections

Lefties, righties, and pretty much everybody else with even a passing interest in presidential politics should appreciate The Political Machine 2012. Gameplay consists of compelling boardgame mechanics that will keep you playing one more turn into the wee hours, trying to ram the candidate of your choice into the Oval Office for the next four years. This is one of those light and approachable trifles that sneaks up on you. Before you know it, you've been playing for hours and have somehow managed to make Newt Gingrich palatable to a majority of the voting populace.

The Political Machine 2012screenshot
This is as close as Newton will really get to the White House.

Unfortunately, this franchise did all of the same things back in 2008 for the last presidential election. The updated game is still hard to put down, but the gameplay is a total rehash that does little more than sub in the hot issues of this election cycle and introduce the new big players on the national scene as potential presidents. Oh, and cut out a few features along with dropping a few bugs into the mix.

You could easily classify this 2012 take on The Political Machine as a standalone expansion pack more than a sequel. First off, the price is a very reasonable $10, more in line with an expansion than a full new game. The game looks and sounds almost exactly like its predecessor. Candidates are still shown as goofy little bobblehead dolls that serve as rough caricatures of their real-life inspirations. The US map that serves as the backdrop of the main game screen is dull, and battleground states get so crowded in the later stages of campaigns that you can't see what's going on. It's still charming, though rather utilitarian. There isn't much flair to the design, aside from a few nifty touches like the big ears on the Obama bobblehead, or how the Donald Trump bobblehead looks to be perpetually yelling. Sound effects are similar canned roars and cash-register chings as in the last game, and the music is the same old elevator jazz.

The Political Machine 2012screenshot
Try and guess which of these are the battleground states.

Gameplay follows an "if it ain't broke" philosophy. As in the 2008 game, and in its 2004 ancestor that got the series started, you pick a candidate from either the Republicans or Democrats (sorry, Indies), or create one of your own, and proceed to hit the campaign trail. You can play solo against an astute computer-controlled adversary (even the normal difficulty setting can be challenging depending on the candidates) or go online for multiplayer matches with other human presidential wannabes.

The style of play is very reminiscent of a board game: you complete a set number of actions during each turn, with your movements limited only by the amount of stamina possessed by your candidate. These activities consist of a handful of campaign endeavors. You jet from state to state, give speeches, set up state ad campaigns, hold fundraisers, and build facilities that let you earn money and gain the political clout and capital needed to line up national endorsements and hire sleazy operatives that can skew things behind the scenes.

The Political Machine 2012screenshot
Her credibility is pretty low. Good thing that's not an important quality in a president.

If you are at all into politics, The Political Machine 2012 can be wildly addictive. Elections play out as fairly realistic simulations of real politics, with everything broken down to simple common denominators. You work with the issues of the day, giving speeches and tailoring ad campaigns to hit on your opponent weaknesses and target the issues that will best swing voters your way. You might fly into Iowa and talk up farm subsidies, then soar into California to pontificate about green jobs. Everything can be tailored to be positive or negative. If you want to tout your own love of deficit reduction, you can do so.