Ever wanted to pit Donald Trump and Hulk Hogan vs. Bernie Sanders and John Cena? Well brother, The Political Machine 2016 is the game for you! Or is it?
Weeeelll… not exactly.
The latest entry in Stardock’s lighthearted political strategy franchise is a massive disappointment. I’m typing this review in between bouts of heavy sobbing and violent thrashing. Please hold me close and whisper sweet nothings into my ear.
The Core Gameplay is Still There, for Better and Worse
The Political Machine’s mechanics have remained exactly the same.
You maneuver across the U.S. trying to raise awareness and capture votes by giving speeches, running ads, hiring shady operatives, and of course, smearing your opponent. Stamina and money govern how many actions you can perform per turn.
It’s all fairly easy to pick up, but there’s still plenty of depth that allows for strategic variety. Each character you pick has a number of attributes (from charisma to minority appeal) and has specific stances on hot button issues such as fighting ISIS.
I found this game’s roster to be strangely lacking. Yes, Barack Obama is not eligible for another term in real life, but why not include him in the game seeing as he was already built for the last one?
What happened to Abe Lincoln and George Washington? Abe is on the goddamn main menu for fuck’s sake! At least you can create custom characters.
Normally I wouldn’t expect a game to carry past content into its sequel, but…
The Political Machine 2016 Offers Nothing New
What the hell? This game feels like a roster update! I didn’t expect this to be the next big budget blockbuster when I saw the $9.99 price point, but the asking price still feels way too steep.
According to the devs, the entire simulation engine has been rewritten. However, I’m still running the exact same tactics from the previous game with the exact same levels of success. I know I’m a video game legend and the sexiest armchair politician of all time, but I just didn’t notice any simulation changes.
Other additions to The Political Machine 2016 include scandals, electoral events, and new TV venues. These random events can add a bit more spice to the game, but they’re so infrequent and inconsequential that I don’t have much to say about them. It’s neat that they exist but they don’t change the game in a meaningful way. The graphics and UI have received very slight makeovers, it’s not super noticeable but I do appreciate the game’s style.
It’s pretty telling that owners of the previous Political Machine only have to pay $4.99 to upgrade to the 2016 version. To Stardock’s credit, they didn’t inflate this game’s expectations or overhype it, but regardless, the lack of new content is disappointing.
Almost as disappointing as Donald Trump winning an election, virtual or not.
In general, The Political Machine’s gameplay is still enjoyable. If this is your entry into the series, you’ll have a good time.
However, if you’ve been playing along all these years, expect to be disappointed at the lack of innovation. You might get a few campaigns in, but soon you’ll be calling it quits on your virtual political career.
2 out of 5 Rickety Pixels.