Play Election 2004 at PC

'Political Machine' lets you roleplay candidates

Political couch potatoes who can't get enough of the impending presidential election will find endless fun with "The Political Machine."

This new PC game from Ubisoft pits you as a string-pulling presidential puppet master, aka the campaign manager.

From the running mate to the platform, the decisions are all yours in a simulated 41-week battle for the Oval Office.

You start by selecting from a list of candidates, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bob Dole and John Kerry. They must be either Democrat or Republican (sorry, there's no third party), but you can tweak dozens of personality traits like religion, war experience and intelligence. As in the real world, you can't pit two members of the same party against each other.

Even on the standard setting, victory was elusive. Avoid the "masochistic" difficulty and the multiplayer options for fear of instant embarrassment.

Several factors play into your strategy: political unrest, the economy, international relations and the general difficulty setting.

Staying on message was fine, but be aware of the shifting demographics in every state. What your candidate says in liberal-leaning states like Massachusetts won't go over so well in Texas.

The unfortunate truth? It's not always what the candidate believes that matters -- it's what the voters want to hear.

"Political Machine" plays out on a map of the United States, with the states shifting between blue (Democrat) and red (Republican) depending on which way voters are leaning.

You can view other information, such as state wealth (good to know for fund-raising), and liberals vs. conservatives.

If you regularly watch C-SPAN or scan the Internet for the latest political gossip, you'll love this unique game and its entertaining spin on the road to the White House. Even if you couldn't care less about politics, this $20, T-rated game serves as a fun, hands-on glimpse of the U.S. system.


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