Monday, 31 March 2014

The Conservative Party Simulator 2015 Review (PC)

"This lady's for turning."

Simulators have undergone something of a renaissance in the last few years; transforming from the weird hobby cultivated by dads, into a quirky internet bating industry. Previously a genre devoted to trucking simulators played by serial killers planning their next kill, it has recently been inundated with release of the more ungrounded simulators – such as Goat Simulator and Surgeon Simulator. With this increasingly rambling statement in mind, I’ve reviewed what will surely be known as the apex of the genre - The Conservative Party Simulator 2015.

I don’t really know where to begin with The Conservative Party Simulator 2015 other than it is an ingenious, sometimes inspired, insight into the greatest government the British Isles has seen in its illustrious eleven hundred year history (you heard correctly, Pitt the Elder). The developers (1% Studios) have stated the game was designed to be as accurate as possible, and they were telling the truth. Attention to detail is king here, and although doesn't add to the game in a pragmatical sense - I appreciated scenes like the one with Michael Gove sat laughing whilst reading Oliver Twist.
Other highlights include the sequences where you have to set the monthly deficit exaggeration, and the creative Rent Boy stage - in which you control the PR department trying to defend Mark Menzies.

Gameplay is segmented and takes place in three stages. I’ll admit that initially playing The Conservative Party Simulator 2015 was as confusing as watching Eraserhead at 4am, but if you persevere it eventually becomes rewarding. The first part take place during your custom politician’s childhood; though it should be noted that no matter how much effort you put into designing your MP, they all come from the same background and play similarly. There is little diversity to speak of. Honestly, it's not an entertaining section as there’s little input required from the player, since the work is done entirely for you by wild beasts, sorry, ‘servants.’

The whack-a-servant mini-game is surprisingly addictive.

During the middle segment you are given free rein to do as you please, as you have the option to blame the austerity measures on the previous government. This allows for you to pass as many draconian laws as possible, or make the harshest cuts. You have a two year margin to exploit this option, safe in the knowledge you can get away with it like Justin Bieber at a mass murder trial. So you strangle development, tell people to get jobs whilst failing at your own, and eat at lavish dinners when everyone else raids food-banks. Perhaps even more incredulously, you can give the chancellor job to a man with the economic skill of an infant playing with a toy till. Imagine that.

It’s in the third segment where the gameplay branches out into complex spreadsheets and data, as you actually have to make it seem like you’re doing your job instead of living your own fantasy of peasant-punishing. Because you're partnered up with EU-fetishists, you’ll spend as much time tinkering with pointless by-laws as the lower classes do hanging the nooses in their extra bedrooms – which they can’t afford thanks to your fantastic laws. Luckily you can easily sedate the masses by lowering the price of pints and bingo. Take that shit-munchers!

Part of the challeneg comes from the fact that you lack any defining archetypes other than stuffy middle aged rich guy. The main rival parties all have at least some semblance of charisma, and their spin doctors are an unholy combination of Malcolm Tucker and Al Pacino in Devil’s Advocate. All the people in your party have the personality of a breeze-block with three high achieving kids. Send them out for PR purposes and suddenly Curries benefits from the wave of punched TVs. There was one constituent who criticised an MP of mine on the social networks, essentially claiming that: “like the unique selling point of a ten thousand dollar whore, he’s a first class cunt,” and I honestly couldn't tell to whom he was referring. 

Graphically, the simulator is terrible. I’m not sure what engine 1% Studios used, but the character models tend to resemble a shaved baboon that hasn’t had to tie its own shoelaces for the past forty years. The colour scale is a horrible pallet of blues, browns, blacks and greys. It’s just not interesting to look at. Quite frankly, it’s an Eton Mess. The same can be said about the sound design, I found myself practically nodding off every time my MPs opened my mouth, and a horrible bleating sound came out.  For a glorious PC game, on the engine side it’s rather archaic and has no place in 2014.

Above: How outdated the characters appear

The Conservative Party Simulator 2015 brings respectability back to simulators. Still, it’s not a perfect game. There are things that 1% Studios clearly need to be patching at a later date, most vitally in need is the difficulty curve. Whilst the challenge is padded fairly consistent throughout, the expenses system is broken - you can basically exploit it without consequence – and the democracy features rarely work. The best example of the latter was when the majority of parliament voted for research into whether my party’s policies were adversely affecting our constituents. If implemented correctly the democracy features should force me to adhere to the vote, but they appeared to glitch and I could just ignore it.  

Regardless, fans of the Conservative Party would be remiss to ignore it; especially since the developers said they’ll finally be working on something new in 2015.

Rating:  9