Star Rating:

This Is The President

Platforms: PC

Release Date: Monday 6th December 2021

Play Modes: Single Player

Truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction.

The last few years of global politics has seen someone with no prior political experience lead the most powerful nation in the world, social media becoming a crucial part of political discussion, and discontent with "the establishment" hit highs not seen in a generation.

Politics is a ripe target for satire and parody as we have seen on television and film, but video games have rarely gotten in on the act - until now.

'This Is The President' comes to us from Belarus-based developer SuperPAC, and sees players take control of the new President of the United States.

Similar to the 'This Is The Police' franchise, players must make choices and live with them in this 2D game.

Whereas the 'This Is The Police' franchise has been hamstrung by a good idea let down by the execution, this is by far the most successful version of the gameplay formula.

The aim of the game is to pass a new amendment and add it to the American constitution, and players must hire and deploy an army of hackers, journalists, spin doctors, diplomats and hitmen to get the job done.

Over the course of the 10 hours it takes to beat the game, players are presented with dozens of encounters, all of which affect the players presidential rating.

For example, players are tasked with finding an astronaut who has gone rogue prior to a manned mission to Mars.

You can choose two hackers on your team to track him down and try to take him out using a hacked drone, you could send a spin doctor to smear him and get a diplomat to negotiate with him, or you can send the two hitmen on your team to just take him out.

Each situation is brilliantly written, and each experience fleshes out the colourful cast of characters, with special mention going to the President's wife Ellie who is very much the power behind the throne.

The writing in the game is exquisite, and perhaps most crucially for a game about politics, it lets players be whatever kind of politician you want.

It's possible for players to be a starry-eyed, inspirational leader like JFK, a bumbling and boorish Boris Johnson type, or a stoic and respectable steady hand at the wheel like Angela Merkel.

Conversations - and the choices you make - is the bread and butter of 'This Is The President'

In the 10 hours it took to run through the four-year term as President, I made some bad decisions that backfired horribly on me, I had missions and tasks locked because I didn't have a high enough approval rating, and I had to let staff go because I didn't have enough money to pay them.

To pay my staff costs for the month, I had to leak information about a foreign nations nuclear weapons program which netted me a cool payday and enough to pay my staff for the month, but at the expense of my ratings taking a major hit.

In another month, my main lawyers were otherwise occupied because they had to get a fake passport forged, leaving my two hackers to propose a complex political bill, with the result you'd expect.

The game presents these dilemmas without ever explicitly telling you, which is a sign of great organic game design, you never know what will happen month-to-month.

At all times, the player is aware of their ratings: you can use some temporary boosts such as signing bills into law to give a temporary boost, but if you make too many bad random decisions in a row, you could wipe out that hard-earned progress.

The game is very well-designed, and it will take a good few playthroughs to see all the branches and options the game has to offer, which is a testament to the stellar and well planned-out design of the game.

For a political game, the game has a cutting sense of humour and is often laugh out loud funny.

Your Vice-President often approaches you with strange requests, such as asking for your advice on how to avoid the birds that are attacking him on the White House lawn.

All of these encounters are text-based and players choose whatever option they see fit, and the vivid art style helps bring these outlandish scenarios to life.

'This Is The President' has a tone similar to 'House Of Cards' or 'Succession' and those expecting a 'West Wing' style look at the day-to-day life of the President of the United States will be a bit disappointed.

For those who wanted a game about a President as inspiring as an Aaron Sorkin creation, this is not the game for you.

Without ever explicitly mentioning current political affairs, 'This Is The President' is a fair and accurate reflection of politics in 2021, for better and for worse.

Backroom deals are common, arms must be twisted (or broken) to get stuff done and making decisions that go against your own personal beliefs are common.

The game goes into some murky grey areas which show the seedy underbelly of politics, and towards the end of the game, the players are forced to make some truly awful decisions.

In the final year of the presidency the player must do things that are too shocking to even spoil here, but the sudden lurch into an episode of 'Yes, Prime Minister' as directed by Terry Gilliam is earned because you've come to love and care for the characters.

Don't let the low price point or lack of developer name recognition fool you - 'This Is The President' is one of the years most vibrant and in-depth games, and is absolutely worth your while.