Written by  :  Jeremy Johnson (769)
Written on  :  Jun 11, 2004
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Interesting "United States foreign policy" simulator.

The Good

Shadow President is a most uncommon game in a most uncommon genre. Foreign policy simulations have always been somewhat unpopular (at least in terms of marketability) for some reason, although the reason for this is somewhat unclear. Most people have at least a rudimentary grasp of international politics, and it stands to reason that a simulator that deals with global wheeling and dealing would attract a reasonably large audience. Unfortunately, it doesn't. Which is a shame, because games like Shadow President are actually quite good and can hold your interest for quite awhile.

Well, enough of that. Time to talk about the game in question...

Shadow President, released in 1991 by DC True, basically puts you into the President of the United States shoes as you direct US interests overseas. The game provides a hard-coded start up scenario in the form of the Persian Gulf War to help you get used to the interface. The game presents a number of possibilities on how to deal with the situation as it guides you through the various menus (the various options the game presents range from reducing the aggression level of the Iraqi government to the point where they will no longer invade all the way to reducing the country to a radioactive glass factory care of your the biggest nuclear weapons in the national arsenal).

After you deal with that particular conflict to your satisfaction, the game will then let you go and do whatever you want to the rest of the world (for good or ill). You can send economic aid to Zaire. You can carpet bomb Moscow. You can assassinate the King of Jordan. You can invade Israel in the morning and make South Africa your "Most Favored Trade Partner" in the afternoon (maybe swing by China for dinner at nice restaurant). You can slash trade tariffs, effectively eliminate the military by removing all the money in it's budget. The you can change the world overnight. You can practically do anything you want to (well, within reason, unless you want to get nuked/impeached/assassinated or otherwise not re-elected for a second term). The level of control you have is absolutely amazing, and it's the greatest strength of this game. It overrides most of the negative things I've found in the game.

The interface is elegant and has a sort of "Presidential" feel to it. You really feel get a feeling of control when you're doing stuff. You can quickly switch between menus, and can even quickly access an online copy of the CIA World Factbook (circa 1991) and get some info on the various countries you are going to be dealing with.

The Bad

I'll be the first to say it (well, no I won't, but still...); this game has some problems. They aren't that serious, but they can erode one's enjoyment of the game. One such problem is that other nations tend to over-react to the negative things you do to them. I mean, I'm sure the people and the government of the Soviet Union (back in '91) would have been upset if the US invaded a country which had about a dozen Russian military advisors there and the American soldiers shot them up (the advisors). However, I doubt that the Soviets would have launched their entire nuclear arsenal skywards at the United States in retaliation. However, when I pre-emptively invaded Iraq to stop the Persian Gulf War from occurring (in the starting scenario), there were 15 Russian soldiers in the country and five of them were killed in the conflict. The Soviet Union responded by nuking Iraq and all of the surrounding nations two days later. Either the AI has a bit of a "hair trigger", or Gorbachev was having "a really bad day" in that game.

Another problem is that adjustments to the national budget are processed in an unusually quick fashion and without any Senate oversight committees pestering you. I might be wrong, but if I increased the sales and income tax to 100%, I'm sure I would have at least one or two people complaining somewhere in the legislative branch of the government. But in Shadow President, no one complains. Sure, your approval rating will tank, but no one will stop you from doing it.

One the features of this game is the ability to ask your advisors their opinions on whatever actions you want to carry out. While they do present some interesting and useful statistics when you talk to them independently, their advice practically amounts to "don't do anything". I suppose this could considered realistic, but it isn't particularly helpful.

The Bottom Line

I would pick up a copy of this game, if you can find a copy it somewhere. It's fun making and breaking the world in your own image, even if the game doesn't handle some of things in the simulation particularly well.