I consider myself a reasonable guy, and not one that often indulges in impulse buying. It is easy for me to turn up my nose at those so-called "bargain" games that once commanded the high dollar price of legitimate games before everyone realized how shitty they actually were. Now discredited and the source of many poorly misspelled jokes on Internet forums across the world, they sit there silently on the shelf gathering dust, hoping against hope that some pre-teen with too much money or an elderly grandmother who just wants to buy her grandson one of those new-fangled "compooter" games will scoop them up. It is against such a backdrop that I encountered SuperPower while making my usual detour to the software aisle at Office Depot before I went to the register to purchase my wares. I had heard many bad things about the game. The only thing keeping users from complaining about crudely drawn graphics was the fact it crashed so often. I had seen many reviews talking about the AI randomly attacking countries and how unrealistic the game actually was. It was a "bad seed," a game with good potential that had strayed too far down the wrong path and should be avoided at all costs. When I saw SuperPower sitting on the bottom of the shelf, I knew what I was getting into:
SuperPower: "Pssst. Hey man, come here for a second. Yeah, you."
Me: "Uh, I don't think so. I've heard you're nothing but trouble. Besides, who's ever heard of a talking box anyways?"
SuperPower: "Just forget that for a second man, it's only a plot device. Hey look, I'm cheap. They just discounted me again. Come on, I know you're looking for a cheap thrill. I'm a strategy game, just your type."
Me: "No, no, I've had bad experiences with your kind in the past. You promise a lot, but never deliver."
SuperPower: "No, it'll be different this time. They're bound to have patched me since those reviews. Look at those pictures on the box; I'm amazing! You can play as any country in the world. I'll never get old!"
Me: "Well, the price is pretty cheap. And it has been a while since I read those reviews. Okay, maybe just this once."
SuperPower: (Rubbing its non-existent hands together) "Excellent."
So now SuperPower sits on my hard drive, patched and ready to go. After only a couple of games, I knew I let my gullibility get the best of me again. For a game that claims to be a "complete world simulator," SuperPower is heavily slanted towards military conquest. The only "real-world economic, social, and political problems" you will face is if you are unable to click and drag the slider bar on the city screen to the right. If your country starts out in the red, just adjust some more slider bars until you aren't running a deficit anymore. That's about all you can really do on the domestic front. That's okay with me. After all, I bought the game to conquer the world, not increase the GDP of Morocco. Perhaps to counter the complaint in reviews that after a few turns countries started randomly attacking each other, the designers erred too far in the other direction. In fact the U.S. is so devoted to peace that although I blasted it several times with nuclear missiles in different games, they never retaliated even though I struck first. But regardless of your military state, those hippy peaceniks that are running the show in other countries will quietly sit by and silently adjust their own sliders and occasionally build some units, seemingly until the end of time. And considering how the game builds units, this is a good thing. If I build 25,000 soldiers and am 99% done, how many soldiers do you think I have? If you answered more than 0, you would be wrong. I don't know why the game doesn't fully build a unit before going on to the next, or what magical item the soldiers are given in that last 1% that turns them from worthless civilians into killing machines, but it makes repelling invasions even harder. I waited 4 years (each turn = 1 week, you do the math) before growing frustrated at not seeing one war break out.
The game is not for lack of detail though. History nerds will rejoice at seeing over 4000 different real world units in the game, from special forces to the SAM-3 antiaircraft missile, all of which can be customized. Unfortunately, whoever was supposed to design the RTS artwork apparently died or stopped coming to work and so the designers decided to model this part of the game in MS Paint. If you ever derived any enjoyment out of building your own units earlier, then it is best that you skip the RTS phase since your hours of work will be squandered with an ugly, tiny, top down view of the battle. There is almost no way to tell the difference in the units just by looking at them, as both a M1A1 Abrams and a T-34 will look exactly the same. Thankfully the game designers realized what a waste of memory this phase of combat was and gave you the option to bypass the battle and automatically show the results.
I could go on about the constricting worldview map that turns invading the Middle East into a pixel hunt, or the huge number of bugs in the game that goes from randomly wiping out your bank account to randomly crashing to the desktop, but being the eternal optimist I prefer to look at the only real redeeming part of the game, the strategic warfare. Looking like it was ripped right out of the 80's movie hit Wargamers, the strategic screen gives all the potential dictators out there the chance to obliterate well known countries by pressing a snazzy looking big red LAUNCH button. It can be quite satisfying after a long day of doing whatever to sit down, pick a country that displeases you, and obliterating it in a barrage of throaty BOOM sounds and white flashes. As a stand alone application, it would have been a sure hit. Sadly, the strategic screen was coded by the same people who made the rest of SuperPower, meaning that your heaping helping of fun is slathered in a greasy mess of unimplemented features and bugs. For example, in keeping with the "real life" theme in the rest of SuperPower, most modern nuclear countries will have an arsenal of several hundred nuclear weapons. Yet in keeping with the general crappiness of the game, you must manually target every single one of those missiles. Plus, if you fire off too many nukes, you get a "we don't reward nuclear war with cool graphics" game over screen that freezes the game. Yeah, like they needed a reason to skimp on the graphics in this game.
In short my tale of woe and misery again ends in tears and bitter resentment. Although I had rescued the game from the bargain bin like a puppy from an animal shelter, SuperPower decided to repay my kindness by chewing up my furniture and pissing all over the good rug. Although mindlessly entertaining for a few hours, it cannot sustain the quality that the gaming public has come to expect even in our $19.99 and below games.