If you have ever watched the news, you probably saw a report involving a president of the United States. Maybe he was on a trip visiting world leaders, holding a press conference, or making a speech about some national or world event. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the president? Being America’s president is more than just public appearances; it involves a lot of pressure and stress, and is often considered the most difficult job in the modern world.
Shadow President gives you the chance to be the President of the United States. As Commander-in-Chief, you are responsible for foreign and domestic policy, and your ultimate goal is world peace and prosperity. How will you run the country and influence the world? This simulator recreates events that have led up to the current state the world is in today, but gives you the opportunity to change future for the better–or worse.
Shadow President starts you in June of 1990, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and not long before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Iraq is becoming more and more volatile, and threatens military action for dominance of the Middle East. Tensions are rising in the Soviet Union as its days as a Communist super-power are coming to an end, and the threat of nuclear war seems very real. People are living in poverty in South America and Africa, and cartels and warlords strip their people of their basic human rights. You have two years until your next election campaign, and you must try to garner enough public support to be reelected.
You are given access to the Shadow President supercomputer, which is your command post for overseeing the world. Every country in the world can be targeted to display more information about the current state of that nation–everything from public opinion, to human rights violations, and even the likelihood of that country initiating military or other hostile actions against another country. When you select a country, you can give commands in one of five categories (social, economic, military, intelligence, or nuclear technology) that may help or hurt that country, or you can send financial aid to the country in one of those categories. Depending on your actions, the global community may follow your lead or oppose you, and certain actions improve or reduce the public’s opinion of you.
As president, you have your staff members to help and advise you as you go. At your disposal are the White House Chief of Staff, the head of the CIA, press secretary, Economic Advisor, Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisor, and Secretary of State. They will predict the results of your actions with or against another country, and tell you if they think your decision is a good one. Also, when you have selected a country, they will brief you on that country’s status in the world and any information about the country that may affect America or the world. Your advisors are not guaranteed to you; they may resign their post if you do something really bad that they disagreed with, or they may even be killed. Likewise, your Shadow President supercomputer is not invincible. Your computer may slow down significantly if there are too many things going on in the world for it to monitor all at once. Disasters, both natural and human-influenced, may also affect your computer’s capability.
When you issue orders for your country’s policies with other countries, you often have to wait up to a week to see the results in matters that involve negotiations, such as peace conferences or economic arrangements. Some happen overnight, like political condemnation of another country, and others may occur almost immediately, such as blocking or restricting trade with a country. When your orders are finished, you will see the results in statistical form; these statistics determine the country’s attitude towards other countries and its own people.
As president, your responsibility is to find peaceful alternatives to war, whether America is directly involved or not. However, there are times when you must decide to make a show of force in order to get the other countries to listen to you. If a power-hungry country threatens to invade a peaceful country, you can put pressure on the aggressors by establishing a military presence in the victim and neighboring countries. You can also dissuade the enemy country by cutting or eliminating trade, making it more difficult and expensive for the country to start a war. Just because the country declares war doesn’t mean there will be bloodshed. You can file complaints with the UN, demand global sanctions against that country, and try to form a coalition to oppose them. You can even send the CIA to give arms to rebels in the country, initiate a coup d’etat to overthrow the government (hopefully a better one will replace it), or assassinate the leader. If all else fails, you’ll have to fight. Hopefully, you can stop the country before it gains nuclear warhead capabilities and decides to try it out.
One factor that influences your actions is your popularity rating. Your popularity is based on surveys completed by the American citizens, and reflects your actions. Sometimes presidents need to make tough and unpopular decisions to protect the country and the world; this may not be too much of a factor in the early stages of the game, but may drastically affect whether or not you act later on. The rating is just an estimate, so having a 50.1% rating may not always win you an election. Also, if your rating gets too low, you could be impeached or even assassinated.
If you’re bored with the pre-Desert Storm era, you can also try different scenarios. What if Iraq was allowed to invade Kuwait, and eventually conquered Jordan and Saudi Arabia, thus gaining control over most of the world’s oil? What if Germany and Japan became the world’s economic powerhouses and America’s quality of life dropped significantly? What if the world’s natural resources were depleted? If you don’t want to play one of the scenarios that come with the game, you can experiment leading your country in different ways; you can even be a true “shadow president” and try to invade countries and do pretty much anything the president shouldn’t do.
The major drawbacks in Shadow President are the lack of a US Senate to affect your decisions and the inability to visit other countries to try and strengthen ties with them. Instead of actually living the life of a president, you lead your country from a computer screen, much like the one in Maelstrom. Shadow President makes up for this with its strong gameplay and challenging AI. Much of the dialogue from your advisors consists of sentences patched together, but it is enough to convey the information you need to know. Though Shadow President is a complex game, the tutorial makes the game easy to learn.
Shadow President includes the 1990 CIA World Factbook in its entirety, and though the Factbook is only a reference and is unaffected by the game, you can get a good idea of what certain countries may do and what their past is. The Factbook is only accurate in the beginning of the game, as your decisions and actions can and will change the course of history.
And always remember: the world is watching you.
Shadow President is a DOS game, but it does not run properly in Dosbox. Fortunately, it works fine in Windows.