Publisher: Whiptail Interactive
Developer: Running With Scissors
Release Date: 4/14/2003
When the original Postal was released in 1997, it endured an unprecedented amount of negative attention from the likes of Congress and in particular Senator Joe Lieberman. The United States Post Office publicly spoke out on the game, ultimately filing suit against the developers Running With Scissors. Now, if you’ve actually played the original Postal it should be quite apparent that the complaints about the game’s overtly violent ambiance is not completely unfounded. You’d basically run around town killing innocent people with a multitude of weapons, and once you completed the game an ominous message appeared declaring something to the effect of “taking it to the next level”. Not exactly what you would call wholesome family edutainment, but fun nonetheless. As the months after the game’s release progressed, many retailers banned the game in the US and it was even banned outright in several countries. The legal trouble attributed to the game on which Postal 2 is based kept developer Running With Scissors caught in the court system for a long-ass time, preventing them from releasing the game until now.
But now that the first amendment ban that so often stifles the videogame industry has been lifted, RWS has another, equally-serious problem to deal with: the heightened expectations of gamers. Six years ago Postal was a fine alternative to other similarly themed games on the market such as Grand Theft Auto, but in this day and age it takes more than a predictable 3D transition to deserve a place on gamer’s hard drives. From a conceptual standpoint Postal 2 hints at a fully realized non-linear town to explore while you complete various missions. Sounds like a great idea, on paper. The game is split into five separate days from Monday to Friday, and the only way to progress to the next day is to complete unique missions such as picking up and cashing your check, purchasing some milk, or meeting Gary “Whatchu Talkin’ Bout, Willis” Coleman and acquiring his autograph.
Of course, none of these objectives turn out the way you’d expect them to, often leading to mass carnage and destruction instead. For example, on your way to pick up your check (you begin the game as an employee of Running With Scissors) you notice a group of protesters outside the RWS building chanting “games are bad, they make you mad!”. Not paying much attention you walk on by. Once you track down the head honcho he promptly fires you with a grin on his face and gives you your check, but then the group of aforementioned protesters turns into a lynch mob and runs into the building with guns blazing. It is immediately apparent that the Postal Dude is going to have “one of those days.”
Having transitioned from an isometric 2D perspective to a first-person 3D perspective you will now be able to see from the eyes of the Postal Dude as he roams the town of Paradise, Arizona. All the basic gameplay dynamics found in most FPS’ are present here. Postal Dude can run, jump, strafe, utilize a bunch of different weapons, unzip his pants and urinate on terrified bystanders. Oh, I guess that last bit isn’t very common in most games, huh? Yah, I was pretty taken aback the first time I tapped ‘R’ to hear the unmistakable sound of pants being unzipped and I was even more stunned to witness my on-screen character unload a yellow stream of liquid when I held down the “shoot” button. My first instinct was to pee on a pit bull (not a good idea by the way), but after taking a wiz on a dozen or so pedestrians and watching them all flee in horror, the novelty soon wore off.
The host of enemies that you’ll face in the game run the gamut from videogame and book protesters to screaming Middle Easterners, but in terms of opponent AI the enemies are dumb as a rock. Bad guys will shoot on sight and usually just stay in a fixed position as you unload all sorts of ammunition in their general vicinity. The game supposedly supports target-specific body damage but in my experience with the game it didn’t matter whether you shot enemies in the face or the foot.
Postal 2 does manage to eke out a fairly entertaining experience in regards to exploration. Running With Scissors has apparently spent some serious time mapping out the town of Paradise, on the exterior anyways. Enough exploration will allow you to bear witness to some truly bizarre NPC conversations and locations. Some of the more notable vacation spots in Paradise include the local insane asylum, the bank vault, other people’s houses, and the arcade that is packed with Sym Homeless game cabinets. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t let you interact with many items or people. You can’t play the arcade games (in fact the ones that aren’t “out of order” only display a static image of what looks like Space Invaders), you can’t talk to pedestrians outside of listening to them yell at you to get out of their way, and very rarely is anything blow up-able.
Postal 2’s graphical presentation is passable, though the simple character models (which repeat profusely) and the for-the-most-part static surroundings and objects quickly diminish any chance of real impression. The game only loads chunks of the town at a time so you are often left watching a load screen when you are running around attempting to complete objectives. Postal 2 is powered by the new Unreal engine, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the game’s sparse and simple interior environments. There is some pretty nifty use of textures here and there (the postal package seen on the game’s front end being an excellent example), and RWS did make an effort to pepper humor (albeit of the toilet variety) throughout the game in the form of various wall-hangings and billboards, but on the whole, the game just can’t compete with the likes of other first-person games on the market, let alone the Grand Theft Auto series, which Postal 2 seems to be “inspired” by. As generic as the visuals are, the sound is considerably worse. The voice acting always seems forced and un-funny, and the comments of passerby’s repeat more often than a syndicated TV show. The sound effects often fall flat, failing to make any sort of believable or otherwise entertaining impression on the player.
Postal 2 is certainly a unique game, in the sense that despite its overall horrible presentation and nearly-broken gameplay, it still manages to keep your interest thanks to a slew of deranged conceptual additions. (I never thought I’d set Gary Coleman’s corpse on fire in a videogame, not in a million years.) But in the end, the game just didn’t receive the attention it needed in order to be, how you say, fun.
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