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Postal 2 Review

publisher: Running With Scissors
developer: Running With Scissors
genre: Shooters

PIII 733, 128MB RAM, 32MB Video Card
ESRB rating: M

release date: Apr 14, 03
» All About Postal 2 on ActionTrip

I consider games as an escape - an escape from the doldrums of everyday life. They take me to a place inside myself where I can be anyone, do anything, and accomplish the impossible, all before dinner. As time goes by, and life progresses the way life invariably does, I suddenly find myself thoroughly embroiled in this thing they call the real world - complete with psycho, money grubbing ex-wife, two small kids (whom I adore, but see far too infrequently - thanks to said ex-wife) a mortgage, a fat child support payment, a car payment, two jobs I loathe, an empty bank account, an empty stomach, an exorbitant rent payment for a room that is slightly larger than a Port-O-Potty, and an unhealthy addiction to caffeine and nicotine. I play games to escape from this life. You would too. And to think, if I have a conversation with someone who is a non-gamer, which looks down their nose at me with a derisive sneer when I tell them I'm a 27 year old who likes to play video games, it makes me - quite frankly - want to put my fist through the back of their fucking throats. Of course, that sort of behavior isn't exactly acceptable here in the real world. I sure do wish there was a place where I could vent my frustrations where the consequences are non-existent and I could beat in the faces of the frustrating, banal, idiotic morons who populate my life. Thanks to Running With Scissors, I can do just that...and a whole lot more.

Postal 2 is the sequel to the horribly violent game Postal, released in 1997, in which a man goes insane, dons a black trench coat, collects a cadre of weapons and blows the shit out of any and everything that moves - civilian, military, police or otherwise - in a psychotic blaze of glory that raised the ire of parental groups worldwide and was easily one of the most controversial games of all time. The team at RWS relished in their infamous status when they set about creating the game's sequel.

This is, most assuredly, not a game for everyone. You have to have a serious sense of humor to appreciate this game for what it is - black humor, at its blackest. You can't be one of these people who thinks "Oh, gee, gawsh, I sure do like some dark humor. I watched Pulp Fiction and I really like the scene where they did the twist! Yup, yup, yup, give me some good old fashioned dark humor ANYTIME!" (Ed.- Yes, but it did have some rednecks sodomizing Ving Rhames, that's pretty hardcore.) I guess, you're right but still, this ain't the same thing. (Ed.- Point taken.) Thanks. Anyway, this game is stocked to the gills with swearing, death, and some flat out fucked up imagery that you can't help but to laugh at it. Some of the posters are hilarious, and the main character drops funny asides every so often when one of Paradise's faithful loses a limb...or the ability to breathe. But make no mistake - this game is bloody, gory, and absolutely hilarious to people who appreciate this kind of humor. To everyone else, I would suggest that you not get this game. This game is not for you. You have to have a thick skin to appreciate this game, and realize this game for what it is - pure, unadulterated satire.

Not ones to shy away from the dark side of human nature, RWS has decided that instead of making the boring, politically correct, watered down games that 99.9% of the other development houses are going for (the only notable exception to this is id Software) (Ed.- Hurray for Satanism!), they were going to create a game that embraces and magnifies the frustrating, hopeless desperation of a man living on the edge of sanity in a bass-ackward, po-dunk, middle 'o' nowhere town in lower class suburban Paradise, Arizona. He is a nameless face in the crowd - calling him white trash is an insult to white trashy people - he is known only as the Postal Dude. Paradise is set as a satirical microcosm of American small town life, containing every annoyingly frustrating facet of Americana - complete with the generic Middle Eastern Quik-E-Mart owner. The town is buzzing with sacrificial meatbags waiting to be lead to the slaugh ....uhm....people who fit some stereotypical stigma or another. (Ed.- Six, do we have to get the coat and hose again?) Shut up, that short order cook had it coming! (Ed.- Dude, you mule-kicked a guy at Taco Bell, we were totally justified.) Ah, the memories. Moving on, there are your cops, priests, activists, Middle Eastern immigrants, hippies, sluts, hookers, gang bangers, and folks who look...just plain normal. Almost all are packing, and no one is safe from your wrath if you decide their time on the earth is at an end. (Ed.- Which, if you are playing this game, it probably is.).

This is not a traditional FPS in any sense of the word. Rather than having a plot that fits any previous type of framework where some protagonist does battle against an evil horde that is hell-bent on death and destruction, the plot in this game is threadbare - Live in the Postal Dude's shoes for a week, and try not to go on a homicidal rampage. Of course, if you do, then try not to get killed or arrested on your way - you can't run errands if you're dead. Every day, you are given a list of chores to do by the little woman, and the game centers on the trials and tribulations surrounding the successful completion of those tasks. Sounds simple, right? Well, with half the population packin' heat and with a hair-trigger temper, the lead flies at the drop of a hat. Plus, the fact that the maddeningly annoying tasks that you are given to perform are meant to test your patience to its limits usually means you're starting more firefights then you're walking into. The game isn't set up like any standard FPS where there are logical progressions of levels - just walk about the town until you reach whatever location you need to reach to accomplish your chore. Sometimes you can complete it without incident, other times once you do what you need to do, a mini-level ensues. When you complete your first task (picking up your paycheck from RWS chief Vinny Desideiero), the office is attacked by a group of rampaging anti-violent game activists (to think! ANTI-violent game activists? Performing violence in a violent video game? TASTE the irony!) To get out, you must blast your way out of the offices - with a little help from Vince and Mike Jaret-Schacter. (I fulfilled a life's dream by entering Mike's office, kicking him square in the nuts then pissing on his computer!) In certain situations, this means you need to always watch out for these whackos wherever you go - they will shoot you on sight. In other situations, you just need to blast your way out of whatever location you're in to get the local militia off your back. Once you complete your daily list of chores, you return to your broke-down hovel-like, excuse for a trailer, and receive some wonderful words of support from your wife as the day ends, and the next day begins - filled with new tasks, and sending you to the far corners of town in your travels.

From a technical aspect, the town of Paradise looks pretty damn good. Powered by the latest Unreal engine, RWS makes the town look pretty nice. Some of the textures could use a bit of an upgrade, but the team has done a fine job of making a nice little town with which to wage your one-man rampage. As the days progress, your tasks will become farther and farther apart from one another, which forces you to discover more of the town's secrets. Much like a Metroid Prime-style game, there are hidden weapons caches and power ups just waiting to be discovered. (Editor who is so obviously Petrodon -You DARE compare this game to Metroid Prime?!? SACRILEGE!) And sure, the town is nice looking and all, but what impresses me most here is the use of the ragdoll physics and the AI. For such a small studio, RWS has pulled off some quite impressive AI effects. The townsfolk will engage in light conversation with one another...or decide to pull out a piece and go on a little Postal rampaging of their own. Also, the AI is equipped to handle certain social situations appropriately. If you walk into someone's house, they will find a cop - if they don't pull out a gun and shoot your ass. Also, any unarmed civilians will alert police if anyone is breaking the law - including indecent exposure. But there are fun things to do with the AI, as well. For example: You like your pooch? Wanna play a game with him? Here's a game. Take a shovel. Find an innocent (or, if you prefer, not so innocent) bystander. Beat said bystander with said shovel until their head flies off. Take said head, and kick it to your doggie. Watch the fun! Hours of enjoyment for you, and man's best friend! Then you and Fido can face the masses of the unwashed together, as he attacks your enemies, and piddles on your leg. Fun for the whole family! Speaking of the whole family, why limit the fun with heads to your dog alone? Organize a game of Human Head Soccer! I'm sure you could find more than a few twisted individuals that would be willing to play, and afterwards, they will tag along on your way throughout the city. The team has popped in plenty of AI easter eggs for you to discover. (Everyone loves a parade; even a homicidal maniac - Follow the band on Tuesday and you'll see what I mean.)

From a combat perspective, the AI is pretty good - not the best I've ever seen, but it holds its own. Everyone must really practice with those weapons - because they rarely miss, even from long distance, and they tend to stand in the middle of the road and not seek cover when a madman toting a shotgun comes up to make their head explode. Tell me this - when a lunatic beats you in the face with a shovel, do you stand there and let him do it again? (Ed.- Well, usually, you get a concussion, and can barely move...but hey! It's your review!) Okay, I'll give you that one - but you get my point. When a terrible act is witnessed, the populace runs in fear - for about 10 seconds. Then, it's pretty much back to the happy-go-lucky attitude that makes you want to stab them in the face. If you care to, you can learn to read the various AI styles to find out how to recruit them to your side, or to calm them down in the event of a suicide bombing. Or, you can just douse them in gasoline, toss a match and watch them run around screaming until they collapse to a heap and start begging for their poor, miserable lives to be over to end the searing, burning pain. Either way is fine. And don't even get me started on Gary Coleman. I hate that little fucker. (Ed.- Touche.)

There are certain things I didn't care for in this game. Firstly, no multiplayer. Killing scores of fake people can be a fun solo activity, but it's always better with friends. (Ed.- No Cooperative Mass Murder! Pisser!) From what I understand, some form of multiplayer is planned for the future, but there's no official announcement on that - so take that for what its worth. Next, the way the game is set up, you can't jump from day to day at will - you have to load saved games if you want to replay any particular level. Once you beat the game, a new mode of play is offered - but, to date, I haven't been able to open it up. This adds to the game's replay ability, but as I said, opening it up can be quite frustrating. Also, the load times can be a pain in the ass. They're not horrendously long (about 30 seconds or so), but the town is cut into zones, and to go from one part of town to another can involve up to 4 or 5 different load zones. That's almost 3 minutes of doing...nothing. Also, if you die - load. When you start a new day - load. I understand it's a necessary evil, but when you're having problems getting through a certain area and have to load 15 times, at 30 seconds a pop, that loading can get tedious. Lastly, once my thirst for death has been slaked, the gameplay gets repetitive, as there's not much content in Postal 2 to begin with. Then again, you can always hunt for Easter Eggs if you're into that kind of stuff. Bottom line is that once the initial novelty of the black humor has worn off, many players will find it hard to go back to the game as it doesn't offer enough real game content to keep you interested.

So when you sum it up, you get RWS's collective thumbing of the nose at conventional wisdom, politics in gaming and lower-class America in the form of the most hyper-violent game I've seen since Soldier of Fortune. Intentionally ironic and satirical, Postal 2 picks up where its predecessor left off - as a game that, while highly controversial, is shitloads of fun. (Ed.- cough) Huh? Oh yeah, one more thing, parental guidance is highly recommended, so please if you aren't over 18, don't play this game. (Ed.- Nice cover.) Thanks, now if you don't mind, I have some punk bitches to glock.


7.1   Good

Excellent carnage, fun, AI is fairly good and the graphics are at least above average, Easter Eggs

Unconventional gameplay - lacking any real game content, just running around shooting random people, load times, no multiplayer



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