Postal Redux is the remake of a controversial title that came out in the 90s, mostly eclipsed by the sequel which found a cult following. The game is available on Steam.
Bad from the beginning
Back in 1997 Postal was met with awful reviews and at the same time it never found a resounding audience, but as time changes so the people´s appreciation for games, such was the case with the sequel Postal 2 released in 2003, a game that was panned by critics and only loved by a small cult following, is now praised by many both the press and a larger audience for how forward thinking it was, specially about player motivations in an open world setting and American social criticism.
So after Postal 3 a horrible sequel wasn't made by the original developers, Running With Scissors decides to launch a Kickstarter to re-release Postal 2 on Steam, not only end up being successful, they give them the financial backup and the motivation to release a new expansion for Postal 2 (yes, eleven years later) and now a remake of the game started the whole show.
Losing your mind
Postal is a game about a dude who has a mental breakdown and starts shooting at everything that moves, set in a mundane place that can be, your town, also meaning that you're shooting regular people, including civilians that pledge for their lives. This is a horrible way to set your game, but this doesn't make it bad automatically, the power of the setting is in how it reflects on the gameplay or aesthetics.
There are two modes to play this game - Campaign and Rampage. So I'm going to start with the one that you're most likely you choose first since this is what happened to me too. I choose to play the campaign first and it is Joyless, Boring and Unfairly hard.
The shooting in this game is sloppy at best and clunky at worst. It is hard to know where your shots are going to land, since there's no clear indication on how is the line of sight of the postal dude works, and this becomes extremely annoying when you are using explosive weapons or tossing grenades. It is very easy to hit a wall or an obstacle that you might think is not there. When an enemy is in your line of sight it will get highlighted with a green crosshair around it, however, knowing how to land this crosshair becomes a guessing game between the postal guy position and the enemy that is trying to hit you, which they are constantly moving.
The movement also feels slow and weird, almost to the point just feeling bad at times, but this is compensated by the overall flow of the game, is not really you that move slowly is the whole game, since it has this gloomy and quiet feel to it, there's no music and only the sounds of your killing spree.
Enemies behave in a weird way, when they are not fooling you, they are easily fooled, when they are not hunting you, they are sitting ducks. But the worst sin of all is how some of them can shoot the postal dude in a range beyond your camera reach, meaning that you'll lose health by an enemy that can see you from when you can't see, or you might be unaware. Also, the character's model can get lost behind the background scenery so is easy to lost track of the postal duy and so the enemies which they can also shoot you from there, the only thing that is visible is a shadowy silhouette that melts easily with the rest of the background.
Ugly Town, Ugly People
Which brings me to, the overall look of the game which is very ugly, the backgrounds are hand drawn and hand painted, the character models are polygonal and simplistic the feel very disjointed with the whole background, however, both of them are serviceable. Just thanks to the dark washout color palette that somehow drags the game, making this shooting game about killing everything one of the most boring games, I'd ever played. However there are some few moments of dark comedy spread around the game, like when you can set on fire a marching band or how in a level you can shoot ostriches and they count as innocent lives, but the truth is those moments are so few and far between.
Also, you can execute dying enemies or civilians that are wounded in the ground, a pointless mechanic that doesn't add any kind of reward for doing it, not even gory executions, which is surprising that for a violent game it lacks a gore. But let's say that they are aiming to be a serious game about shooting sprees in America, with a realistic tone to it, this is completely destroyed by the arsenal of the postal dude which range from rocket launcher to napalm launchers and the selection of enemies which also range from police officers to rocket launcher wielding truckers, those guns and enemies neither fit the serious theme of the campaign or feel violent enough for an over the top game.
Although they are not a well-balanced selection of enemies and guns, they can sometimes make the game fun and less tedious than it should be. But sadly this is how the campaign as a whole does feel. Tedious, Boring, Joyless and it is just unfairly hard.
So it surprise me that the rampage mode fixes most of the problems I have in the campaign, still the same thing with the added difference that the levels have more enemies, there are more weapons and health pickups, enemies seems to be more aggressive and they add a scoreboard with combo multipliers, giving the whole thing an arcade feel to it.
The levels now have music and if you like industrial metal from the 90's you're going to like this soundtrack, the postal dude voice is amazing as always, and his catchphrases make more sense in the rampage mode, also the overall sound design ain´t that bad.
Another big positive the controls do feel less horrible now that you need to worry more about killing fast than ammo and health preservation, don't get me wrong the controls and the looks of the game are still very bad, and the lack of gore still evident, but I cannot deny that there's fun to have in this mode.
There are better games, if you want an ultra-violent shooter that challenges the perception of morality go seek Hotline Miami if you want this concept well realized go seek the sequel Postal 2. However if you're going to play this game no matter what, (Postal fans or top-down shooter fans) allow me to suggest the following: Avoid the campaign mode like the plague, and just play the rampage mode.
PROS+ The game that your mom doesn't want you to play.
+ Can be fun at times
+ Rampage mode
+ Ok sound design
CONS- The game that your mother doesn't want you to play
- Bad Controls
- Ugly to look at
- Campaign mode