It's time for a retro review I think. I've been gone a couple times, so now the grouchy hermit of a man I am is back to tear another game to pieces with my bare hands. Well, not my bare hands. A keyboard and mouse actually. Anyway I'm getting off topic.
Postal 2 is an FPS sandbox developed by Running with Scissors and it's available on Steam for the price of £6.99. Today I'll be venturing deep into the heart of 2003 (which is when the game was released) and finding out if this retro game is a diamond in the rough or well, just a big old pile of shit. I paid 69p for this about a year ago, I think. Anyways that's not important, read on!
Wait, hold on. I forgot something. We really need to talk about the controversy this game caused and is still actually causing. Now I may have gotten slightly distracted and discovered a Postal Movie, but I've managed to find a few pages on the controversial nature of the game. For one, the game was banned in New Zealand. Completely. No way around it, New Zealand told Postal II to piss off and not come back. Not only that, but in 2006 it was singled out as the shooters favourite game. Not sure why, I mean, it's not that good of a game. But anyway, that's the whole controversy stuff talked about, we can get on with the actual review now.
So in this game you play as The Postal Guy. The aim of the game is extremely simple. You're given a list of things to do in that day, go and do them. They're not what you'd expect though. Monday yields the results of cashing your paycheck, withdrawing your money and purchasing milk. The killing is optional, and I think it's interesting if we look at it as a spectacular experiment into the human mind. Obviously sandbox games are mostly going to provide you with ways to kill, maim and destroy everything around you. Postal 2 does just that, but the story doesn't depend on that whatsoever.
You can go through the entire game without killing a soul. It's much more difficult, but it is possible. And I think it's interesting to see how long it takes someone in this game to say "Right, sod it, lets blow stuff up". Because the game is much more fun and enjoyable when played as a first person GTA. There I said it, that's what this is, and I know GTA now has first person but that's not the point. The story is boring, it's intentionally boring though. If you follow the story then, well, you're not playing the game right.
Of course if you do follow the story then you'll run into a number of different things, such as bank robbers and other unique enemies that will try and hinder your progress. But of course if you don't follow the story, you won't see these enemies.
The opening cutscene of the game sets the story for us though. Your wife, referred to as "Postal Dude's Bitch" has set you a number of tasks to do per day. That's it. Away you go. "But Ewan, the story sounds useless! What's the point?" Well, by progressing through the days, you unlock new areas and weapons to explore and use. It does serve a purpose, however you can have just as much fun playing around in the first level. Obviously I recommend playing through the entire story to unlock these new areas, but it's completely optional.
The main selling point of the game is its humour. It crosses a line that so many people are afraid to cross, but luckily I've got a horrible sense of humour. Unluckily, there honestly isn't that much funny about the game. Nothing really stands out from when I played it, I can't remember a specifically funny moment. The game just throws random events that only a maniac could think of at you, such as fighting Gary Coleman, or ninja jihad's hiding in the back of a supermarket.
I'm not saying the game doesn't have funny moments, but there isn't enough to string together a cohesive product. And I know this is an unfair comparison but when compared to today's humour that's of a similar nature, the game really pales in comparison. There's a lot of humorous games of the same spectrum nowadays that could be considered on this games level of humour. One game springing to mind is Deadpool.
But for the sake of playing the game, I did two playthroughs. One where I played through and only did what the game asked of me (the to-do list). The other playthrough was much more fun. I did what I wanted. And here's a few things I did:
Accidentally urinated on someone, they proceeded to pull an M16 out
Accidentally set myself on fire, ended up setting the entire town on fire
Accidentally set fire to a colony of hidden cats that lived behind a supermarket
Blew up a low rider; in turn setting myself on fire
Discovered a secret army of jihad shop workers that lived in a supermarket
Smacked a mans head off with a shovel
And that's only the icing on the cake. There's so much exploration to do when playing the game just for fun. It's full of places to explore that you may miss on your first time round. For example, after only a few minutes of exploring I found a hidden night club. It's got no purpose, there's nothing you can do there, but the fact I found it made me feel a sense of achievement that following the "story" couldn't give me.
If you want to check your progress, well, you can! It'll give you a list of things you've done in the game, for example how many you've killed and so on. What I liked about this menu was not the statistics on display, but the fact that some really unfitting, upbeat elevator music played while browsing over the stats. It's one of the places the game gets humour right. It's subtle, yet effective, it got a chuckle out of me the first time I heard it.
Obviously you can't just get away with chopping people up with chainsaws and sodomising cats, no no. The game has police officers. However they seem to be as useful as a chocolate teapot when it comes to arresting you. You can drop your weapon and allow them to arrest you, but you'll probably have enough weapons that you can drop your shovel for a second and launch a cat directly into their face. I once escaped custody by walking to a different area, the loading screen somehow took my wanted level away.
Speaking of loading screens, they're fairly quick. Not too long, but obviously the pace of the game is broken due to the amount of loading screens. But that was the technology of the time, it's not a big deal.
I will give the game bonus points for having mirrors that actually work. Given that this was 2003 and nowadays mirrors in games don't work at all I was very impressed. Doesn't take much to impress me, but apparently standing in front of a mirror is one of them.
For those wondering what buttons you'll need to play the game, R is the urinate button. Yes, you read that correctly. R is the urinate button. Given that there is a statistic for "gallons of piss pissed", you'll probably use that button a lot. I kept hitting R to reload, realized that there was no reload button in this game, and instead of firing bullets I'd fire a large stream of piss onto the attackers, thus rendering them a little pissed off. *badum tish*
graphics and sound
Now, luckily for those of you who like to customize every small portion of the game to how you like there is a large variety of changes you can make. Every little thing can be changed. Not happy with the size of the screen? Change it. Not happy with the sound quality? Change it. There's so many things to change so you can personalize the game as much as you like to fit your play style.
In my eyes the graphics still stand up to this day, I mean, they're not perfect graphics but they don't look terrible.
I'm not saying the graphics aren't dated, but it doesn't look too horrible. I've seen games released this year that look worse than this, so graphically I'm fine with this.
This has nothing to do with the review, but the yelling people sound really similar to Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. It's strange and my mind associated the two things for some reason and I thought that was a bit weird.
Musically, there isn't any. There's some on the intro and main menu, but while playing the game there is no music. Not a single piece, there's some when you enter certain buildings, but other than that not a single sound can be heard. I guess it makes sense to not have music playing but at the same time it was pretty boring just trudging around playing the story and not having anything to listen to. Maybe just a slow/fast beat depending on the carnage you're causing, literally anything would work.
Bringing it back to graphics for a second, I know I said it's an old game, but the people look dreadful. Like, holy shit they look bad.
I can see why this is a game where your aim is to kill everyone. God, look at them. Not the best looking things are they? But again, I suppose it's a matter of working with the graphics available at the time, which of course aren't the nicest looking things.
Postal II is a sandbox destruction tool. I wish I could say it was more than that, but it really isn't. It's a time killer, a fun one yes, but one of little depth. There are some expansion packs to continue on from the story but considering I've only played the base game and weekend expansion I can't confirm or deny anything about the game's DLC.
If you can get it on sale then definitely get it, retro games on Steam are often very cheap and this is a fairly fun game if you like destruction and inane killing. A fun game to play if you're just looking for some silly fun, but if you want something more cohesive then this is not the game for you. While it's not visually special and lacking story depth, the gameplay should be enough for some people to kill a few hours with. It certainly was for me.
|+ Very fun time (and people) killer||– Lacking, almost useless story|
|+ Wide variety of things to do and places to explore||– No real goal to work towards, objectives ignored|
|+ Graphics still fairly good||– Blatantly offensive, may offend some|
|+ Fun, silly, sandbox destruction||– No real depth to anything in the game|
|+ Humour is good for a black comedy game|