POSTAL Redux is a modest technical achievement hiding under buckets of blood. It’s offensive. Immoral. Disgusting. Infuriating. Confusing. Controversial. Antagonistic. The list goes on. So does The Postal Dude, the “protagonist” and monster that you control through the sleepy mountain city. The Postal Dude is evil incarnate. He’s also painted as misunderstood. He’s broken. Infuriating. Confused. Controversial. Suffering. Like Joaquin Pheonix’s Joker, a case could be made that the protagonist is a reflection of the ways our society has failed those who live with severe mental illness.
Everything twisted about the game is what made it a cult classic for so many years. It’s what spawned three sequels, a live-action movie, and homages over the past twenty years. It’s the same draw that brings people to horror films or violent video games. POSTAL Redux is all of the things that keep Jack Thompson up at night, and it wears that badge of honor with twisted pride. But underneath all of the carnage, underneath the impact and the reputation, is it any good?
STORY – REVOLTING RAMPAGE
What made Arthur Fleck a relatable character in Joker was the slow descent into his criminal actions. In POSTAL Redux, you’re dropped right into the game with an objective to kill all hostiles. The problem (and, turns out, missing part of the story) is that The Postal Dude was evicted from his house, and he is hallucinating that the town is under the effects of poisonous gas released by the United States Air Force. To The Postal Dude, everybody is potentially hostile, and he must fight his way to the Air Force Base in order to save humanity.
None of this is explained in the game. Originally, the backstory involving imaginary poison gas was included in the manual back in 1997. Now that it’s 2020 and POSTAL Redux is a digital download, there’s no manual, and we piece the story together from Wikipedia entries and the odd game synopsis. This lack of a story really hinders the player’s moral compass, as you’re not given any justification for your actions. You’re just invited to, well, go postal.
Granted, any justification doesn’t change the fact that you’re still able to massacre an entire town of law enforcement and innocent citizens. Very quickly, The Postal Dude encounters a parade with a full marching band. The marching band is not expected to last long. While this shows that the game leans hard into the shock value and relishes in the ability to do whatever twisted thing your mind can think of, the entire experience is centered around the things you could do, you know, if you wanted to. You can’t do it in real life, why not do it here? There are no consequences, come on. Just go for it.
I understand the appeal. There can be value to be found in the macabre. Video games as a medium haven’t been afraid to “go there” time after time, with events such as the infamous “No Russian” level in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Grand Theft Auto V features an entire playable scene where players are invited to systematically torture a man. They made two Manhunt games. When the choice is offered up as part of the experience, it becomes an exercise in morality. My issue with this game is that without a strong backbone of a story to follow the player’s actions and provide context and tension with the gameplay, it reads instead as an exercise in bloodshed.
GAMEPLAY – DISTASTEFUL DISORDER
My issues with the lack of story and basic premise aside, it is competent in its role as a twin-stick shooter. Isometric is a great viewpoint to have, especially in a game where there are many things to be looking around at. There is a large variety of weapons to wield, areas to traverse, and methods of execution to explore.
From shooting explosive barrels to using rested out cars as cover, the setting of the game nails the small-town environment, it was going for. It really could be any small city that you are rampaging through, which was the intended purpose. Players can project whatever details they want on the surroundings and be satisfied that they did the damage they wanted.
I will say that it’s clear plenty of labor and care went into this remaster. There have been multiple major updates since the initial release for PC back in 2016, including the addition of co-op multiplayer, additional characters, and new content. The Nintendo Switch version of POSTAL Redux is the complete package, offering players the entirety of what Running With Scissors has thus far completed. Both expansions are packed in, with the ability to include those levels in the main campaign mode. There is a new Rampage mode, which offers players a chance to pop off and rack up points while doing as much damage as possible. There’s also support for eight-player online deathmatch, bringing your friends in as accessories to the violence.
Playing this remake on Nintendo Switch is more than anything about the novelty of holding ultra-violence in the palm of your hand. It’s about the dichotomy of the onus of the POSTAL series on a Nintendo console, as it contrasts with the family-friendly reputation Nintendo has worldwide. There isn’t anything new compared to the PC release, which we reviewed in 2016. You won’t find Mario hiding behind a gas station or get to run around with a Toad hat on as an easter egg. As with any Switch release, POSTAL Redux benefits from the features of the console; it is satisfying to play a game without being tied to a monitor.
GRAPHICS/AUDIO – SHAMELESS SLAUGHTER
The entirety of the game has been remastered. The graphics are no longer grainy or blocky; everything has been brought up to modern snuff. While this means that level-to-level, the action might not look like it’s from 1997, the presentation is still dated. Being an isometric, top-down, twin-stick shooter will do that every time. This type of game style is very much associated with the late-90s era computer games, and I don’t think that will change. Future POSTAL games went the first-person-shooter route, leaving this first title in the past.
Remastered gore means brighter and bolder blood splatter. If the characters weren’t being murdered, I’d swear it was the amount of blood that killed them. In the rare instance that blood improves things in a tactical sense, the blood splatter actually makes it easier to know when you have successfully taken out a target. The camera--in-the-sky viewpoint makes it tricky at times to tell if you really did land those shots or if the enemy was just reloading.
Combine the confusion with tons of landmarks and objects to sneak and spray around; there is, at times, too much to keep track of on-screen. Explosive objects aid the player in this way as well, doing their consistent job of blowing up and taking out whatever is nearby. The grunts and taunts provided by The Postal Dude are annoying and repetitive and serve best with the volume on mute.
POSTAL Redux was reviewed for Nintendo Switch. A key was provided by MD Games.