Review by BloodGod65

Reviewed: 01/11/12

Oh crap, I've killed Gary Coleman!

In recent years, the video game industry has become a controversy magnet that attracts all sorts of upstart politicians, overly ambitious lawyers, and morally outraged parents. The problem, it seems, always comes down to violence; namely, the obsession video games seem to have with it. But in all of those crazed and misguided allegations of shadowy conspiracies to corrupt America’s youth, we never heard the first thing about Postal 2.

There’s probably a reason for that. The game is exclusive to the PC and was not widely distributed. Perhaps the most important and telling reason for its exclusion from the controversy parades is its sheer awfulness. Postal 2 strives to be controversial in every way imaginable, but while the developers were trying to come up with a way to offend everyone they simply forgot to make a good game.

But there’s a lot to be said for Running With Scissors’s hellbent determination to make the most offensive game ever released. Postal 2 is totally tasteless and it takes an almost perverse glee in its own lunacy. There isn’t much of a story – the basic setup is you’re just some dude trying to make it through the week in sunny Paradise, Arizona – and over the course of the game you’ll have to fulfill a number of objectives such as picking up your paycheck, getting milk, and going to an Uncle’s birthday party. But those scenarios are turned on their head when your trip to pick up a check at the Running With Scissors studio turns into an all-out assault by anti-violence video game activists packing shotguns, and your Uncle’s house is the compound of a religious cult being assaulted by the ATF.

Most of the missions tend to devolve into all-out chaos, and RWS does their best to make these as tasteless as possible. A trip to the confessional ends with turbaned Arabs attacking the church in droves. Later you’ll revisit the area long enough to urinate on the grave of your deceased father. A late-game trip to the butcher shop has RWS putting as much blood and gore into the game as possible. While the developer shoots for the same satirical vibe present in Grand Theft Auto, the game is about as subtle as a kick to the groin.

While Postal 2 revels in its own chaos, it is unique in that players can choose how to react. It’s entirely possible to go through the game without killing anyone, although you’ll be sorely pressed to do so. You can patiently wait in that line to get Gary Coleman’s autograph (yes, he’s in the game) or you can blast your way to the front of the line. But while that’s an option, it certainly isn’t the one you’re expected to choose. Even if you do play nice, you’ll still have to contend with the inevitable swarm of enemies at the end of each and every mission. For instance, in that same Gary Coleman scenario, once you’ve got his autograph, the police will bust in trying to arrest him and Coleman and his bodyguards will fight with the police while you’re caught in the crossfire.

Since the game really expects you to play dirty, (I blasted Coleman in the face with a shotgun. You know exactly what I’m talkin’ ‘bout,Willis!) it’s usually just easier to go along. Along the course of the game, you’ll get plenty of weapons to make the low road the easier of two choices. Pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, napalm launchers, a diseased cow’s head, and your own urine are all weapons to choose from. And while there is no reloading in the game, there doesn’t appear to be any form of hit detection or accuracy either. Even two feet in front of a person shots will go wild, or do no damage at all.

Another big issue is with the environment design. The game manual muses whether the town was designed by an idiot and I’m forced to wonder the same thing. Paths meander around and often lead to dead ends. The in-game map is of no help since it only shows the approximate locations of buildings and roads, but rarely the actual paths between them. As bad as the design of the city is, the interior level design is even worse. Each is a veritable maze of halls and rooms that look identical to each other, making it easy to get lost.

Since I’m already on the topic, it’s worth saying that Postal 2 is one of the most hilariously low-rent looking game’s I’ve ever seen. The environments are unbelievably bland, as are interior areas. Expect to see a handful of textures repeated over and over and over. Character models are comically bad, with their stilted animations and downright wonky facial expressions.

Postal 2 sounds as bad as it looks and plays, too. The deep-voiced guy who plays the Postal Dude can be entertaining if you enjoy swearing, and Gary Coleman does the voice work for his in-game character. The sound effects are hilariously bad as well.

Postal 2 is an unbelievably bad game, but it does have lessons to teach us. First of all, it proves that simply adding violence is not a cure-all remedy that will bring in flocks of gamers. Second, it shows that trying to be controversial usually only comes off as juvenile rather than satirical. Even as hard as the game tries, I find it hard to believe anyone would be truly offended by its content. It’s too over the top to be relevant, and the rest of the game is too crappy to take it seriously.

But Postal 2 offers us an interesting perspective on the nature of controversy itself. I would argue that parents and politicians have far more to be outraged about in regard to this game than a Hollywood style drama like Grand Theft Auto, even if it does try too hard. But nobody ever pointed to this game as proof of the industry’s degeneracy. It seems controversy is a natural extension of popularity. Perhaps not the conclusion Oscar Wilde would have liked, but the truth nonetheless.

Rating:   1.5 - Bad

Product Release: Postal 2 (US, 04/14/03)

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