Many people probably remember when the original Postal came out a few years back. The little 2D top-down shooter had everyone in a tizzy because it featured a guy who basically "went postal" and decided to go around town mowing everyone down in a hail of gunfire, napalm and whatever else happened to be handy.
Although the graphics for the original looked like something circa Atari 2600, the sheer violence got the game a lot of press and quite a few enemies.
As the sequel to one of the most controversial games of all time, you probably know what to expect in terms of over-the-top violence from Postal 2. But what you probably are not expecting is a well-made title. Unlike the 2D interface of the original, Postal 2 treats players to a fully 3D world and a good first-person shooter interface. While you have missions, like getting a quart of milk, the game is nonlinear and you can accomplish your goals passively or with extreme violence. There is also a lot of humor mixed in, both blatant and subtle.
In Postal 2 you are not a mindless killing drone. You take on the role of the Postal Dude, a down-on-his-luck-guy living in a trailer just trying to make it in the world. The game takes place over a five day period, with each day having defined goals that need to be completed before you can advance to the next. You are given a lot of freedom to roam around the town, other than your overall missions for the day. So there is a lot of non-linear freedom, which is always nice in a 3D first person shooter.
Monday starts off rather innocently, with the goal of getting a quart of milk, picking up your paycheck and then cashing it at the bank. Sounds like a pretty normal day for most of us. But oh, the trouble that seems to follow you around in this game. It’s so very hard to resist going violent on people.
The coolest part of Postal 2 is that you get to pick whether a given situation calls for normalcy, or extreme violence. Take getting the quart of milk. You can make it to the store, stand in a long line and then pay the middle eastern cashier guy. Or, you can grab the milk and make a run for it. Or, you can walk up to the counter and slide your shotgun through the slot and start handing out lead instead of your five dollars. Two of the three options will probably lead to a bloody shootout, while the third will have you on your way a bit poorer, but with your precious quart of milk.
Then there is the extra hidden and quite fun things found attached to just about every mission and every building in town. In the market where you purchase your milk you find a door with a sign that says "No Infidels Allowed." If you proceed through you find an entire Taliban army and a secret tunnel leading to the local bank. There is no need to go back there, but if you do you can find an interesting sub-adventure and pick up some serious loot and new weapons.
The game is also chocked full of plot twists that will have you laughing your butt off. When you meet Gary Coleman at a celebrity book signing, you say, "I loved you on family ties. Did you ever do that Leather Tuscadero chick?" When you go to vote you find a butterfly ballot and subsequently have no idea who you are picking for what office. And you also find that you work for Running with Scissors, the developers of the game when you go to pick up your check. Outside the RWS office there are tons of "Parents for Decency" protesters that make things difficult for pacifists not to whip out some hardware and start popping people.
But all that probably is not what you will be hearing about on the local news. What you will hear is that this is the most violent game ever created. If you want, the game can be downright evil at times.
One of your weapons is to unzip your pants and using both hands, you urinate on people. Sometimes this will cause people to run away, sometimes they will immediately get sickened. Especially if you spray them in the face, they will begin to puke. Puking people can then be kicked and pummeled easily. Or you can stun them with a stun gun and then urinate on them while they are down. Or to be truly bad, douse helpless people with gasoline and then flick a match in their direction.
None of these things have to be done by a player, but when I said the game gives you the option of being a bad guy, I meant it. When you play the game violently, it makes the current king of violence, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, look like Driving Miss Daisy.
Some of the other things that might offend within the game include, in no particular order: in one mission you will defend a religious compound run by "Uncle David" by killing off swarming ATF agents, you use living cats as silencers in the game by holding them in front of your rifle, there are many ways to burn people alive, there is a gay bar in town with a back room bondage chair, you catch VD at one point and have to seek treatment, the local Catholic church is attacked by Arab terrorists and the priests fight back with shotguns and grenades, you recover health in the game by smoking a thinly disguised crack pipe, your character uses the F-word as his favorite phrase and many, many more including personal attacks on anti-violence computer game crusader Senator Joe Liberman. (D-Conn.)
I had a ton of fun playing the game, though I admit I felt a little bad sometimes once I was finished. I found myself thinking, "I can’t believe how evil I just was." You probably will too.
Postal 2 would have scored extremely highly even if it did not contain such crazy violence. The game is well-made and I don’t think anyone who buys it will think they did not get their money’s worth, especially if you are forewarned about the violence you can expect once inside. The game gets a few points off in the gameplay sub-score due to long load times that occur between sections of the town – sometimes as long as 30 seconds on our test computer – but not enough to take away from its perfect score of 5 GiN Gems.
You will probably have a great time playing, but feel a bit dirty afterwards.