Postal 2

Genre: First-Person Shooter
Format: CD
Developer: Running With Scissors, Inc.
Distributor: Tri Synergy, Inc.
Minimum System Requirements: 700MHz G3, Mac OS X v10.2.8, 256MB RAM, 2GB hard disk space, 32MB ATI RADEON or nVidia GeForce 3, 56 Kbps modem for internet play
Review Computer: 2.5GHz Dual Processor G5, 512MB RAM, Mac OS X v10.3.8, ATI RADEON X800 XT graphics acceleration
Network Feature: Yes
Price: $19.95
ESRB Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, mature humor, strong language, use of drugs, mature sexual themes)
Availability: Now
Official Website: (the source of these screen captures)

Controversy in the computer gaming world. I can't believe it's come to this.

When Running With Scissors (RWS) created the original Postal and the retail sector all but chained them up and locked them away in the basement in hopes the authorities would never come 'round asking questions, I'm sure the developers were a bit surprised. The game really wasn't more violent than other games available at the time. You ran around and you killed people. Imagine that: killing people in a video game. Postal, however, stripped away all pretense that killing people could be noble. You were the bad guy, you killed innocent civilians and those civilians suffered. No Nazis, no zombies, no bio-mutants created by evil corporations. Marching bands, police officers, townsfolk; those were your enemies.

To retailers and senators, this just wasn't acceptable. And so it was that Postal was banned from store shelves, and lawsuits were launched against Running With Scissors. To gamers, however, it was all pretty much the same thing. Then guns aren't real, people don't really die and the violence stops when you hit Quit. To quote a fairly violent cartoon rabbit who's also seen his share of censorship, "What's all the hubbub, bub?"

Now, we have Postal 2, which isn't so much a sequel to Postal as it is an answer to all the crap that Running With Scissors received for their first game. See that ESRB rating breakdown above? You can bet that's very much a conscious decision. If they thought it'd sell more copies, I'm sure RWS would've taken everything even further than that. The main goal of this game seems to have been to anger as many people as possible, and therefore have it appeal to those who play games to, you know, anger as many people as possible. That's this game's charm, and it's this game's downfall.

First, let's look at the charm. The violence in Postal 2 is so over the top, the humor so in-your-face, the politics so on RWS's sleeve that you can't really take any of this seriously. Yes, bits of it are completely disgusting, but here's something to consider...maybe it's okay to occasionally be disgusted. In fact, if you play this game and you aren't disgusted by certain elements, I'd really appreciate it if you'd stop reading the review now and just go report yourself to the authorities before I have to hear about you on the news.

Postal 2 has a vicious sense of humor running throughout. Some of it works, some of it doesn't. That the developers of the game appear in the game, I enjoyed (your character works for Running With Scissors...albeit briefly). Many of the small scenes acted out in front of you are quite funny in their depictions of people in certain professions (the perkiness of the bank tellers, especially). Although I mainly couldn't stand the guy who provided the voice of Postal Dude (your character), his delivery on some lines was dead on. I mean, I really felt his frustration and disappointment when no one would sign his petition.

There's a lot of humor in the violence, too...or at least attempts at it. Decapitation, public exposure and Gary Coleman are all used for laughs in this game, although, thankfully, not at the same time. Whether or not they'll draw laughs depends a lot on your mood, I guess. Honestly, I did think the game would be funnier, but the writers too often took the easy way out. For instance, one of the missions is to go to confession. With everything going on in this game, that the best they could do was have the Priest's forgiveness hinge on whether Postal Dude donated just seemed far too easy.

You may have noticed I've gotten pretty far into this review without actually talking about the gameplay. That's because gameplay is secondary to the tone of the game, and that will be the downfall for many. It's a first-person shooter, nothing more. The game takes place during your typical workweek—Monday through Friday—with various tasks to accomplish each day. You know, the typical stuff one would do each week: buy milk, get Gary Coleman's autograph, piss on your father's grave. There's an awful lot going on around you to prevent you from easily accomplishing these tasks, though. How you deal with the distractions determines how you get through the game (and says a lot about your psyche, too, one would assume). You can try to get through committing no acts of violence whatsoever, but this is extremely difficult. On the other end of the spectrum, you can kill everyone in town if you want: civilians, policemen, dogs, Catholic school girls...take your pick. I found it made the most sense to just kill those who would've attacked me anyway. Going after the police and the civilians (most of whom are packing) just made the game more difficult (although a bit funnier, too, I'm sad to say).

Weapons? Yes, there are plenty of powerful weapons. In fact, nearly every weapon in this game is powerful. I mean, what good is a shovel if it can't be used to hack off someone's head in one swipe? So, take your pick. Have fun finding what you can use.

The graphics are decent enough, I suppose. They're not up to par with what we've seen lately in the Call of Duty series, for example, or with what's just ahead in DOOM3, but they're good enough. The outdoor levels are all kind of bland, but I'm not sure you'd get much scenic variety in a real desert town, so that's acceptable. Still, things tend to be more fun when indoors. I'm not sure I get the goofy strut that many of the NPCs used, but so be it. The levels are wide open and provide plenty of options for hiding or sneaking up on people. Depending upon how you play the game, this could be important.

Music? I don't recall any. That's for the best. If they'd put music in there, I'm sure it would've been the type I hate. Sound effects? Very good. Acting? Aside from Postal Dude himself (who mostly grated on my nerves), decent enough. The incidental conversations, whether from people on the street or from people at work, offered some of the best humor in the game, and this almost always attributable to the delivery of the actors.

Multiplayer? It's in here. You can play four game types: Snatch (capture the postal, flag), Grab (collect ten bags, each of which makes you stronger), Deathmatch (same as anywhere else, except that you can play as Gary Coleman or Osama bin Laden) and Team Deathmatch. The servers I found weren't exactly brimming with activity, but multiplayer is Mac/PC compatible so that makes things a bit easier. If there aren't enough people to fill a game, bots are available. I'll warn you, though; the types that play Postal 2 online may be scarier than...well, the types that visit the Running With Scissors forums. Add a few more qualifiers to that ESRB rating if going online.

Is there anything else I can tell you about Postal 2? Plenty. But there's really no point. I can't imagine this is the type of game people will see in the store and think, "Hmmmm, I think I'll give this a try." You either want it or you don't. You'll either buy into the game's violent humor (or humorous violence) or you won't. There's no story to carry you through, but just waiting to see what the developers have waiting up ahead is more compelling than many "plots" developers have tacked on to other first-person shooters in an attempt to hold interest.

So, if you like the games that let you run around and kill things, but you're tired of killing nazis, zombies or nazi zombies, this could be your thing. If you're feeling neglecting by your parents or peers, it's also a way of crying out for help that won't get you expelled from school or hunted down by the GOP. See, Postal 2 is really just all about bringing families together.

And then urinating on them.

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