Postal 2 Review

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Graphics: 8.0
Sound : 8.5
Gameplay : 7.5
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 7.5
Review by Dennis S.
NOTICE:

This review, just like the discussed game, is not meant for consumption by persons under the age of 18, politicians, animal rights activists, as well as deeply religious or politically correct people. If you fall into any of the above categories please stop reading here and proceed to the main page of our site.

Introduction:

The year was 1997... Back when Windows '98 was THE hottest thing, hard drives with size of more than 2GB were still somewhat of a rarity and the current CPU speeds of 2GHz+ sounded like something from science fiction. That year one of the most incredible, and controversial at the same time games was born. I'm talking about Postal, of course (although it might still be a close tie with GTA!). The original Postal starred the Postal Dude, who is well, basically a dude that went postal and decided to terrorize the 'hood. He used conventional and unconventional weapons to eliminate anyone he wanted – and you were the one deciding who would live and who would die. No matter that it was a simple top down run-around-kill-em-all action type of game, it earned notoriety for the realistic and bloody way is portrayed the slaughter and mayhem the Postal Dude caused.



As a result the original version of the game ended up being banned in such countries as UK, Germany, Australia and many others. Even most major retailers in the USA have decided to discontinue carrying it due to the public pressure on them. A (still continuing) lawsuit against RWS from the Postal Service of the United States has followed, and senator Joe Lieberman named Postal as one of the three worst things in America. Protests from the general public, bad publicity and probably even mailbombs – RWS guys have seen it all. You'd think that by now they'd call it quits and go program for Microsoft or do something 'useful' of that sort. And yet, six years later the Postal Dude is back... with a vengeance. From 2D top down game he switched to full featured 3D first person shooter, powered by the latest Unreal Warfare graphics engine. So probably the big question in everyone's heads right now... is it worth the six years wait?

Graphics:

Being powered by an enhanced version of the Unreal Warfare engine (which you might have seen in recently released Unreal 2 and Devastation), Postal 2 definitely offers some attractive graphics. The textures are usually sharp, realistic looking and well varied (except for certain occasions). Almost all the objects in the game indeed look realistic and you don't have to spend any time trying to figure out “what the heck this is” (and even if it's not related to graphics, most of them can be manipulated, in ways such as being moved and kicked around). Even the skies are 'alive', very vividly colored and with clouds visibly moving on them. It seems that RWS has fully achieved their goal in immersing you into the game world – at times you'll even stop and look around for a moment or two at the beauty of it all. Just for a brief moment of course, as you've got some people to kill.

Speaking of the people... Their models look terrific, with a great amount of detail given to the faces, bodies and hrm, well, let's just say everything (don't forget to check out our screenshots gallery for some juicy shots). Some of those faces you might have seen somewhere else – for example the Muslim fanatic character's face was obviously modeled after Osama Bin Laden, while a perky blond girl's face clearly resembles... Britney Spears! There's a huge variety of different character models and faces in the game as well, so it will take you some time before you'll bump into two characters that look exactly the same. However even more amazing than the models themselves are their animations; everyone moves just like they would in the real world, no matter if they're running, crouching, walking around, dancing or doing any other action. Even the dogs, cats and elephants that you'll encounter in the game would do things like they would do in real life, would it be running away from you (cats), angrily stumping on some poor SOBs (elephants) or, well, peeing on a tree (dogs). It is obvious that a great deal of work was invested into the game characters' appearances and movements, and in my opinion RWS' intention of making the characters as close to real as possible in order to make the bloodbath more realistic, has succeeded wonderfully.


A special note must be said about the lighting, fire and water in the game. Not only all of those special effects look very nice (you should see some 'people' on fire running around or water coming out of a fountain in-game in order to truly appreciate them, as still screenshots can't really do them justice), but it seems that some extra attention was paid to physics, which are superior to what you'll encounter in most, if not all other first person shooters. Exploding cars make awesome 'flip-flops' before they fall on the ground, and your, well, piss creates splashes in the puddle. All that just adds to the feeling that you're somewhere in the real world (no matter that you're lucky enough not to see cars blowing up too often around here) that obeys the laws of gravity and physics in general.

One thing that I was surprised by, was how well the game performed on my rather dated machine (Athlon 1GHz, 32mb GeForce 2 MX200). This is achieved primarily through the tremendous scalability of the Unreal Warfare engine – not only can you modify the standard resolution and texture quality setting, but you can also define the number of NPCs and corpses you can have around, viewing distance range, fire density and much much more. Secondarily the game operates in a way like Half-Life – there are no separate levels, but one big town to explore, with smaller subsections that get loaded when you step into them. Having smaller individual levels clearly reduces the load inflicted by the graphics engine on RAM, video card and the CPU, and as a result I was able to run the game at 40FPS at 800*600*16 on my two year old rig. Of course there is some extra waiting time created by switching from one zone to another, but for your convenience all the places where the loading zones are located have indicator signs next to them, that will inform you of a load zone ahead. While some people might argue that this creates unnecessary waiting time, all I can say is that Half-Life used the same approach and wasn't criticized much for it.

The only visible graphics bug that I've encountered in the game involved the zoom mode on the sniper rifle, however it's a rather funny one – sometimes upon zooming in some artifacts start appearing, especially on NPC models... Usually it can't be even noticed, as all it might create is a few dots on some character's face, but in a few particular cases lower parts of female characters' skirts have disappeared, leaving them with almost nothing but their panties on... Which might be a good thing for some of us, as their legs look pretty damn nice. One other note that I would like to make: even though there is a rather large amount of gore and blood in the game, I'm afraid it's still not as gory as Soldier of Fortune or Carmageddon series. For example, while you can still completely shoot someone's head off in Postal 2, in Soldier of Fortune it just looks more graphic. Also no actual wounds or gashes appear on the corpses like in either of those games, they just lie there in a pool of blood... Shooting or beating them when they're already dead won't change the picture either. While I understand that this was probably done intentionally, in order to avoid being called sadistic – I think that would make the game even better (especially if there was a parental lock feature like in SOF – no matter that it was still rated M)... I could only hope and pray the RWS gurus will later on release some sort of a “blood patch” to enhance the gore, as I am sure lots of people will ask and beg them to do that.


Sound:

The gunshot sounds are well done and there's some variety of them, so the same sounds don't get stuck in your head. The ambient sounds are also top notch, as they create most of the atmosphere in the game... There's no soundtrack, except for certain locations, like the mall or some convenience stores where the music sounds in background, like you would normally hear it in real life. This music is non-intrusive and it just compliments the gameplay experience.

The voiceovers however, are the highlight of the game's audio. The Postal Dude always has some funny and at the same time witty (in a cynical way) thing to say, just like the other characters do... The dialogues aren't as funny as to make you laugh your belly off, but they can make you snicker or raise an eyebrow sometimes. For example 'green' protesters chanting “Save a Tree – Burn a Book!”, the Indian shopkeeper (who sounds very much like Apu from The Simpsons) telling you “You sound like Max Payne” or the Postal Dude himself saying something like “Just call me Dr. Euthanasia.”... The quality of the voice talents and the recordings is great as well, which really makes the voiceovers a blast and probably one of the main fortes of the game.

The 3D surround is usually doing its trick well, so you could clearly hear which side what sound is coming from, but at the same time a few times I've encountered a small problem with people apparently talking much quieter than me while standing right next to me, which is probably either a bug or non-normalized dialogues for some of the characters. It is still, however, a minor problem and happens very rarely.

Gameplay:

Here is where a game with great graphics and audio like Postal 2 can be won or lost. Thankfully, Postal 2 is a winner in this department as well. The entire gameplay revolves around you spending one week in the Postal Dude's shoes. You see, the Dude happens to live in a trailer in a rather small town somewhere in the U.S. Of A. The entire place is a political satire, in a very South Park type of way. Due to lenient gun control rules almost every citizen carries a gun with him that he could use to protect himself at any time. There are protesters everywhere, ranging from 'Green' to “Anti-violent games” and everything in and between. And all those protesters, of course, want to take action to make sure their voices are 'heard' – in radical ways like burning down the library or storming RWS's office (which actually exists in the game, together with the staff members) at gunpoint. Then there are radical Muslim Osama Bin Laden look-a-like wannabes and Christian priests bearing arms in order to stop them. A Christian religious cult closing itself in a compound and battling it out with ATF forces. Cops roaming the streets and trying to stop all this madness – while shooting anyone they spot having a gun in his hand. Trigger happy rednecks. Just simple bystanders roaming the streets ready to shoot you if you touch them. Basically all the problems of this world aggravated and assembled in one place, which is ironically called Paradise City. Add to that a bitch of a wife who spends all her time on the Internet while you work your ass off and run errands for her, and you'll stop wondering why you are the Postal Dude!


Since the entire place is one big 'level' divided into zones, your week is divided into different days, when each day you have a different set of tasks to accomplish before the next one starts. Most if not all of the tasks are funny and sarcastic - or offensive for people who can't comprehend black humor and satire. Some good examples of that would be going to the Church to ask forgiveness for your sins (while killing people on your way there) – or even a better example, going to your father's grave and... taking a piss on it, as you do every year. And even if the errands are not even one bit odd at their beginning, something always happens to turn them that way. For example you might go to the bank to deposit a check, when in a middle of you doing that a bank robbery would start – and of course you can't help but get involved when they're trying to rob you of your last money. Speaking of the money: some of the tasks require you to pay money for something you need, but then again you could just kill the owner of the place you're at and take what you need.. At the same time if you want to pay for an item, money can be collected off some dead bodies, so you'll be killing anyway... The good part is that every day is non-linear, so you can complete the errands in any order that you want and between them go around the city and do whatever makes you happy. Like killing people.

While traveling anywhere you should usually holster your weapon as cops will start shooting at you if you don't, and random people will either attack you as well or run away screaming, which might attract the cops. That's why there are basically two approaches to the game – pacifist and aggressive. You can either shoot all that moves and still complete your missions, or you can TRY and avoid confrontations. I'm saying TRY because sooner or later you'll have to use your weapon against another trigger-happy lunatic like yourself, that will shoot first. If you shoot everything that moves be prepared to constant gun battles with the cops everywhere you go, as after you've committed any sort of law violation they will attack you on sight, until some time has passed (just like in the game Driver you've got a meter that shows you how pissed the cops are) without them seeing you. At the end you can either fight till the last breath with the cops or holster your weapon and surrender to them, after which you'll be taken to jail from which you have to break out. There you could pick up a nice cop uniform from the locker room, and pretend to be a cop, which will stop cops from attacking you. As you go through your days you'll have more and more groups of people attacking you on sight, as you'll be pissing more and more people off by killing their comrades - so every day the game will become a bit more difficult. Which means if you see a bunch of anti-game violence protesters on the streets you should either prepare for a battle or attract their attention to yourself and run for the nearest cop you can find – the cops always shoot at people that have weapons non holstered in the street, so they are useful to you in many situations – as long as they don't know that you're carrying an entire army weapons depot on you :) . Also useful are the RWS development team members which you see hanging out throughout the streets of Paradise City – they are always on your side, and will kill anyone attempting to attack you, including the cops. Well, unless you feel evil and decide to waste them as well, in which case they'll put up one hellova fight. One of the other 'fun' characters that you can meet in the game is the kid Gary Coleman, who actually gives you his autograph after which he starts throwing grenades at the cops that come to arrest him. There are also such fun things as band parades and elephant shows, which you could use as an opportunity to make some live human and elephant torches...



Speaking about torches, one of the coolest weapons in the game is a can of gasoline and matches... Even though I don't consider myself to be a sadist and condemn violence in real life, there's something deeply satisfying about setting a marching band on fire and then watching its members running around spreading fire from one to another, all while yelling in agony... Some of the conventional weapons included in the game are cops' batons, handguns, shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles and heat guided rocket launchers. The unconventional ones? Napalm launchers, scissors, Molotov cocktails, shovels and more. There are also some special moves, such as kicking people (or.. human heads. Groovy! It's just like playing soccer!) and a kittie 'silencer', which you can attach to any gun to silence the gunshot... Well, it's not really a silencer, but a real 'live' cat that you have to catch while roaming the city (or steal from the pet shop) and attach to the gun... I won't tell you how though, you'd have to figure it out for yourself or see this rather offensive to animal rights activists screenshot. Furthermore you can zip off your pants, and PISS on people... Some will start barfing, others might run away, while yet others will shoot your ass. There are also some 'powerups' that you could pick up - for example drugs that either make everything slower and work slightly similar to 'bullet-time' in Max Payne, or give you a temporary health boost. So yes, your weapons carry quite a punch and are capable to deliver punishing blows to all and any of your opponents, including the tougher ones that appear (to save the town from 'mysterious killer...) later on in the game, like the army or the SWAT team officers. There are also some bosses as well, like Krotchy the Mascot, who looks like a giant... (Well, you can tell from his name I think.), the aforementioned Gary Coleman or the really fat ATF chief cop.

But at the same time, can all those guys actually stand up to you with all the punch you're carrying? The answer is yes, and not only because there are eleven (11!!! No, it's not a mistake.) difficulty levels available at the start of the game, but also because they've got one of the best AIs I've seen in a computer game. Not only your opponents are smart on their own – they can run away from you, take cover behind objects, hide from you when wounded, run around you in an attempt to dodge your bullets – but when they're in groups they become deadly... When grouped the AI will behave like a group of real human beings, calling each other for support, covering each other, attacking you in groups, or taking great cover positions at one place and sending out a single scout to lead you there. To tell you the truth I don't think I've seen that much teamwork in any other first person shooter... Also, in peaceful mode, the AI powering the town folks never hold one position but walk around like any crowd would do, all without bumping into anything or each other which you might've seen in some other games. Probably my only complaint would be that the AI doesn't seem to always “notice” the grenades you throw, which means sometimes an NPC will be standing 2 steps away from the grenade without running away.


And so, the game seems to be great until now.. But here start the 'buts'... The biggest problem of Postal 2 is that it's just too short. Depending on the difficulty mode and your skill, it will take you anywhere from 10 to 20 hours to completely finish your week in Postal Dude's shoes. It personally took me around 15 hours on average difficulty to pass the whole thing, and that's while visiting most if not all non-essential buildings and events located in the town (Every day your morning starts with reading the newspaper, which informs you of the local happenings and reports some funny news). However, while I was hard-pressed to complete the entire week in order to write this review, I think it might take somewhat longer for someone who isn't, as there are lots of 'complimentary' or even secret locations that you don't have to visit in order to complete your errands, but which are nice places to explore. And at the end of the day it's all just a question of exploring vs. completing and being ultra aggressive vs. pacifist. Trying to fulfill the game's “missions” will lead to a fast completing of the game, while trying to explore the place and just 'living' in this town can potentially result in longer, more satisfying gameplay. There are all the conditions to do the latter, as new NPCs reappear after some of them die in one way or another, and lots and lots of detail was given to the city and all its location.

Now unlike many other first person shooter games that are divided into levels that all look the same and feel the same, you can see that every single building and every single sign on the wall was individually crafted. That's yet another way of RWS to make the game feel more 'real'. However the second problem that arises here is that while levels in many first person shooters look the same, they're in reality different, which motivates you to complete the game, while here you might get tired of the city after running all across it a couple of times – and that's when the game box might start collecting dust on your shelf. After all the errands you've got to do are located in the same city, the streets of which you'll be passing tenths or hundreds of times before the game will be complete. The good part though, is that there are many different approaches to the game, from pacifist to aggressive and there's really no better stress killer than Postal 2 out there, so even if you get tired of the city you might pop in the CD for a quick “run-around-shoot-them-all” session without trying to complete any errands. And after all, remember that even if passed quickly only once and never touched again, Postal 2 is still at least twice longer than Unreal 2: The Awakening... As well, RWS's version of the UnrealEd is included, so you could modify the game in any way possible, and it's 100% mod friendly... That might be worth a lot for some of the gamers out there, as it'd allow them to create their own bloodbath scenarios... Hate your boss? Well, model your workplace and your boss in Paradise City and show him who's the REAL boss around with that nice shotgun of yours :)



Multiplayer:

Unfortunately, and that's something that takes off some marks from the final score, the game has no multiplayer in it. That means that the arguably shortlived singleplayer has nothing else to prolong the experience – which is a shame as I could think of a million and one fun (and politically incorrect of course) multiplayer game modes for Postal 2. It's just my hope that some third party developers will make a multiplayer mod for Postal 2, and will make it all worthwhile for us multiplayer freaks. But until they've done so you could keep your fingers crossed and spam RWS with letters demanding a multiplayer patch in the near future.

Overall:

Postal 2 is a game that some might like, while some might hate. It's as politically incorrect as it goes, but that was one of the reasons that I liked it so much. It features very nice graphics, great audio and above all very fun gameplay. Black humor, satire, lots of violence, very detailed levels, great AI and entertaining missions are all ingredients of a potentially great game, and the RWS guys managed to squeeze all that into the game. A minor problem is that there's still not enough blood in the game, at least comparing to Soldier of Fortune series. However the real downfall of the game is that it feels too short, happens in one place that you might get tired of, and (even more disturbingly) lacks multiplayer. While the included level editor and the fact that it's 100% mod friendly might make up for the shortness of the game for some people, other people just aren't interested in playing around with editors. After completing the game I've experienced the same feeling I've had after completing Max Payne – it rocked my world, but was way too short. Nevertheless, if you were a fan of the original Postal, or enjoyed the violence of Soldier of Fortune, GTA or Carmageddon, then Postal 2 is a must have in your collection. Even if it can be completed fast, you can replay it again in a more or less aggressive manner and explore secret or bonus areas that you haven't noticed previously. And after completing it a few times and putting the CD in its jewel box, from times to times the game will still serve you well when you're feeling angry or pissed – after all it's much funner taking out your anger on high-polygon models instead of real people...