Pissing off the envelope.
Trying to shock and horrify people as a form of entertainment is an established
tradition. Circus freakshows have been doing it ever since... well... the first
circus freakshow. In the 50's, Rock and Roll appalled middle America over the
radio and Congress even considered
. In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho
was so disturbing, it
was supposedly going to turn us into a
nation of crazed maniacs
. And these days, the kids of South Park
things I never thought I'd hear on television.
should be surprised by a game like Postal 2, a crude violence-fest that
thrives on the bad press it will doubtless receive once things get a little
calmer in Iraq. But while Rock and Roll was a new art form, Psycho was
a brilliant, landmark film and South Park is ruthlessly clever, Postal
2 is more like the circus freakshow. It's all shock value and little substance.
It's even got midgets - or at least one midget named Gary
You must take on the role of the oddly named Postal Guy, who does not
work for the Post Office. You begin the game in your filthy trailer with your
shrewish wife carping at you. She sends you out to go cash your paycheck to
buy some drugs and pick up some milk. Swing by the tool shed to pick up a shovel
and your drug pipe (dubbed "health pipes") and you're off. The shovel is, of
course, the first of several weapons with which you can... go postal.
And going postal means you can do just about anything you like. The streets of Paradise City are full of citizens you can terrorize, although most of them are astonishingly well armed as well, so you have to be careful.
This is where the game gets shocking, because you can do more than just shoot
people; the obscenity is really what the hucksters for this particular freakshow
are trying to sell. I'm going to get it over with and just tell you some of
the disturbing things you can do so we can move on.
Let's see how many of these make it past the GR censor: You can set people
on fire and watch them run around, screaming until their burnt body collapses
to the ground twitching. You can shove your gun up a cat's ass. You can unzip
your pants and expose yourself to women on the street. You can blow a priest's
head off with a shotgun and kick the bleeding head around the street like a
soccer ball. You can walk up to a girl, beat her down with your shovel, and
piss on her face. [Okay, I'm ready for the objectionable material now...
- GR Censor]
So if that's
the sort of thing you've been dying to pay $50 to do, this is the only game
for you. Also, I recommend you turn yourself in to the police.
But to be fair, if you aren't already dreaming about these sorts of virtual
atrocities, there's a cheap thrill in seeing how far you can go in Postal
2. I did all these things in the game, often with people looking over my
shoulder offering helpful suggestions/teenage giggles/shocked horror. Like watching
a car wreck, you just cant help but be fascinated...for a while, anyway.
The interesting thing is that you don't actually have to do any of these things.
"It's only as violent as you are," claim the developers (and probably their
lawyers) and that's true to a certain extent. You can complete most of the missions
in the game without firing a shot, swinging your shovel, torturing a cat or
whipping out your johnson.
But be prepared for some real-world frustrations as the game tries to make
you go postal. Want to pick up your paycheck quietly? Get ready to be fired
by your boss and entertained by his crude comments about your sister. Want to
cash that check non-violently? You'll have to wait patiently in a long line
in the bank for your turn, and you better carefully keep your place or someone
will cut right in front of you. It's enough to drive you mad, which is by far
the cleverest part of the game.
The rest of the game is anything but clever. The joke level is about that
of an 8 year-old and potty humor abounds. I'm not sure if Gary Coleman was ever
funny, and as long as their goal is to shock everyone, they might as well get
offensive, too. The designers don't seem to know the difference between Hindus
and Muslims, because they're all turban-wearing terrorists, right? And naming
an arcade game "Fag Hunter" shows no humor value at all.
The one other
decent part of Postal 2 (if you can use that word to describe the game)
is its graphics. Epic's Unreal Warfare engine gives the game some visual flair
with especially good textures and object physics. The models, on the other hand,
are kind of blocky and move a little awkwardly. And if you're really shooting
for graphic violence, at least let us blow off limbs like you in Soldier
of Fortune 2.
Unfortunately, the game mechanics don't live up to the graphics. Hit detection
is bad and enemy AI is even worse. They either just walk around or stand there
shooting at you. And they never miss. Fortunately, you can take more shots than
a Sherman tank, and if you get too hurt you can just take a few more hits off
your "health pipe" to recover.
Once the gross novelty wears off, you'll discover that there's not a lot of
game underneath, and even Hannibal Lecter would get bored after this many victims.
Plus, there's no multiplayer, so don't expect to spread your psychosis to others,
There are some people out there who could probably have endless fun pissing
on things or setting them on fire. Beavis
and Butthead come to mind. They would probably laugh for hours at the rendered
turds on the bathroom floor. But I got bored with Postal 2 in less time
than it would take Beavis to spell "gratuitous." This freakshow just isn't worth
the price of admission.