Short people got no reason to live. Preview

Short people got no reason to live.

Sternly-worded protests of the Postmaster General notwithstanding, the phrase

“going postal” isn’t really connected to the U.S. Postal Service – at least, not

anymore. While it does derive its black humor origins from some newsworthy but

extreme actions of certain stressed-out USPS employees in the 1980s, almost everybody

knows its common meaning today: the sudden dispensing, by any person or persons,

of high-caliber (and widely-indiscriminate) justice.

It’s

the perfect (if uneasy) subject for a computer game, all the moreso if suffused

with the sort of over-the-top humor that belies the game’s level of otherwise-psychotic

violence. Hey, we’ve all had one of those Falling

Down
days, right? Enter Postal 2.

A little background, if you’re in need. The 1997 top-down action/strategy

killfest Postal drew various

grades of cheers or acidic jeers, but it sure didn’t go unnoticed. Since ’97,

the head honcho of developer Running With Scissors, Vince

Desi
, has crossed swords with reluctant retailers, edgy editors, miffed

media and even the occasional pissed-off

(and sleepy) politician
. Postal was topically-touchy, thematically-skimpy,

mechanically-ordinary…and almost shamefully fun.

Well, the times have a-changed, and game engines have a-changed with them.

Postal 2 will be a strictly first-person romp through a typical week

in the combat boots of the Postal Dude as he “goes postal” on the fully-populated,

free-roaming, fictional town of Paradise, Arizona. Or doesn’t. How much spent

brass you leave on the ground at the end of the week is really up to you, actually.

It’s quite possible (though not bloody likely, or recommended) to make your

way through the Postal Dude’s week without firing a single offensive shot. The

problem (as we discovered firsthand while recently visiting the Running With

Scissors folks) is that all Arizonans seem to be rather heavily

armed
.

In Postal 2, the “Postal Dude” has settled down, sort of. He lives

in a trailer (of course) in and he even has a job (at Running With Scissors!).

Postal Dude’s primary “missions” consist of such intrigue-packed tasks as picking

up and cashing his paycheck, buying a quart of milk at the “Lucky Ganesh” (a

mini-mart reminiscent of Apu’s Kwik-E-Mart), or attending a book signing at

the local mall for the signature of – or chance to shoot – diminutive guest

star and pop-culture-gone-awry icon Gary Coleman! All of it’s presented courtesy

of the Unreal engine, providing some of the most convincing outdoor environments

we’ve thus far seen in a first-person game.

No, you didn’t read it wrong, and we didn’t phrase it in some odd or clever

way: Gary Coleman plays himself in the game, through voice-work, meticulous

facial modeling and motion-capture…and you can shoot him. Repeatedly,

if necessary. Actually, it will be necessary, because Mr. Coleman is a surprisingly

hard target (for a short person wearing a cream-colored suit), and he isn’t

going to take kindly to any interruption of his book-signing, even if it is

only in a virtual world. He may be a small guy, but he makes up for it by packing

lots of firepower. You probably don’t believe us, so we’ve even provided proof.

Whachoo talkin’ ’bout NOW, Willis?

Want more proof? Click here…if you

dare. Note: Not for the weak of heart (or kidney)!

The original Postal was awash in exaggerated, chaotic violence, like

some hellish/hilarious cartoon parody of the Six ‘o Clock News, and Postal

2
surely aims to do its digital daddy proud in that regard. Even a hardened

game industry veteran would come away from a five-minute demo knowing that Postal

2
has the most outrageous content the computer gaming world has seen to

date, absolutely, bar none. Forget Kingpin

and Soldier of Fortune;

as nasty as they were, they were both, in their own ways, very close to ugly

reality. Not so with Postal 2, which comes off less like Littleton and

more like South Park.

I AM NOT WEBSTER!!!!!Let’s

just get it out of the way now: Somebody, somewhere, is absolutely going

to get offended by Postal 2.
There may or may not be an Iraq in three

months, but there will still be some cheesed-off Postal 2 protester.

Almost every subgroup with an agenda imaginable is here in the game’s 150+ non-player-character

permutations…and if you want to, you can kill every last one of them, often

in some inventive, sickoid laugh-out-loud way. Men, women, civilians, cops,

whites, blacks, gays, straights, dogs, cats – you name it, you can kill it.

Especially cats – take particular note of the improvised ‘silencer,’ which is

a cat with the player’s weapon of choice jammed up its hoo-hoo. Watch what happens

on the 9th shot…to paraphrase Andrew Vachss, everybody pays.

Especially entertaining targets are videogame protester nut-jobs (who suddenly

storm the in-game RWS offices with an arsenal of automatic weapons), at least

three distinct types of Taliban, overweight gibbering game geeks, and even the

recognizable employees of Running With Scissors themselves, easily spotted by

their black, distinctive-logo T-shirts. What’s more, company president Desi

himself appears as a viable target – with loud tacky clothing for easy identification.

Got a complaint about the game? Now’s your chance! Boo-ya! Fugheddabouddit!

Paradise, Arizona is a fully-realized township with lots of variety, details

and sub-locales for the curious to explore. These include the Paradise police

station (where the player can actually wind up imprisoned, necessitating a fairly

involved escape), a bank (choose your own actions), an establishment that is

clearly a gay dance club (with a great name, which we won’t spoil), an incendiary

weapons factory, the aforementioned shopping mall, a train depot with lots of

platform-style ledges and a host of others. Available armament at this stage

includes handguns, shotguns, stun-guns, sniper rifles, grenades, gasoline, shovels,

an absurd seeker-weapon, and a few others you’ll just need to work out for yourself

All the while, the Postal Dude cracks wise to himself Duke Nukem style,

in a deep, composed voice (“So THAT’S how that feels!” he muses, when the player

gets shot). If you decide to play the pacifist for as long as you can stand

it, you’ll bear witness to various firefights and furballs breaking out spontaneously

amongst the Paradise citizenry. Play your non-violent cards right, and it’s

possible to scour the aftermath of a street bloodbath like some urban vulture,

scooping up weapons, cash and other goodies while never having taken a life

yourself.

Postal 2‘s slightly goofy body physics smack loudly of the rag-doll

mechanics found in the recent Minority

Report
, particularly when foes are booted around with the player’s Kick

command (a last-ditch but satisfying attack when ammo for all other weapons

is temporarily depleted). Bodies tumble wildly through the air – with or without

heads, depending upon your previous actions – and in fact can be ‘juggled’ up

there for rather a long period with well-timed explosions or shotgun blasts.

It’s a bit hideous, but you can do it if you really want to.

Time to go vegan.And

that’s the point. The option to play the game in a nonviolent mode seems to

have been placed as a mocking dare to any who would poo-poo the game’s violent,

cartoony subject matter. The game is, ultimately, only as violent as you are

– but oh dear, it’s awfully tempting to dispense with the violence. The catch

is that you, as the Postal Dude, aren’t the only one who can suddenly ‘go postal,’

and when the residents of Paradise start to violently freak out around you,

brandishing all manner of weaponry, you are left with a range of options. You

can run, you can carefully pick your targets, you can go berserk, or you can

even resort to special devious methods of your own. It is truly an evil thing

to give away too many points of a game before it has come out, but suffice it

to say that one’s approach to Paradise’s haywire civics is open to a little

personal interpretation. If the bit about cats grossed you out, just wait until

you discover the finer tactical applications of pastries. And

I don’t mean this.

With a game engine this beautiful, smooth and, well, bloody, a gamer’s fancy

turns to thoughts of multiplayer. Bummer that it is, Postal 2 will have

no multiplayer upon initial release. There are definitely plans for a multiplayer

release in the works, but Running With Scissors made the decision to get the

finished single-player game out to awaiting fans as soon as possible, for good

or ill. Despite numerous publishing and distribution troubles (due largely to

the game’s on-the-edge subject matter), a healthy online fan base has already

pre-ordered copies of Postal 2 (which, surprisingly, will be carried

in Electronics Boutique stores), and both upgraded and Japanese versions of

the original game have helped bolster the money situation at Running With Scissors,

preparatory to the launch of its much-awaited sequel.

It’s something of a bummer that Postal 2 will only support single-player

(initially, at least), but its smooth engine, outrageous weaponry and out-of-bounds

humor promise an entertaining single-player rampage…unless you don’t play

it as a rampage. And you get to shoot Gary Coleman! What more could you ask

for, a marching band?

Um…actually, you can

have that, too…