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.
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
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.
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
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.
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…