by Ryan Sandrey
reviewed on PC
Games have courted controversy for years, with the likes of Grand Theft Auto to Carmageddon gaining the ire of the mass media and public for their ‘distasteful’ gameplay. However, there has always been one series that took that bad taste, and made it a whole lot worse. For the uninitiated, Postal arrived on PC in 1997 with a simple mission statement: slaughter everything you see. Despite being banned in 13 countries, the developer Running with Scissors had a cult series on their hands.
A second, even gorier iteration made its way onto PC in 2003, changing things to a first-person perspective and mixing things up so it had some kind of structure. Though not particularly a critical success, it again gained cult status and several bans around the world. Now, the series is back. With Postal III boasting a wide range of cameos from pornstars to the Village People, it is clear that good taste hasn’t debuted in the series.
Dude, where’s my town?
After Postal Dude nuked his home-town of Paradise at the end of Postal II’s expansion Apocalypse Weekend, he needed a new place to wreak havoc in. That unlucky town is the sister town, Catharsis. With the economic meltdown affecting everybody, including the psychopathic dude himself, he is forced to earn a living by taking a series of horrific and degrading jobs. It is obvious that Postal III isn’t trying to improve its image, but on the back of the cult following the game has anyway, Running With Scissors has no need or desire to.
There have been some changes with the game itself, however. Rather than being a first person shooter like Postal II or an isometric shooter like Postal, Postal III is now an imitation of the standard third person shooter. One thing becomes clear from the moment you open up the game – it is an unfinished mess. The reason for this being so apparent is the glitchy nature of the title, particularly in the tutorial, with grenades disappearing through the floor and the game crashing to the desktop after setting fire to a small amount of Gasoline. Coupling this with the fact that the pause menu has achievements spelt ‘achievments’, the game doesn’t fill you with confidence of its quality straight away.
Humour is a subjective thing
Once you have finished the tutorial, which runs over all the basics you would expect, you are flung into life in Catharsis. However, it’s not the sandbox-style game that the previous iterations in the series were; instead Postal III implements a quite rigid mission-based system. Whilst there is room for wanton destruction and slaughter whilst completing them, there is no room for the ‘cathartic’ genocide the series is built on. Instead, the game prides itself on the shock ‘humour’ of using a vacuum cleaner to fire semen-soaked tissues at hockey mums who are attacking a Porn shop. Sound funny to you?
If not, then unfortunately you’re not going to embrace the humour of Postal III at all. Apart from crude scenarios such as that, the game also repeatedly tries to force-feed the player satire, rather than letting them figure out it is satire, like it should. This leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, which is further exacerbated by ridiculous statements, usually regarding breaking the fourth wall, that only raise a wry smile at best. For a game that abandoned its mechanics for humour, there isn’t an awful lot of humour to be found.
Look! A HIV-Infected Cat! HA HA HA
As the game progresses, the lack of freedom gets more and more irritating when faced with ridiculous jobs and even more ridiculous outcomes. For example, straight after the Porn shop mission, you are tasked with collecting HIV-infected cats. During the course of this ‘mission’, you get attacked by Mexicans who run a Sushi bar. If it was amusing, the mission might actually be fun, but it isn’t. It’s just immature, unfunny and lacks any kind of wit or tact. With little instructions during the missions to guide you into finding often unnoticeable objects necessary for continuation (like catnip spray refills) and Postal Dude being clunky and unwieldy to control, it takes the patience of a saint to even motivate yourself into playing through the game.
If you do choose to venture forth throughout the game, you will see a whole host of Z-list cameos, from the likes of Ron Jeremy (if you don’t know who he is, don’t Google it at work), who appears as both the owner of the Porn shop and the Mayor, and Uwe Boll, the world’s most hated film director. However, you’ll also find a whole lot of narrative and game mechanics that just insults the player’s intelligence, from pointing out that a choice you are about to make is a story-altering choice to making the shooting mechanics incredibly awkward to use. In short, you are not rewarded for your perseverance.
Looks like a failure
As is often the case with games, some have better graphics than gameplay mechanics. It may surprise you to know, therefore, that Postal III doesn’t even have AVERAGE graphics. The textures are shoddy and low resolution, with only a forced glossy effect trying to trick you into accepting the aged look of the game. It doesn’t stand up to contemporary titles at all, and in no way looks like a 2011 game. It seems, much like the whole premise that this game is based on, the Source Engine hasn’t stood the test of time.
Postal II is a guilty pleasure game for many people, but Postal III at no point gets anything near pleasure. It’s poorly coded, poorly designed and just not fun to play. Its attempts at humour fall flat on countless occasions, coming off as insulting and frankly idiotic. Whilst 13 year olds who still laugh at fart jokes will revel in its stupidity (if they are able to find a place that actually sells the game, because the Steam page has been mysteriously removed and it hasn’t received a retail release), everybody else will just be left feeling degraded and violated by what they have just ‘played’.
Gluttons for punishment will adore it.
Everyone else will abhor it, for its terrible visuals, awful gameplay, failed attempts at humour and its insistence on treating you like an idiot.