I think I?ve had about ten people so far ask me why I not only agreed to review Running With Scissors? Postal 2: Share the Pain but why I was also sort of glad to do so, seeing as how the overwhelming buzz regarding the game is that it?s, well, let?s be frank, dreadful. Tasteless. Terrible. Not worth wiping one?s? well, you know. I admit I was having trouble putting my reasons into words until a friend answered this question perfecty: ?Because with terrible games, you get to use certain adjectives that you wouldn?t otherwise,? he said.
Ah, how very true. I mean, I?d never use words like ?Crap-tastic? to describe, say, Half Life 2? well, OK, I might about certain aspects of Steam, but that?s a completely different story.
But, a funny thing happened while I was slogging my way through the 5 chapters that make up Postal 2?s single-player campaign, something that I never suspected would happen.
I actually had fun.
I know, I know? a modern, enlightened adult male like myself shouldn?t get any sort of enjoyment from a FPS game that allows you to do things like whip out your lil? man and urinate on passers-by until they vomit, then use that ?golden? moment of distraction to put a Doc Martin upside their fool heads. Or that incites you to lure in cuddly kitties with dishes of catnip so that you can then shove the captive felines onto the barrels of your guns to use as impromptu silencers. Or shoot elephants and marching bands (yes, you?re reading that right? I said ?elephants and marching bands?) with grenades and assault rifles before dousing them with gasoline and striking a match. Or even run through police stations and shopping malls blasting at anything and everything that moves in an orgy of violence, until the ceramic and vinyl tile runs red with the blood of foe and bystander alike.
And yet, somehow fun was indeed had.
Let?s cut to the chase. If you?re the kind of person who offends easily, then playing Postal 2 will be probably be more akin to vacationing in a leper colony than actual fun. If your sensibilities run towards the gentler side, might I suggest picking up a copy of We Love Katamari when it comes out later this season- I guarantee that you?ll find no urine, gimp suits, rednecks, handguns, pit bulls or napalm launchers anywhere in that game. Then again, if you have a Greenpeace logo plastered right above a ?Meat is MURDER!? bumper-sticker on your car, chances are that the notion of a night of run-n-gun action probably isn?t your cup of caffeine-free herbal tea anyway.
If, however, you can see the game for what it is, namely an exercise in total and complete over-the-top, tongue-firmly-in-cheek violence then you may just find yourself indulging in the occasional guilty chuckle (all the while giving guilty glances over your shoulder to see if anyone was watching). Postal 2 certainly does nothing to ?advance the genre?, but at least its developers have some proficiency with mixing shock-value with actual humor.
Game Play- 5 Early levels have you roaming the city, finding each nook-and-cranny and searching for useful weapons upgrades. As certain goals are accomplished, scripted sequences trigger, usually introducing waves of enemies that you need to defeat to advance. As the game progresses, however, you?ll find yourself endlessly re-tracing previously explored levels to complete your daily errands, which swiftly becomes a chore. The devs would have done better to keep forcing you into new areas rather than re-trace ones that you?ve already been through. Enemy AI is shamelessly brain-dead, with each of the enemy types you?ll encounter reacting in the exact same, predictable way (namely, running straight into your waiting guns). Shameless, devs, shameless. Multiplay is a joke: on any given night there will only be a handful of servers available, and I don?t think I have to tell you just what kind of players lurk in such places. Bring a gallon-jug sized bucket of hand sanitizer along to get the slimy residue off when you?re done interacting with such people. The lack of interesting weapons (Postal 2?s slow-as-molasses Rocket Launcher is a particularly heinous example of what happens when weapons design goes terribly, terribly wrong) makes multiplay even more of a chore.
Graphics- 6 Postal 2 uses some flavor of the Unreal engine, and makes limited use of the rag-doll physics that the engine is capable of. I say ?limited? because only a few objects are actually able to be manipulated in this manner- too bad. Dynamic lighting isn?t used nearly as much as it should and most textures are murked-out low-rez affairs, giving the entire package a rushed feel. Level design, however, is interesting, with plenty of nooks and crannies to reward those with the patience to explore.
Audio- 5 The voice acting (what little there is of it, anyway) is well done and professionally recorded, as are the sound FX. Unfortunately, there aren?t many of them, so expect almost every cop to sound like every other cop, every towel-wearing terrorist to sound like every other? well, you get the drift.
Value- 5 As of the time of this review, copies of Postal 2: Share the Pain could be had for as little as $7 from online retailers, so that helps this score immensely. For $7 my expectations are really low- give me two or three amused nights and I feel like I got something out of the deal. Unfortunately, the game?s lack of robust multiplay and the repetitious nature of the single-player game found me bored and wanting to play something else after only about 5-7 hours of game play, tops. Luckily, you should be able to complete about 80% of the game in that amount of time, if not more?
Curve- 5 I?ll give the Running with Scissors team points for their twisted sense of humor- you gotta give a nod to a developer that puts in their own offices, complete with rabid, sign-wielding and gun-toting protesters in the front lobby and the developers? own likenesses on some models (which you can either ally with or execute gangland-style, whichever mood strikes you), but beyond that Postal 2 really doesn?t have much else to offer. Bottom line: if you see a copy in a bargain bin someplace for less than $10 and you like FPS games, you might want to give it a try. Just watch out for those sadistic rednecks and their gimp suit.