|a game by||Ripcord Games|
|Editor Rating:||7/10, based on 2 reviews|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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Gore freaks, take note: Postal could be the bloody shooter to end all bloody shooters. When a red-tape error leads you to uncover a hideous conspiracy, you rebel against the system and go, well, postal, blowing away anyone and anything in sight. But as the lone anonymous anarchist, are you mankind's last hope or its worst nightmare?
The game's 16 levels, complete with nonrepeating, hand-drawn backgrounds, certainly are varied (ever blow up an ostrich farm before?), and the unusual selection of weapons includes such gadgets as Molotov cocktails and mines linked to remote cameras. Be warned, however--the developers have vowed to deliver some of the bloodiest, most disturbing graphics to ever hit the PC.
I like sugar in my morning coffee, but not too much; too much and it becomes undrinkable and the sugar is all you can notice. That's how the violence and depravity in Postal comes across -- it's just way too much, and in the final analysis seems to exist largely to distract from a rather mediocre action game.
Don't get me wrong -- I love to lob a grenade at a hell-spawn demon or lay into my buddy with an electro-fry gun every bit as much as the next guy -- mano-a-mano combat is almost entirely what most gaming is about. However, I draw the line at slaughtering school kids, putting a bullet in the brain of a woman I've just burned beyond recognition, and, you know, that sort of thing.
Here's the basic idea if you're not already familiar with it: you've "gone postal" -- lost it, big time -- and now you're out on the town with your AK-47 looking for some relief from the stresses of modern life. This, of course, entails mowing down pretty much anything that moves, including the neighborhood little league team, high school marching band, and a wide variety of local authorities, both official and unofficial.
It's definitely not one for the kids, maybe not even one for a lot of adults, as while the blood and explosions are nothing new, the all-too-real pleas of the dying and panicked civilians is more than just a bit tasteless given the real-life preponderance of lunatics who do this sort of thing as a final encore to their screwed-up lives.
The point, though, is to be shocking. Our old reprehensible pal Duke Nukem, whose metamorphosis from Mario-esque cartoon character to a brainless, testosterone-impaired killing machine is evidence of the shock market in gaming, pales by comparison, at least in terms of violence to bystanders. In Postal you're supposed to identify with the kid who gets his neural signals crossed and wastes his high school English class, or the divorcee desperado who takes out her philandering ex-hubby, his new gal pal, and oh, half the city block in the process. Combine this baby with Carmageddon and you'd have the ultimate in genocidal rampages. Is it a game? Well, sure, it doesn't really depart that much from any other isometric 3D shooter; it's just that the cringe factor is turned up a notch or two. How far will the designers go for a buck? Probably as far as the heavy metal shock lyrics of the '80s went before it just got passe because everyone was doing it. This game should be a good benchmark for what the gaming public wants, or will bear. Personally, I hope that gamers will largely ignore it and force the action game makers back to focusing on the kind of inspired design that made Doom such a hit, violence and all.
Basically, your mission in Postal is to roam the various towns, junkyards, mines, miniature golf courses, etc. taking out anybody who would try to stop you. Apparently you're already wanted for something, as you start the game outside your house, already armed and already with two or three cops hunkered down behind various cars, fences and so forth. From there, simply let the slaughter begin.
You will notice after the first level or two that there is really very little to this game besides choosing your weapons carefully when going into a heavily guarded area. That, and picking up as many ammo belts, health power-ups, and new weapons as you can. No puzzles to solve, no keys to be found before proceeding to the next level, not even any specific key event to end each level except that you meet the minimum kill requirement.
In fact, the only thing about Postal that is difficult is that there are a ton of "hostiles" as they're called -- cops, local militia, and vigilantes -- many of whom are better armed than you are, at least for the first several levels of the game. However, there is no balance between levels in terms of difficulty -- level 3 is incredibly tough, even on easy, while level 5 is a cakewalk unless you try to run right through it.
And another thing that adds to the difficulty of the game is the controls. At first I was very pleased, as much of the clunkiness that had befallen the likes of Crusader: No Remorse (the obvious forebear of this game), was absent in Postal, and I was able to adeptly spin my "Postal Dude" around and pick off my attackers quite easily. Until the computer decided it was time for me to die. When facing a rocket-launcher toting vigilante, I was suddenly frozen and thus easy pickings. "Hmm, must have just gotten excited and clicked the wrong button," I thought. Nope -- it happened again and again -- whenever I had been doing particularly well on a given level, my Postal Dude would seem to stop to ponder -- perhaps the senselessness of it all, I don't know -- and while doing so would get a rocket or grenade in the head. This, needless to say, did not engender any warm and friendly feelings in me for the design of the AI in this game. Whenever I encounter computer AIs that need to cheat to beat you, I feel that pretty clearly belies sloppy design and/or coding and immediately angers me -- and I didn't shell out $50 for the game!
Ti me for an abrupt shift -- I could look at the graphics of the Postal world all day. They are all hand-drawn, never tiled, and look simply amazing. In fact, the superb graphics in Postal make all the rest of the game seem that much more tacked on. I have never seen a computer game graphically like this -- it clearly lacks the polished beauty of the likes of Riven or Obsidian, but instead of going for a bunch of techno-themed tile sets of computer banks, repetitive doors, hallways, etc., every inch of Postal looks like it is taken from a sketchbook that has been meticulously hand-colored. It is a striking game and the repetitive graphics of the cops, innocent bystanders, and blood spatters all stand out in stark contrast to the beautiful stage upon which they stupidly shoot, bleed and seep.
You know, one thing I can't get enough of in my action titles are the pleas of mercy from the dying. Yep, I love to hear a woman I've just crippled with automatic weapon fire beg me to finish her off. Oh, and it's great to hear the mortally wounded high school trombone player who is trying to crawl from the pile of his classmates' bodies to which I've just laid waste with a flamethrower, whispering that he can't breathe. "Ooh, did that hurt?" is Postal Dude's sarcastic reponse to the above -- what exactly was Ripcord thinking?
Minimum: Windows 95; 16 MB RAM; SVGA 256 Colors; 4X CD-ROM drive; SoundBlaster or compatible sound card
Premium: Pentium 100 or higher; 16 MB RAM; Win95, 28.8 modem, etc.
Reviewed On: Pentium 133, 64 MB RAM, Matrox Millennium, 6X CD-ROM drive, SoundBlaster AWE32, 28.8 modem, Windows 95, mouse
I would have a dilemma if Postal was a generally solid game, but given that it is pretty much just the same thing over and over again, I can honestly say I don't know why you'd buy this game unless it was to shock your parents, co-workers or whoever. The folks at Ripcord pushed the depravity in Postal way over the edge in the very same way that a bad movie will throw in a couple of explicit scenes to get an NC-17 rating, in hopes of titillating the viewing public into seeing an otherwise shallow film. I'm not advocating censorship here in any way, but face it -- the fact that the trend in titles like Duke Nukem, Carmageddon, Mortal Kombat and Postal is to have the sex, violence, depravity and just generally disturbing stuff turned on by default, rather than letting each player (or each player's parents) decide how he or she is going to set the game, begs the question of the motivations of the publishers. What they are doing is no more excusable than selling a gun already loaded. C'mon, you guys -- you know very well that a title rated "Mature" will be the sought-after forbidden fruit to young gamers, so make sure that your content adds to the game and is not just intentional pandering to people's prurient tendencies in order to make a few bucks. That's really the bottom line when judging the content of a game -- how much does each element add to the game? Great graphics? Exciting gameplay? Innovative challenges? These are all what gaming should primarily be concerned with; piles of corpses and blood for blood's sake is just so much food coloring in the frosting. Thus Postal rates a 64 for disappointing gameplay and general bad judgment in setting the game's focus on the shock value rather than on anything substantial or creative, and for wasting the obvious artistic talents of Postal's designers.