Dark Light

There’s a blistering rain raging outside in full force right now and I’m here sipping a cup of coffee and indulging myself in thoughts that are way above my level. I feel like with each day passing, the world in general is going back to the 90s or early 2000s. The economy is in shambles, terrorism is at an all time high, over-the-top fashion sense and cringey  music is all the rage, and not to mention all those indie games being hailed as ‘from the 90s’ just because they have a pixellated art style. It could be better, or worse I suppose. Today on Retro Saturdays, we are talking about a game that mocked the entire world and got away with it. It made fun of literally almost every socio-political groups in a ridiculously over the top manner and still lives to see another release. Yes men, women, boys and girls, we are talking about Postal 2. The one that got away…guys and serial killers have that in common. So without further ado, here is my retrospective on Postal 2.

PG-13? Where’s the Fun in that?

Postal 2 is a 2003 first person shooter developed by Running With Scissors (damn these old studios have great names). It’s a sequel to their 1997 shoot-em up Postal but with an entirely different design philosophy. Postal 2 is powered by everyone’s favorite Unreal Engine 2 and features large non-linear areas separated by loading screens. You once again play as the Postal Dude, the trench coat wearing, goatee sporting Americano who lives in a trailer with his wife in a little town called Paradise. The game doesn’t follow a strict story line. Instead, you are given daily tasks like shopping for milk, collecting your paycheck, test for gonorrhea (the usual things) and heading over to the church for a confession like the good Christian you are. The key word here is player freedom. You are free to complete these missions in any order and in any way you want. During these errands, you are repeatedly harassed and provoked by protesters, terrorists, cultists and grumpy shop owners. It’s up to you whether to stay calm and mind your business or haplessly hack, slash, crush, blast, shoot and dismember each and every one of them….and innocent bystanders. That’s the beauty of the game. Even the game’s tagline evidently screams “Remember, it’s only as violent as you are!”. You don’t have to do it if it’s not your thing. But come on, show me one person who has played the game without pissing on Bin Laden’s face at least once. It’s a video game and should be taken in that regard.

Outside of the player’s actions, the world and it’s denizens carry on their daily tasks such as walking around town, buying and selling merchandise, and even engaging in random shootouts with each other and the police (hey, that counts as a daily task in some places). I was 10 or 11 when I first played Postal. Na, don’t give me “your parents should have done a better job” and “it’s not for 10 year old kids” lines. Things were obviously different back here. You basically played everything you got your hands own. Despite spending a long time with the game, I never finished it. Hell, I don’t think I went past the third day back then. Whenever the game would give me a task, I’d go the other way and cause every kind of ruckus from kicking a doggo to cause small-scale riots and all that jazz. It was a much needed change from the usual linear gameplay I experienced. Grand Theft Auto was an exception but sadly, it would be another year before I got to play GTA III in all its glory. So I used make my own fun. I tried to play as a model citizen in Postal 2, avoiding fights and animal cruelty. I was like the Big Lebowski. But an hour later, I’d end up holding a shotgun with a cat’s butt so far up it’s barrel that when I shoot, the pellets would come out of it’s mouth. They have 9 lives after all. Cat silencer man…it just works. Before you ask, yes I’m your average cat lady and have 9 litter machines of my own. It’s just harmless fun.

Postal 2 is not your average fps, not by even a slight extent. It’s satire, pure and simple (of course, a lot of people would disagree with me since lighting a doggo on fire and pissing on the dead body can not be justified). Let’s settle for dark, twisted satire instead. Add some really messed up violence into it and you’ve got Postal 2. It is 100% edgy, 110% offensive and is the spawn of satan to many a dozen catholic soccer moms. 2003 was a sensitive time. America and the rest of the world were still not over the tragedy of 9/11, the war with Iraq had began and D.C. sniper shootings shook up a lot of folks. Back here in India, things were a lot more calm, minus the frequent Anthrax hoax stories. The Indian cricket team did face a heart breaking defeat at the ICC World Cup against Australia. The point being, Postal 2 came out at a very sensitive time period and mocked everything around inside and around round old earth( sorry flat earthers).

Nice Bait Mate

The city of Paradise is basically one semi-open sandbox playground. Throughout the game, Paradise goes through various socio-political changes, impatiently waiting for player reaction. For example, the first mission has you collecting your paycheck from your ex-employer, Running With Scissors themselves. But when you reach their offices, a group of protesters made up of soccer moms who claims that video game makes kids violent storms the office and shoots up the place (oh the irony). You could either side up with the developers, the protesters or, mind your own damn business. In another mission, you’re assigned to make people sign a petition to ‘make whiney congressmen play violent video games’. The way the devs make fun of themselves and video games in general is straight up hilarious. Another mission has you pissing on Postal Dude’s dad’s grave and fend off his zombie incarnation just moments later. Another has your character being kidnapped by rednecks with the intention of using you as their private gimp. My favorite among these would be the one where you get to meet the late great Gary Coleman. You could even get his autograph and defend his life from the cops. Man, where do I sign up?

Postal 2 doesn’t drop you into this whimsical world with empty hands however. For starters, you have your average melee weapons like a shovel, with which you can dismember human heads and use them for soccer practice, a baseball bat which nets you a lot of bloody home runs, a baton, a taser etc etc. Then there are the standard firearms like pistols, shotguns and assault rifles. The gas can is my favorite, and for good reason. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to explain its uses to people who have seen it in action in countless films, games and other media. There are less violent ways to take care of problems of course; like unzipping your Satan scepter and piss on people until they throw their guts up. Disgusting? Yes. Satisfying? Yes (come on… I know you want to do it). It’s a game like none other. It makes GTA looks like Teletubbies in terms of black humor and pop cultural satire. Jesus, politicians, actors, dictators, Steam, nobody is safe.

Postal 2 – 15 Years Down the Line

The game received a mixed reception from critics upon its release in 2003, with some reviewers going so far as to give the game a score of zero, while others argued in favor of the game’s concept and implementation. Regardless, the game was successful enough to receive several expansions, most notable of which is the zombie themed Paradise Lost. Several countries even outright banned the game upon release. However it was later legally made available worldwide through GOG, Desura and in Steam through the greenlight program. The steam version is basically the go-to version with hundreds of player created mods, fixes and total conversions.

The infamous German filmmaker, Uwe Boll who’s known for his terrible video game adaptations directed a Postal film in 2007. The less said about it, the better. A sequel to Postal 2 was released by TrashMaster studios in 2011 and turned out to be trash indeed. True fans of the series have been looking forward to a true Postal sequel for years. I’ll be genuinely surprised if Running With Scissors actually release a title that’s worthy of the Postal name and get away with it in this day and age of white knights, SJWs and entitled millenials. There’s nothing like Postal 2 out there.

Well folks, that’s it for this episode. Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoy playing Postal 2. I’ll be back next week with another gem of a game. Til then, enjoy the weekend and happy gaming.

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