The original Postal is a fine game, Postal 2 is a mostly fine game, Postal 3 was so reviled that even the devs will jokingly deny it’s existence (a joke which should have led to this game being called Postal 3, but I digress).
Postal is one of those series that is the absolute epitome of ‘is this supposed to be bad?’; it is perhaps the only game outside of Deadly Premonition where poor scripting, bad animations, and downright broken gameplay can all be touted as features, and (to a degree) will be praised by the fans.
This makes this series very hard to review, as, though this may sound like a fallacy, I’m almost certain that there is not one person on the planet who would enjoy Postal 4 who has not already bought Postal 4. So who am I writing this for? I’m writing it for the people who want to know why this is the kind of game which purposefully flaunts its overly negative reviews, the kind of game that is referred to by devs as ‘the sequel to Postal 2, the worst game ever’, and why, despite all of that, people buy it.
So This Is A… Game?
You play as Postal dude, a Big Lebowski-esque nomadic bum who, upon reaching the town of Edensin, has his car stolen and has to do a series of odd jobs around town to make money. I swear on my life, that is effectively all the story you get. The rest of the game is just rapid-fire ‘jokes’ and cultural commentary(?).
So, you’re in Edensin. Eden-Sin. If you are not howling laughing or at least smiling at that wordplay, then please never play this game. What do you actually do? Well, you need money, so naturally you do any number of odd jobs and missions in order to raise that money. This is the game’s main excuse to pack this town with as many ‘colourful’ characters and dated/ toothless jokes as possible.
For what it’s worth, the game has tremendous variety. You’ll go from begging members of the public to sign your petition, to shooting up a vagina-themed themepark, to sling-shotting immigrants across the border. Almost none of this is good, but there is a lot of it.
Boundless Tedium, Toothless Humour
This game has 9 difficulties. Sight unseen, this may trick you into believing that there is some degree of care put into the moment to moment gameplay.
This game has some of the worst moment to moment gameplay possible: the guns feel weak, the AI is shockingly poor, and every ‘funny’ weapon is funny exactly once. While the game has a lot of visual and conceptual variety, there is almost no gameplay variety., and what little variety you do get is tedious or half-assed.
The main point of Postal is to shock you. If the humour has you swooning from how inappropriate it is, then it did its job. If you actually find yourself laughing at anything, then it did its job. If you find yourself mentally checking out due to how boring the actual game is, then it has failed, and, for me, it almost always failed.
Postal, like South Park, has jokes and bits structured off of mocking the cultural zeitgeist. The problem with structuring a game around this however is that games take so long to make that by the time it’s released, we have long since passed the point where any of its criticisms or jokes would be even close to relevant, let alone funny.
For example, how pertinent do you think it is to have a Game of Thrones reference, or a Twin Peaks reference, or a Breaking Bad joke? The parallels with Big Lebowski can be forgiven as they’re ingrained into Postal’s identity, but everything else is just tired.
Aside from the structured missions, you could just ‘go Postal’ and tear your way through the town causing havoc, but how long can that remain fun for? For me, it got tired after 10 minutes.
Is It Supposed to Break?
Surely there is some scientific gradient at which point irony just simply becomes incompetence. Postal 4, for me, ran almost okay, and I saw that as a miracle given the number of issues I’d seen plaguing this game.
The fact that it ran ‘basically fine’ (I only had one downright crash, and maybe two instances of falling out of bounds, but also countless visual glitches and framerate hitches) should either be an indictment, or a point of overwhelming praise. Is it supposed to not work well, is it supposed to be unfinished? Seeing as how they’ve patched it multiple times, I guess not?
It’s all far too confusing, where is the line?
Does The Dude Abide?
This is an undoubtedly terrible game, but maybe you’ll love it. For me (someone who has actually played the other games in the series), it was one of the most miserable gaming experiences I’ve had in a while, but what did I expect? After all, I played the other games!
Like Wanted:Dead, or Deadly Premonition, there is no middle ground here. You will love this or you will hate it, but I cannot in good conscience give a fairly middling review for a game you may despise.
Postal 4 runs terribly, but maybe that’s the point. It is, at all times, replete with either dated, juvenile, or scatological humour, but I guess that could be the point? Postal 4 sucks, and if that’s the point, then Running With Scissors deserve some sort of Andy Kaufman award.
The game costs $40. For me, the final score came down to the question of ‘would I actually pay for this?’ Absolutely not. This was awful. It could very well be a 10 in your eyes, but this is the easiest 2 I’ll ever give.