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Games I Own: Postal 2

Posted on 8th May 2010 at 12:59 by Joe Martin with 30 comments

Joe Martin
In many ways Postal 2 is the game I’m most ashamed to own. It’s crass, deliberately offensive and gross, it’s shallow and dull and it’s sold mainly on the basis that these things appeal to immature gamers. At the same time though, Postal 2 is a game I’ve frequently found myself defending and, despite my shame and embarrassment, I’ve never been able to throw it away.

The important thing to stress about Postal 2 is that I’m not kidding around when I say that it’s deliberately offensive. This isn’t a case of just a handful of swears or politically incorrect terms – it even goes far beyond the likes of 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. It’s filled with gore, racial stereotypes and features which push the boundaries. You have anthrax-filled cow heads for weapons, use live kittens as silencers and can taser people until they wet themselves – and those are tame examples.

What really pushes Postal 2 beyond the realms of good taste though is the way it encourages you to use the violence against passers by. Set in a small Arizona town over the course of a week, your objectives each day are banal things like “Get milk” and “Go to work”. You don’t need to get violent, but the fact that everyone in the town is a foul-mouthed, gun-toting, identi-kit bot means there’s little to stop you – and at least once a day you’ll be forced to defend yourself. It’s not long before you start shooting the place up just to relieve the boredom.

What really bothers me about Postal 2 though is that it has a tendency to turn me into an apologist. Every time it comes up in a debate I end up taking this hypocritical stance on it where I decry the content despite the fact that I did enjoy playing the game. Twice, in fact. As I said at the start of all this, I’m ashamed of Postal 2, but not just because I own it – because I enjoyed it.

Games I Own: Postal 2
The Plague Rocket is great for emulating the after-effects of my cooking

It seems to me that there’s something wrong there. I’m an adult and I’m rational enough to distinguish between the game world and the real world – just because I enjoy sniping civilians in Postal 2 doesn’t meaningfully reflect on me as a person, I know that. So, why do I feel so uncomfortable when people ask me what I thought of Postal 2? Why do I blush when people see it in my games collection?

More importantly, why do I feel ashamed about doing things in Postal 2 that I’ve openly done in other games? Why do I feel bad killing old people in Postal 2 but not in Carmageddon or GTA IV? The answer is, I think, two-fold.

Firstly, it’s to do with the focus of the game. Carmageddon may be brutal and may encourage you to run over old ladies, but it’s still a racer underneath it all – the point is to finish the races, not just to kill people for no reason. The same is true with GTA IV; it may let you go on killing sprees, but it’s implicit that you’re meant to follow the plot. The plot may deal with death and destruction, but there’s context there. Postal 2 is unlike either. It isn’t just a shooter, it’s a shooter where the whole focus is on doing horrible things for no reason whatsoever. Trim the gore out of Carmageddon and it’s still a racer, but take it out of Postal 2 and it’s not anything.

Secondly, there’s a lot of politics surrounding games at the moment – especially violence in games, which has divided people into two main camps. There are people who don’t play games and think all games are violent and disgusting experiences, then there are reasonable people who know that not all games are like that and that most of the ones that do actually have decent stories (or at least something) that contextualises the content.

Now, if I demo Postal 2 to the first group then they feel vindicated and righteous; they think all games are like this and I have to apologise, backtrack and explain that they’ve got it all wrong. If I play Postal 2 in front of the second group then they recognise that Postal 2 doesn’t establish any context, is wantonly gratuitous and terrible, so they damn me for it. That game is disgusting, they say. I can’t deny it, so all I can do is mumble apologetically and try to avoid admitting that creating elaborate traps with grenades and gas cans is still fun. It’s lose-lose.

Games I Own: Postal 2
Cats: 1001 uses!

On top of all that, the problem is complicated by the fact that Postal 2 isn’t an objectively good game. There are glaring problems and issues, from dodgy quests to repetitive dialogue and NPC models. The interface is a pain in the ass, the design simplistic (no reloading, ever?) and when it first came out it was all bogged down by performance issues as well. It’s just not a very well designed game in some aspects, forcing even the most open-minded gamers to bewilder at my defence of it and making it harder to explain why I like it at all. I mean, if even I recognise that it’s not actually any good…

At the end of the day though, what it really comes down to is that, yes, Postal 2 is a violent and horrible game, both badly designed and in bad taste. It appeals mostly to dreadfully immature teens who mistake brutality for black comedy and excessiveness for edginess. It’s probably a bad influence on those people. When all else is said and done though, I know I’m not like that and I don’t think the violence it depicts is big or clever – but I do like the game regardless of it because it feels like the ideal sort of thing for messing around in, much like GTA is to those people who never finish the story.

Besides, I’m hardly the first person to like something that others might consider bad for them, am I?

Co-incidentally – I think I just found my B-Game.

Times Completed: Twice.

Random Trivia: Postal 2 is shown in the Black Eyed Peas video Where Is The Love?, which has children playing the game. It was also made into a film… by Uwe Boll.

30 Comments

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PegasusM 8th May 2010, 14:39 Quote
I know exactly what you mean, It is fun, even if it is horrible. And the sandbox style game play doesn't hurt either. There is a lot of freedom, and playing the game goes from "eew look what I did" to "wow what else can I do?".
capnPedro 8th May 2010, 14:58 Quote
Postal 2 is violence for no reaosn? Are you kidding me? The guy lives in that trailer with his bitch of a wife. There's your need for killing everyone right there!

Postal 2 (and Apocalypse Weekend) should be remade with HD graphics the same way Serious Sam just has been. That would be too cool.
zimbloggy 8th May 2010, 15:09 Quote
Yep. This is definitely the kind of game that gives games bad names (I', a poet and I didn't even know it). I personally don't think that I would be able to play this game. I tend to empathize too much with games (and characters) to be able to randomly kill random civilians. I need some sort of justification to run somebody down with a car or shoot them.

This is a little off topic, but have you ever played the classic free game "C-Dogs"? This reminded me of that, because I used to run around with a knife cutting down any civilians that got in my way, even though I got penalized for it. It's worth checking out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C-Dogs
zimbloggy 8th May 2010, 15:16 Quote
BTW, I just downloaded the SDL port and it worked fine in windows 95 compatibility in W7 64 bit, albeit without sound (when we played it several years ago, we only got sound to work once).
thehippoz 8th May 2010, 16:42 Quote
well for me.. I heard gary coleman was immortalized in it- so I played up till the mall and saw the angry midget (I admit I'm a midget connoisseur)..

and you got to see the studio they made the game in at one point.. so it's not all drivel.. it's so over the top ridiculous, I'd say it's a must play =]
Hamish 8th May 2010, 16:46 Quote
looking forward to Postal 3 tbhB)
s3v3n 8th May 2010, 17:03 Quote
I thought it said "Portal 2" and wanted to know how the hell he got it =\
The_EXorcist 8th May 2010, 17:11 Quote
Terrible game, terrible context, terrible bugs... yet one of my favourite games, really cant hate it, even tho i know i should, am in complete agreement with you on this
Burnout21 8th May 2010, 17:28 Quote
Postal is everything a game should be, and yes a re-make in HD would be awesome.

Postal is the ba*tard child of duke nukem and GTA
ryall 8th May 2010, 23:52 Quote
I hated this shitty game from the get-go. Not a big fan of gratuity and it just felt incredibly childish. However I did mow down every civ I could find in the MW2 airport scene, go figure...
Krikkit 9th May 2010, 00:03 Quote
I love this game. It's childish and stupid and totally without merit, but for some reason it tickles that part of my psyche that just needs retarded things, like watching Crank2.
thehippoz 9th May 2010, 02:48 Quote
RY0NWLCvTGk
Toploaded 9th May 2010, 10:09 Quote
;)
GiantStickMan 9th May 2010, 12:22 Quote
At the end of the day games are about escapism, I used to love booting this one up after a bad day at work and taking out my frustrations on the innocent bystanders whilst completing mundane activities like 'buying milk'.

As long as you don't take what you are doing seriously, I don't see a problem.
sWW 9th May 2010, 15:08 Quote
Whilst I have never completed it I still install it on a semi regular basis just for the ridiculous fun there is to be had walking around the streets.
Toploaded 9th May 2010, 19:44 Quote
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altdoom 10th May 2010, 01:31 Quote
this inspired me to reinstall Postal 2 and laugh, waiting eagerly for Postal 3
Tasslehoff 10th May 2010, 02:08 Quote
I will have to download this just to satisfy my curiosity :)
GiantStickMan 10th May 2010, 06:50 Quote
I believe this one is available on Good Old Games now for anyone interested.
Xir 10th May 2010, 09:26 Quote
Hmmm, never played it.
*tempted*
Ploo 10th May 2010, 09:37 Quote
"I suppose it would be more politically correct to kill women and the minorities first."

:-)
Xir 10th May 2010, 16:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ploo
"I suppose it would be more politically correct to kill women and the minorities first."

:-)

Politically incorrect would be:
There's other things you do to the women (before killing them)
.
:D (do not mistake my gaming persona's comments with my own opinions!)
Chombo 10th May 2010, 19:07 Quote
All I remember about this game is that I could piss and kick while running around. Features I have yet to see included in other games.
Quote:
What really pushes Postal 2 beyond the realms of good taste though is the way it encourages you to use the violence against passers by. Set in a small Arizona town over the course of a week, your objectives each day are banal things like “Get milk” and “Go to work”. You don’t need to get violent, but the fact that everyone in the town is a foul-mouthed, gun-toting, identi-kit bot means there’s little to stop you – and at least once a day you’ll be forced to defend yourself. It’s not long before you start shooting the place up just to relieve the boredom.

That sounds pretty accurate
theflatworm 11th May 2010, 00:21 Quote
I just read the title as 'Games I Own: Portal 2,' and was somewhat aghast. Especially given the first line:

'In many ways Po[r]tal 2 is the game I’m most ashamed to own.'
theflatworm 11th May 2010, 00:22 Quote
Oh, and now that I check, 's3v3n' already beat me to that misunderstanding. It seems that even in my errors I am outpaced...
Unknownsock 11th May 2010, 10:31 Quote
Isn't that abit judgemental to say only immature teens will like this game?
CardJoe 11th May 2010, 11:22 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Unknownsock
Isn't that abit judgemental to say only immature teens will like this game?

Not at all and that's not what I'm saying. In fact, the whole point is that I'm not an immature teen and I still like the game.
Bauul 12th May 2010, 15:45 Quote
Single greatest moment in Postal 2? Using the cheats to fire an endless stream of cats from your machine gun, then listening to the doppler effect on their high-speed miaows as they rebound of a wall and come streaming past you in their hundreds.
Lee @ Scan 12th May 2010, 16:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bauul
Single greatest moment in Postal 2? Using the cheats to fire an endless stream of cats from your machine gun, then listening to the doppler effect on their high-speed miaows as they rebound of a wall and come streaming past you in their hundreds.

I cried laughing the first time I saw a cat being used as a silencer and then getting fired all over the place.

I was talking about this the other day with a few other members of staff who thought I must have overdone the weekend harder than normal as they knew nothing about this game at all and thought I was making it up.
Toploaded 15th May 2010, 19:06 Quote
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