Hey, who remembers Atari’s Paperboy? Ah, bland suburban complacency, the muted rustle of newspapers hitting the lawn, and a halcyon age of wide-eyed innocence when videogames were about things like, well, chucking newspapers. Now, Postal – its obvious titular connotations notwithstanding – isn’t quite the same sort of thing. This is the other, grislier sort of postal activity that mostly involves going berserk with guns and hand grenades. It’s arguably more fun, though, especially if you (like everyone else, really) have a few latent sociopathologies brooding beneath your smiling, conformist demeanour. I mean, who hasn’t wanted to shoot their neighbours at some point? They’re obviously plotting to kill you. I’m speaking hypothetically, of course.
So this is where I’d usually put some narrative pretext, but Postal doesn’t have one. Maybe the guys at Running With Scissors left that blank so players could superimpose their own miserable realities onto the game. Oh, but who needs a reason to go on a rampage, anyway? Besides, you can always pull the “Satan made me do it” card when they finally get hold of you.
The gameplay is simple enough. If you’ve ever played the first two GTA games or something like Smash TV, it’s like that. If you haven’t, it’s all mostly isometric running about and murdering stuff with a somewhat unlikely arsenal of weapons (most people don’t just have napalm launchers lying around the house). Clearing a level means murdering a certain percentage of stuff in it. That’s about it.
The controls are pretty abominable. Maybe standards were just different in 1997, but this game plays like… like a brick in hot glue. Or something similarly cumbersome. Hilariously (not hilariously), the game needs a hotfix patch before you can turn left. How that slipped past QA really boggles the brains. Aiming is mostly a sort of imprecise accident, as you whip around at Mach 2 and complete six dizzy revolutions before the input algorithms figure out you’re trying to shoot the cop just next to you. Sure, you can adjust turning sensitivity, but that’s come down with a bad case of hotel shower tap syndrome. And because of this, the game quickly becomes frustrating.
You might have awesome memories of this game, but that’s probably because the recreational slaughter of innocents was really edgy a decade ago and when you were 13, that was all the reason you needed to play and love it. Now it’s just kinda dull.