Game Review: Postal

Few games are as gratuitously violent and envelope-pushing as Postal for PC and Macintosh, created by the Running With Scissors game company. A tale about a nutcase who goes on a shooting rampage through both rural and urban settings, Postal makes Grand Theft Auto look both logical and understated.

The top-down shooter is so extreme that its equally disturbing sequel has been outlawed in New Zealand. After all, how many games have a key specifically assigned for committing suicide?

This violent video game starts at the home of “Postal Guy,” where he is surrounded by police and is heavily armed; the player must shoot his way out of the neighborhood. This is where the first taste of virtual psychosis is given — wounded police and civilians, screaming and crawling across the ground, leave bloody trails and are prime targets for execution.

As the game progresses, the scenarios, and weaponry, grow more and more over the top. Attack a train unloading passengers, cut through a park, annihilate protestors picketing Running With Scissors’ office and, the zenith of the game’s insanity: murdering a marching band playing Sousa, who drop their trumpets and flee once the shooting starts.

In addition to the basic machine gun, the player can acquire shotguns, grenades, molotov cocktails, and even guided missiles. Enemies killed with fire lie charred on the ground, while those caught in explosions fly through the air. It doesn’t seem as if there are any ways to disembowel victims, but blood is everywhere after completing a level.

Controls are quick and responsive. Combat is full of periods of quiet tension when taking cover from enemies, while skirmishes are fast-paced and bloody. Enemy AI is often stupid, running right into the player’s line of fire at times. However, grenade-armed opponents can be ruthless when tossing the explosives, and getting caught in one explosion can lead to being tossed in the air over and over again.

Sound is a huge factor in giving the game a feeling of schizophrenia; chilling noises and screams play through load screens and the individual missions. When executing wounded victims, those terrifying noises almost force Postal Guy to do it. Undermining that seeming helplessness are the quips he spouts in-game: “Burn, baby!” and “Did that hurt?” are favorite phrases, which give him an air of anti-heroism. If the player chooses to kill himself, Postal Guy utters “I regret nothing!” before blowing his head off.

Screams of wounded characters can grow repetitive and, at high volumes, piercing and annoying; it’s almost incentive to execute them.

For a game that’s eight years old, its graphics are reasonably good. The trenchcoat-clad psycho, along with police and civilians, are 3D while backgrounds and objects are hand-drawn. Some environment objects can be interacted with. In a construction site, the toilet can be fired on and set ablaze.

Saying Postal is the most violent computer game available may be bold, especially in such a violence-driven gaming industry, but no other titles can match Postal’s themes of psychosis and sadism. At least GTA has profit as a motive.

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