|This article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2015)|
|Developer(s)||Running With Scissors|
|Engine||Unreal Engine 2|
|Release date(s)||Postal 2
|Mode(s)||Single player, multiplayer|
Postal 2 (stylized as Postal²) is a first-person shooter video game by Running With Scissors, and it is the sequel to the 1997 game Postal. Both are intentionally highly controversial due to high levels of violence and stereotyping. Unlike its predecessor, Postal 2 is played completely in first-person based on the Unreal Engine. Scenes of the game can be seen in the music video of The Black Eyed Peas single "Where Is the Love?"
In 2004, New Zealand banned Postal 2 due to "gross, abhorrent content" and Australia later banned the game due to "excessive abhorrent content". On May 1, 2007, Malaysia banned the game outright due to "very high impact violence & offensive depictions of cruelty". The game was also banned in Germany and temporarily banned for sale in Sweden. The games were later legally made available worldwide through GOG.com in 2009 and Desura in 2012, and was successfully greenlit on Steam later that year.
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 favour of the game's concept and implementation. Regardless, the game was successful enough to receive several expansions and to be included in multiple compilations, and a film adaptation of the game and its predecessor was made in 2007. The Complete Edition, available through Steam, remains continually updated, with a new expansion pack titled Paradise Lost released on April 17, 2015.
In Postal 2, the player takes on the role of the Postal Dude, a tall and thin red-headed man with a goatee, sunglasses, a black leather trench coat, and a T-shirt with a grey alien's face printed on it. Postal Dude lives in a trailer park in the small town of Paradise, Arizona, with his nagging wife, who is identified in the credits as simply, the 'Postal Dude's Bitch'. The game's levels are split into days of the week starting Monday and finishing Friday.
At the beginning of each day, Postal Dude is given several tasks to accomplish, such as 'get milk', 'confess sins', and other seemingly mundane tasks. The object of Postal 2 is to finish all of the tasks throughout the week, and the player can accomplish these tasks in any way he or she wishes, be it as peaceful and civilly as possible, or as violent and chaotically as possible. It is possible, if occasionally difficult, to complete most tasks without engaging in battle, or at least, harming or killing other characters, as evidenced by the game's tagline: "Remember, it's only as violent as you are!". The daily tasks can be accomplished in any order the player desires, and the game also includes one task that is activated only when Postal Dude urinates, in which the player is tasked with getting treatment for gonorrhea after Postal Dude discovers he has the infection.
Throughout the course of the game, Postal Dude must put up with being provoked by other characters on a regular basis. He is given the finger, mugged, attacked by various groups of protesters, and is harassed by an obnoxious convenience store owner/terrorist and his patrons who cut before Postal Dude in the "money line". During the game, Postal Dude also encounters a marching band, a murderous toy mascot named Krotchy, the Paradise Police Department and its SWAT team, overzealous BATFE agents, the Arizona Army National Guard, an eccentric religious cult, cannibalistic butcher shop workers, fanatical Al-Qaeda terrorists, and former child actor Gary Coleman, among many others.
By Friday afternoon, the final day in the game, the apocalypse occurs and societal collapse soon follows, with all law and order breaking down. Cats begin to fall out of a darkly-colored sky, and almost everyone in town becomes heavily armed, with random gun battles breaking out in the streets. Despite this, Postal Dude returns home to his trailer as normal, where he then gets into an argument with his wife, who demands that Postal Dude explain why he never picked up the ice cream she asked for at the beginning of the game. Postal 2 then ends with a gunshot being heard, before being kicked to the end credits.
One of the major concepts of Postal 2 is that it is meant to be a "living world", a simulation of a tongue-in-cheek off-kilter town. Game characters live out their lives completely separate from the actions of Dude; walking around town, buying and selling merchandise, and even engaging in random shootouts with each other and the police.
The town features many cars but they are all "useless exploding props", according to Dude, and cannot be driven, although they can be blown up and sent flying into the air. In addition to cats and dogs, other animals present are elephants; these animals can be shot or set on fire—or simply annoyed by the player walking into them—causing them to trumpet with rage and attack anyone within stomping distance. A bizarre feature is the ability to pick up cats as an inventory item. When used, Postal Dude shoves the barrel of the currently equipped firearm into the cat's anus (cats can only be used while equipped with a shotgun or assault rifle) as a 'silencer'. Every time a shot is fired, the cat meows in apparent agony, and the gunshot is muffled. After nine shots the cat has run out of lives and it will fly from the end of the weapon. Most dogs have the ability to befriend the Dude if he feeds them a continual supply of dog biscuits or feeds them any other food (pizza, donuts, fast food). Once a canine's loyalty has been earned, the dog will attack anyone who attacks the Dude, or alternatively, anyone whom the Dude attacks. Dogs will also chase and kill cats, and play fetch with the Dude's inventory items and also severed heads. There were also going to be cows included in the game, but they were left unprogrammed. They did appear in Apocalypse Weekend and the A Week in Paradise modification.
The game also features a cameo by Gary Coleman, acting as himself, who appears early on as the objective of one of the game's tasks (travel to the local shopping mall to get Gary's autograph). The player can choose to fight and kill Coleman or simply have the book signed peacefully (after enduring a long line-up). The Dude twice mistakes Coleman as having starred in What's Happening!! and The Facts of Life, when he actually starred in Diff'rent Strokes. Regardless of the Dude's actions, the police storm the building in an attempt to arrest Gary Coleman and a gunfight ensues which invariably results in Coleman's apparent demise, with or without the player's help. Later on in the game he can also be seen in the Police Station, when the player escapes from his cell he also frees everyone else—including Coleman, who can be seen running alongside Krotchy. Coleman apparently survives as he can be seen in the Apocalypse Weekend expansion, bandaged up in the hospital (various evil Gary Coleman clones also serve as recurring enemies during Postal Dude's constant hallucinations).
An updated edition of the game, entitled Postal 2: Share the Pain included a multiplayer mode. The Macintosh and Linux versions of Postal 2 shipped only as Postal 2: Share the Pain. Share the Pain has since far eclipsed the original production version of Postal 2 in all markets. As part of a promotional effort to advertise the Postal film, in 2008 RWS released the multiplayer part of the game as freeware, minus the UnrealEd based level editor PostEd.
Apocalypse Weekend is an expansion pack to Postal 2 released by Running with Scissors on August 1, 2004 for Microsoft Windows, and September 28, 2005 for the Mac OS X and Linux versions. Apocalypse Weekend expands the reaches of Paradise with new maps and missions, set on Saturday and Sunday, adds new weapons and foes, and raises the gore and violence to an even greater level. It was later included in both the Postal Fudge Pack and Postal X : 10th Anniversary compilations alongside Share the Pain and several fan produced mods, including A Week in Paradise which allows content from Apocalypse Weekend to appear in the original game as well as allowing the expansions levels to be played as part of the original five day campaign.
Apocalypse Weekend begins Saturday morning, with The Postal Dude waking up in the hospital, his head bandaged from a near-fatal gunshot wound. While the Postal 2 ending leaves it ambiguous as to whether or not the Dude shot his wife or if his wife shot him, after he wakes up in the hospital he finds a card from his wife saying that she is leaving him. It was later revealed on the official website that the Dude shot himself due to his wife nagging him. The Dude's ultimate goal is to recover his trailer and his dog Champ, and to this end, escapes from the hospital.
With the exception of the zombies that appear later in the game, it would appear the madness depicted at the end of Friday on the previous game has petered out. The Dude proceeds through several missions including assignments from his former employers, Running with Scissors, encounters with mad cow tourette zombies, as well as confrontations with terrorists and the military. Periodically, the Dude's head wound causes him to enter a nether realm where he is attacked by Gary Coleman clones. Throughout the weekend, the Dude fights off hordes of zombies, rebels and the National Guard until he finally faces a zombified Mike Jaret, an employee of Running With Scissors. Once the Dude destroys it, he leaves Paradise in his car with his dog and his trailer while Paradise explodes due to a massive nuclear warhead he "borrowed" to destroy a rival video game development and publishing company whose name is obscured by black bars. The Dude's last words of the game are "I regret nothing".
While gameplay is similar to its parent Postal 2, Apocalypse Weekend is not as open-ended. The gameplay is more linear in design, with the player mostly forced to follow a certain path to complete the game—typical of most first-person shooter games. In addition, the player cannot play as a pacifist and is forced to kill animals and zombies in order to progress in the game. Unlike the main game, Apocalypse Weekend also includes several "boss monster" encounters. All normal cats are also replaced with "dervish cats", which spin in a manner similar to that of Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil, attacking any nearby character when agitated. Dervish cats can also be collected and, in addition to muffling guns, can be thrown at NPCs to attack them.
Paradise Lost takes place 12 years after Apocalypse Weekend, the Postal Dude awakens from his 12-year radioactive-induced coma, cross-referencing the time between Postal 2's release and the release of Paradise Lost, only to find his dog Champ is missing and has to go back to his home town of Paradise, which is now a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Paradise Lost also retcons Postal III as it was revealed that the events of that game were just a nightmare dream that the Postal Dude had during his coma.
On November 13, 2006, RWS Released a compilation of Postal - Classic and Uncut, Postal 2: Share The Pain, Apocalypse Weekend, A Week in Paradise, and Eternal Damnation, along with extra content (Postal Babes and video clips from "their cutting room floor") as the Postal Fudge Pack on a 3-way hybrid DVD for Windows, Linux, and the Mac.
The Postal X: 10th Anniversary edition contains all the content from the Postal: Fudge Pack as well as introducing new content such as a cereal box, A Very Postal Christmas, Music to Go Postal By, and previews for both Postal III and the Postal film.
Postal 2 Complete is an online compilation containing Postal 2: Share The Pain and its expansion Apocalypse Weekend which is available from both the Desura platform for Linux, Mac and Windows and from GOG.com for Windows. The Linux version available from Desura was newly updated for its release on the digital distribution platform. The pack was made available through Steam on November 2, 2012, after successfully getting Greenlight by the community.
The developers of the game countered criticism of the violence by claiming that the amount of violence is up to the players—they may go about their tasks without causing trouble, or they can create mayhem. Critics state that the game clearly urges people playing the game to indulge in homicidal behavior, given that Dude is often attacked by ludicrous hate groups who despise everything from books to video games. Additionally, there are long queues when Dude visits the bank, the library, Church, and elsewhere. The people of Paradise are exceptionally rude and spit insults at Dude if he bumps into them, and furthermore weapons ranging from machine guns to rocket launchers are left lying around for him to collect. In 2004, the Office of Film and Literature Classification (New Zealand) banned Postal 2 outright because of its high level violent content, animal violence and a scene that was considered "gross and abhorrent" where the player urinates on dead bodies at a terrorist camp (the game actually features no such scripted scene; such action is only undertaken should the player deliberately choose to do so). The game remains banned and possession, distribution or even buying it for personal use is widely illegal and is a criminal offense, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $50,000.
Going on the rampage (or going postal, the phrase which the game is named after) is clearly encouraged, but never necessary. While difficult, it is possible for the player to complete the game without resorting to violence or having to kill anyone; although in this case, the player will have to resort to using cunning tactics to survive—including a greater temptation to steal and take drugs. Some missions put Dude into extremely hostile environments where he will be tempted to kill the people attacking him in order to survive, and at these moments the player will have to make a choice whether to fight or to flee. The attackers include book protesters who set the local library on fire and then attempt to murder everyone trapped inside, a band of armed robbers, and violent video game protesters who ironically begin brandishing weapons and opening fire on the Dude and the Running With Scissors (the company which makes Postal series) staff without provocation. In many of the scenarios presented, however, experienced players can make use of the game's version of monster infighting to actually cause police or other non-player characters to attack individuals who may be attacking the player, and thus escape from harm without inflicting any. Unlike other games that utilize the "monster infighting" feature (such as Doom), non-player characters do not have to be in the enemy's line-of-fire to enter "infighting" mode; some NPCs (particularly law enforcement and military characters) are programmed to attack anyone brandishing a weapon or firing same (an NPC fleeing in panic can also trigger an attack). In most (but not all) cases, once an enemy NPC is engaged by another NPC, he/she temporarily forgets about attacking Postal Dude.
Several ambient features like advertisement signs, shop names, and interiors are loaded with some dark humor, thus exposing the decadent nature of Paradise. The game also involves some obvious inside jokes. Dude actually works for Running with Scissors, the game's developers, with its offices being the scene of a protest by a group opposed to violent computer games. Some of the company employees show up in other areas too, such as Mike Jaret, who appears as the cross-dresser in the gay bar, and executive producer Vince Desiderio, who appears as himself in the game. RWS personnel are considered allies to Postal Dude and will often attack NPCs that attack the player (although they may also attack Postal Dude if he accidentally or purposely shoots at them several times in a row).
Some game critics regarded Postal 2 as being a single-joke affair which clearly sets out to shock and has limited play value, but it also has quite a cult following. Postal 2 did not achieve moral panic in the sense that the Grand Theft Auto series did. While violence and sexuality were part of both games, it is used with discretion in the GTA series, while it was excessive enough in Postal 2 that it was considered tasteless and senseless. Violence aside, some reviewers also justified giving poor ratings to Postal 2 by alleging that the game had poor production values and by pointing out occasional technical flaws. Unlike the GTA games, Postal 2's content was sufficiently over the edge to preclude widespread distribution, and many North American retailers would not stock it.
The game received additional negative publicity following the September 13, 2006, Dawson College shooting incident in Montreal. Media coverage regarding the shooter, Kimveer Gill, indicated that he played violent video games. Postal 2 was cited as one of these games, although some coverage by CTV erroneously stated that the game was only available for sale in the United Kingdom.
Regarding his views on the subject, Linux and Macintosh developer Ryan C. Gordon, who ported the game to those platforms, stated that he feels that the game holds a mirror to the worst aspects of modern society, saying in an interview that the game is a "brilliant caricature of our mangled, disconnected, fast-food society, disguised as a collection of dirty jokes and ultraviolence." Michael Simms, founder of Linux Game Publishing, also at one point commented on the matter, stating that "although I wasn't a fan of the gameplay in Postal 2, I loved the message that the company was trying to put out. Because you can play Postal 2 in the most violent and graphic way, but you can also play it without hurting a single person. I don't know anyone who's played it like that, but I like that the people who made Postal are saying you can get through this game without any violence."
On the review aggregator GameRankings, Postal 2 received an average score of 59.07% based on 37 reviews. On Metacritic, the game received an average score of 50 out of 100, based on 27 reviews—indicating mixed or average reviews. Some of the game's better reviews came from PC Gamer, which gave the title a 79%, and Game Informer, which gave it a 7.5 out of 10. On the other end of the spectrum, GMR and Computer Gaming World each gave Postal 2 scores of zero; CGW stated that "Postal 2 is the worst product ever foisted upon consumers." In response, negative quotes from Computer Gaming World's review ended up being proudly displayed on the box art of the Postal Fudge Pack.
Postal 2 became Linux Game Publishing's fastest selling game in its first month, and contributed greatly to the continuing profitability of the company. Postal 2 also became the second computer game to be banned by the Office of Film and Literature Classification of New Zealand after Manhunt for "Gross, abhorrent content (Urination, High Impact Violence, Animal Cruelty, Homophobia, Racial, Ethnic Stereotypes, etc) on February 17, 2004. It was also banned in Australia by the OFLC that same year due in part to the absence of an 18+ rating for games. In Sweden, the attorney general took the Swedish distributor of the game to court. He was prosecuted with "illegal depiction of violence", a crime falling under the Swedish freedom of speech-act. The court dismissed the case on December 12, 2006.
Game Over gave the game a score of 80% commenting "It's also out to make a statement, whether it's conscious of it or not, and it's that part that gives it some value beyond the mere technical mechanics. Given its pedigree, it's almost as much a political product as it is a game product. While it may not seem apparent to some, particularly the 'politicians', there is merit to Postal 2 beyond just gross out excess, something akin to, dare I say, the art house indie flicks in the film industry. Controversial statements and taboo material - those are unequivocal 'yes'es for Postal 2, and Running With Scissors manages to throw in plenty of mindless fun with it as well."
Postal 2: Share The Pain received an average score of 61% based on 14 reviews on GameRankings, and an average score of 59 out of 100 based on 10 reviews on Metacritic. Postal 2: Apocalypse Weekend received an average score of 55% based on 6 reviews on GameRankings, and an average score of 45 out of 100 based on 4 reviews on Metacritic.
Although acknowledged as an adaptation of the first Postal game, the 2007 film adaptation of the same title directed by Uwe Boll borrows many elements from Postal 2, including the Krotchy doll, the trailer park, the cat silencer, The Lucky Ganesh convenience store, the terrorists, and Uncle Dave and his compound, among others. Gary Coleman was not involved in this film; instead Verne Troyer, appearing as himself, fulfilled Coleman's function in the movie.
In 2013, Boll announced the second film. On August 28, Boll finally announced he was funding production of Postal 2 through Kickstarter, but the project was cancelled on October 5.
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