I've been a fan of the Postal series ever since I heard about the uproar caused by the first title in 1997. I know I wasn't the only one who heard Senator Joe Lieberman speaking out on the "murder sim" title that was Postal. I picked up Postal 2 in 2003 and my fandom went from casual to hardcore. I even had a brief chance in 2005 to attend the developer's Christmas party. There, I was able to see some early development gameplay of what would be Postal 3 which is now currently available from the Running With Scissors' website. Each incarnation of the franchise takes on a new form which best reflects the gaming thrends of that generation. Postal was a top down shooter, Postal 2 a first-person sandbox shooter, and now Postal 3 is a third-person shooter.
Delivering the Graphics - Despite being in developement for 7 to 8 years, Postal 3 looks as good as any modern PC game powered by the Source engine. The Postal Dude also recieved a much needed facelift, and the game looks and feels fresh. Played on the original default settings, the motion was fluid, and the action was faster and filthier then ever. There were a few breif moments of lag and a crash here and there, but there were not enough issues to make me stop playing.
The Laughter Didn't Die - The overall story line, written by the late Bill Kunkel (aka the Father of game journalism) played like a spaghetti western. It featured a cast of colorful characters getting twisted into a 'Bubblegum Crisis' that grew and grew until it exploded in a massive no holds barred shoot-out at the end. Most of the humor is very topical and pokes at modern events as best it can. However, some jokes will have last minute twists as a lot has happened during the game’s developement. For one, Osama Bin Laden is a major character. In the real world he is dead, but in the game he's alive and well, running a soup kitchen in Catharisis. An obvious nod was given to the live action film character, Larry Thomas, who was also "The Soup Nazi" in Seinfeld. Other things I enjoyed were the few internet quips I heard. In one part the Postal Dude uses catnip to lure cats and says, "Here kitty-kitty, You can has cheeseburger," and killer hobos scream, "All my base aren't belong to you!" Its toliet humor at its best and it doesn't feel forced in this crazy world.
Arsenal of Amusement - It's not a Postal game without unique and obnoxious weaponry. One of the unique weapons in the game was the introduction of the laser pointer. Yes, a laser pointer. Some companion characters, such as Champ the dog, and Machinehead the rape monkey, are activated via laser pointer. When those characters see enemies highlighted by the laser, they attack. Also I loved the Fart-Gun. For those pussies trying to incapacitate enemies in a non-lethal manner, the Fart-Gun is the creative way to knock them out, that is if you don't die laughing yourself first at the absurdity of its fart power. There is also a Badger in there somewhere, which is interesting because Postal 3 was in developement years before the honey badger meme was born.
Zombie-Free Zone - In the previous game's expansion, "Apocalypse Weekend,” zombies were introduced into the franchise. With the onslaught of zombie titles we've been bombarded with over the past few years, I am glad the majority of P3 is zombie-free. Zombies are used only in the games first few tutorial levels, so the rest of the game doesn't feel like it's playing zombie catch up. The lack of zombies allows the storyline to move forward and really stand out in the unique toliet-humored world that made this franchise a classic in the first place. Personally, I'm burnt out on Zombies myself, but if you're not, there are plenty of homeless to slaughter instead. They're just as good, and dead on the inside, too. Just remember, "all their base aren't belong to you."
RETURN TO SENDER
Do Your Chores! - The first 30 mintues to an hour of P3 can feel like a real chore and will bore you if you think this is a title in which you can just drop in and go psycho. Yes, the game is called "Postal" but going postal actually isn't encouraged. This feels forced in the game's linear level design and gameplay. But it’s a whole new game, so I can look past that to a degree. Still, some of the beginning levels are just so dull. It will take a while to get to the meat of the title, before you get your hands on a gun or tazer or start really having fun blasting away enemies.
Am I Going to Even Use Half of This Crap? - You get a multitude of unique weapons in P3, but half of them I hardly even used or felt were necessary in my various playthroughs. Throwable weapons like grenades and such felt awkward to use. The gas can was a nice touch but didn't make a lot of sense in the thick of a fire fight, and I hated the vaccum gun. It was useless in combat but the game forces you to use it on so many occassions, usually to clean up crap. You'll mostly use the 4 base firearms: Pistol, shotgun, Machine gun, and Bigger Machine gun. If you decide to play non-lethal its mace, taser, and Fart Gun. There are other weapons, but they can be unpredictable and cost you a moral rating if they accidently hit friendlies. Melee weapons like the sledgehammer and fireman’s axe are difficult to aim, mostly miss their mark and don't do much damage. The machete, however, is my favorite not-for-presicion-combat weapon, though.
Not a Good Day to be a Bad Guy - P3 punishes you for being bad, by being bad itself. There are 2 moral routes open to you based on your gameplay: good and bad. If you are good and don't kill friendlies or use only non-lethal methods, more levels open up to you, making the game longer and more rewarding. If you are a psycho and go ape-shit, your path becomes much shorter, the game ends sooner and it doesn't feel like you just played a complete game. This feels unbalanced.
In Postal 3 you can have plenty of fun as the “good guy,” but good luck if you want a similar experience playing as a bad guy. There is plenty of humor to keep the player coming back, and the gameplay and atmophere feel fresh despite the slow start. This is a good game, just not a great one; it does its job and is a solid title. At the slightly lower price of $40 it is also a bargain compared to most new releases. Despite being in developement for so long, Postal 3 does not suffer from Duke Nukem Forever-itis, because it doesn't try too hard to be funny and it actually feels like a modern game. You will defnintely get your money's worth with about 2 or 3 playthroughs. Once you finish the game for the first time, you can replay the levels and really let yourself get creative with your choices and weapons. The fun is there in Postal 3, you just have to work a little for it.
*This review was based on the PC version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*
Check out Chris Holm's comics at ChrisHolmComics.com.