Diehard GameFAN Hall of Shame Nomination: Postal 2

Every week, we will present a new game to be nominated for the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame. These nominations will occur every Monday and Friday, respectively. Our standards are just like the Baseball Hall of Fame: every game will be voted on by members of the staff, and any game that gets 75% of the vote – with a minimum of four votes – will be accepted – or thrown – into their respective Hall.

Game: Postal 2 (aka: Postal²)
Developer: Running With Scissors
Publisher: Whiptail Interactive
Release Date: 4/13/2003
System Released On: Windows, Linux
Genre: First Person Shooter

Who Nominated The Game: I did.

Why Was It Nominated: It’s one thing for a game to be controversial. To many people, video games themselves are controversial. In fact, the Supreme Court of the United States is soon going to rule on the California law that bans sales of violent games to minors, potentially excepting video games from the 1st Amendment to the Constitution. When video games are in the mainstream news, chances are good the news isn’t good, whether that’s intended or not. Most people in the industry make a point of protecting each other; for example, the team behind Call of Duty: Black Ops made a point of commenting positively on what Electronic Arts was trying to do with Medal of Honor. Pushing the envelope in a controversial way is a good thing, so long as it’s not done too far, because horizons need to be broadened, and while I didn’t agree with EA’s decisions on Medal of Honor – I thought they were tacky and disingenuous – I will defend their right to make those decisions.

Then a game like Postal 2 comes along, and leaves us all defenceless. We all look at what they’ve done, the way disappointed parents would look at their four year old child’s drawings on the living room walls in permanent marker, and chide them, and the child – in this case, an ironically named developer named Running with Scissors – can only look at us and smile, because he doesn’t know any better.

Actually, that’s not an apt metaphor. Running with Scissors knew exactly what they were doing. They weren’t acting like four year olds who were just getting their creative juices out. This was an eight year old who got in trouble for cutting up worms, and retaliated by sticking the cat in the microwave, with a shit-eating grin on his face that said “what are you gonna do, fuckin’ ground me?” Postal was a game that was not only poor, but was tasteless enough to gain the attention of U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat (at the time) from Connecticut, who used the game as an example of why government legislation was needed to control violent video games. In fairness to RWS, Liebermann’s a self-righteous tosser who will do anything to stay in Washington, as he proved when he started – I’m not joking – the Connecticut for Lieberman party, under which he is currently serving what I hope will be his final term as a senator from my state. With that said, there are a few responses one could have to something like this, the most helpful being that the game was a statement of art and that parents should be deciding what their children play anyway. Running with Scissors did the worst possible thing: they made the sequel 100 times more offensive and more juvenile without making it much more playable. While one could say that there’s an ironic statement to be made about moral and religious groups opening fire, unprovoked, on your character in protest of violent games, the rest of the game’s material is obscene. The silencers are cats. A game prop called “Fag Hunter”. Another one called “Teen Sniper”. The ability to urinate on people until they vomit. More racial insults and stereotypes than I can fit into this space. For Christ’s sake, the special edition of the game was called the “Fudge Pack” edition which, by the way, showed just what the developers thought of any criticisms: it took quotes from the Computer Gaming World review of the game – one of the three times in their 25 year history that the magazine gave out a score of zero – and put them on the package. In short, Postal 2 was Vince Desi, Mike Jaret and Steve Wik responding to the controversy surrounding the first game by taking their dicks out and ejaculating in a public square while calling your mother fat.

Perhaps most damning of all, the game itself was not good. Once the rush of senseless killing wears off – this happens after about 15 minutes – you’re treated to a poorly programmed pile of trash that takes forever to load even the simplest textures, controls like crap, is loaded with bugs, and alternates between boring and incompetent. There are Half-Life mods that run better than this, and considering Postal 2 uses the unreal engine, it’s an accomplishment to have a game this incompetent. The game is often compared to Grand Theft Auto 3, but whereas GTA3 had the same mindless, stupid violence that Postal 2 had, there’s at least a game underneath. At least it’s making *some* statement, other than “boy, we love loading times”. Defenders of the game have pointed to the fact that you technically *can* escape every scenario without starting the bloodshed, but there’s no benefit to this. There’s no special ending, no achievements, and no carrot. Not only that, it’s virtually impossible, and by not acting, the game becomes boring tripe. It’s patently obvious the game is designed around “going postal”, and though it’s not the only choice in reality, it is in effect.

I nominated Postal 2 because it had no redeeming value as a game, and even less redeeming value as a piece of what could loosely be called “art”. Furthermore, the developers of the game intentionally set out to do further damage to a fledgling industry in the eyes of a highly sceptical public to prove some fourteen year old jock’s idea of machismo. Even as someone who defends everything about video games even if I find it distasteful, there is nothing defenceable about Postal 2.

All in Favour:

Guy Desmarais: Quite simply for the fact that this is the most stupid game I have ever played, Postal 2 deserves a spot in the hall of shame. After all, this is exactly what I felt after playing this: shame. Despite the fact that I like my fair share of tasteless jokes, this game somehow managed to take them all and shove them in the same package. An appropriate description would be an overdose of bad taste. As if the bad jokes, like sticking a gun in a cat’s pooper as a silencer, were not enough by themselves, the developers threw in a Gary Coleman cameo just to be “cute”. This would be akin to a game released this year featuring a Chuck Norris cameo: it would be done obviously for cheap publicity, and it would be overplayed.

I guess that my whole point here is that Postal 2 is a perfect storm of idiocy. It’s not even that it’s offensive. It just tries too hard to cause controversy because apparently, that was the cool thing to do back then. Sure, it is playable, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck.

A.J. Hess: Games that court public controversy are nothing new. However, games that exploit public controversy, offer nothing new, and are flat-out bad deserve to go into the Hall of Shame. Postal 2 is one of the worst offenders. While there’s nothing wrong with rough edged humor, the blatant insensitivity on display in this game makes it painful to play and nearly impossible to discuss with non-gamers. Most of the conflict in the game is resolved via ultraviolence against the citizens of Paradise, Arizona. The developer, Running With Scissors, attempted to hide behind the fact that you can avoid most of the violence in the game by not fighting. However, most of the AI characters were programmed to respond violently to even the slightest provocation. Perhaps the ultimate insult though is that Uwe Boll adapted much of the game for his movie, Postal. Boll is one of the worst directors in film, and this is one of the worst games of all time. A match made in stomach-churning hell.

Christopher Bowen: The only thing I can add that I didn’t put in my explanation above is this:

The best thing to come from this franchise is a movie made by Uwe Fucking Boll.

I rest my case.
 
 
 
 

All Opposed:

Alex Lucard: To be honest I had never played the game until Bowen nominated it for this award. Now, I owned a copy, as it came free with my copy of POSTAL the film on Blu-Ray, but I just never bothered to load it up and tinker with it. Yes, I thought the film was okay. In fact I will happily stand up for Uwe Boll since Matt Yeager isn’t here to do so and say that not only is POSTAL the best of Boll’s video game adaptations, but Boll’s non-video game films actually tend to be far better than one would think. I actually loved Rampage because it was so realistic it was hard to watch. I’ve recommended it to multiple people, and they came back praising it (much like nearly every critic who reviewed it) and then practically shit themselves in surprise when they learned it was by the same guy who ruined House of the Dead.

Anyway, I digress. Like the movie, I actually had fun with this game. There was very little difference between this and an early Grand Theft Auto game, except where those games took themselves seriously, Postal 2 was taking the piss and was so over the top it was obviously a satire. Now I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of the fact you can kill dogs and cats and/or use them as weapons, but that’s really the only thing that bothered me. The fact the you don’t have to be a godless killing machine is an option in the game (even if it isn’t the preferred path) and the fact you can get through the game without doing so is proof enough that the game isn’t meant to be the homicidal maniac sim some groups have claimed this game was meant to be. Is this the best game ever? No, it’s a mediocre one. It has issues and it hasn’t aged well, but I can’t say it’s a horrible game, nor even one as bad as some of the games we’ve already rejected. So it’s spared on that reason alone.

Mark B.: Postal 2 is an offensive game. Let’s get that out of the way up front. You can do all sorts of horrible things, kill tons of people, pee on dead bodies, and on and on. People can argue that the game allows the player the option of not being a murderer if they wish, and how the game is meant to be a gigantic satire of society as a whole, but the fact of the matter is that the game is horrendously offensive on most levels and revels in this fact in most respects. In this respect, it compares favorably to recent inductee Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust, in that both are hideously offensive products made for little reason other than to be controversial or shocking or whatever.

That said, Postal 2 differs from Box Office Bust in one key aspect: you can play it.

See, the thing about Postal 2 is that it attracts its bad scores almost unilaterally because of how offensive it is. Even-handed reviewers will score, and have scored, the game as “average” or better because despite some technical issues here and there, the game is fairly playable all around. It’s by no means an amazing game or anything, and time has not been kind to it in the same way it has not been kind to, say, Redneck Rampage, but the game isn’t a Mongolian clusterfuck of broken mechanics and poor design elements. It’s just rude. To me, if your game is tasteless, but playable, I’m less offended than if it’s tasteful, but broken. Postal 2, for all of its tastelessness, is a playable game, and as such, I’m not in favor of inducting something because it uses its right to free speech in a way people don’t agree with.

Joel Rose: Besides being derivative and by the numbers, I found both Postal games to be reasonably playable as far as FPS games go. Content wise, the games were offensive and vile, but I hardly can consider that the downfall of the experience.

Result: 3 In Favour, 3 Opposed, 50% Approval = SPARED

Conclusion: Don’t let anyone tell you we’re not a tough crowd on BOTH sides of the equation. In the battle of shitty, horrible games, Postal 2 is spared our lowest designation simply because it doesn’t melt your motherboard by looking at it funny. Let that tell you of how bad a game has to be to get into the Hall of Shame… and remember that so far, we have more games in the Hall of Shame (three) than the Hall of Fame (two).

Next Week: Square-Enix has more than just Final Fantasy going for it. They have many “B”-list franchises of varying quality. Next week’s game likely killed one of those franchises in America forever.

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11 Comments
  1. Mark B.

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