Postal 2: Share the Pain
The irritations of living in modern society have a funny way of compounding themselves on you. One annoyance is just a tiny drop in the bucket, a chip easily shrugged off the shoulder. But then a few more start piling up and the resentment grows. Soon it taints your entire world view: the absurd gas prices, loud children in your favorite restaurant, and how you haven’t gotten any mail besides electric bills in a month. Then some jerk breaks the proverbial camel’s back and says something snarky. At which point there’s a choice to be made—to either let ‘em have it with both barrels or just swallow your pride and anger, and move along.
That’s supposed to be the main dilemma in Postal 2: Share the Pain, a re-release of the widely-panned shooter developed by Running With Scissors who fancy themselves the muckrakers of the gaming world. Are any of the glaring problems in the original release dealt with appropriately? Barely. The main “attraction” so to speak is the inclusion of multiplayer, and one or two new areas.
Backing up, it’s important to chime in on the single-player campaign. Enter The Postal Dude, a man who drudges through a miserable existence in Paradise, Arizona with his nagging significant other constantly ordering him to complete mundane chores. The game’s structure is set up to where the levels are divided between days of the week, so gamers walk in his angsty shoes from Monday to Friday.
Each day Postal Dude has some errands that need done. Nothing unusual, just doing things like returning a library book (and paying a huge late fee) or picking up milk. Now what is supposed to separate this from other shooters is that the tasks can be completed in any order and the player is free to roam around Paradise à la Grand Theft Auto. Except there is no real freedom to be found.
Every errand will go through the same motions. Postal Dude will stand in a long line and something wacky will happen, more than likely some protest group of one form shooting up the place. Here’s where divergence absolutely fails. Supposedly, players can get through the game in a non-violent fashion. How so? By running away like a little scaredy cat at these moments, dodging as many assault rifle-toting madmen as they can. Of course the player will get killed and have to start all over again as enemies (basically every NPC) have perfect aim and are always armed to the teeth.
So much for the Gandhi method. Whipping out whatever ordinance you’ve scrounged is equally disappointing. Damage is so wonky that you’ll decapitate an enemy in one shotgun blast and other times it’ll take multiple shots to take him down. Enemies take such ridiculous amounts of damage that at no point does it feel like you’re shooting at fleshy human beings, but industrial-strength steel instead. Luckily they’re dumb, easily funneled through corridors where death awaits. Sometimes they’re so brick-headed they try to throw molotov cocktails or grenades at you only to end up killing themselves instead.
Good thing the game has a dozen difficulty settings, and auto-saves once every new area loads. Which is one of the few problems to get addressed with the re-release. Since Paradise is really just a patchwork of areas tied together with tunnels/load zones, every single time you march from area to area (and you will, since you have to traverse across the entire town) you have to sit through a loading screen. These load times were excruciating, but with Share the Pain it’s fixed somewhat.
Everything else, however, is just as rancid and awful as it ever was. Postal 2 tries so hard to be offensive it practically goes cross-eyed. Every NPC is a foul-mouthed, nasty excuse for a human being and things like racial slurs and homophobic jokes are commonplace. There’s even the option to unzip your pants and paint the town yellow. But don’t laugh too much, because you’ll need it to put yourself out when you get set on fire. Crack pipes sub for health-boosts, and a cat’s anal orifice is used for a silencer.
And loathsome as it is to admit, Postal 2 is occasionally fun. For a far too brief moment blowing up cars, chucking diseased cow heads, and lighting people on fire via gasoline is fun in a sophomoric sense. Though in that same juvenile sense that phase is quickly grown out of and the question of “what was I thinking?” pops into your head.
It’s difficult not to start firefights in the middle of an errand. Especially since the denizens of Paradise are even more likely than the player to flip out and go postal. Pulling out a pistol, even without using it, is license for everyone to lose their sanity and start a cartoonish firefight with all sorts of mayhem happening with The Postal Dude as the unlucky passerby caught in the crossfire.
One might think that the addition of multi-player is the saving grace, but you’d be wrong. A competitive mode based on such an inept shooter is going to spell trouble as the broken gameplay of the campaign carries over. To start with, there’s no hint of creativity with what modes were including. There’s the triple-tag-team of Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag, except the flag has been replaced with a scantily-clad woman.
Multi-player is rocket-jumping, wonky hit-detection shooting at its worst. Getting connected to a game that runs smooth is a rarity at best, and there are so many exploits it’s hard to list them all. One of the most glaring is the one player skin mimicking a certain former child star who is less than half as short as the others, making him a much harder target to hit as well as a popular choice.
Postal 2: Share the Pain has only one contribution—introducing atrocious mutli-player to go alongside the equally horrendous single-player. The foul-mouthed humor might’ve been tolerable if there was a competent game to go along with it, but Running With Scissors was too busy controversy-baiting politicians and watchdog groups to do that.
Three out of ten