As Chris said in his earlier review, it’s easy to see why Postal’s original release stirred up a fair bit of controversy.
Originally releasing in 1997, Postal Redux is the not-so-new but updated version of Postal, which has now made its way to PlayStation consoles. Even now, with over 20 years since it originally released, Postal is still a hard concept to discuss and yes the graphics might have improved but the subject matter has not.
If you missed Postal the first time around, you essentially play as someone who has gone off at the deep end and one day decides to kill everyone and anyone, having “gone postal”. And that’s it.
Running around the isometric maps the game just feels a bit flat by today’s standards, even if it was equal parts revolutionary and controversial when it released in ‘97. As someone who never played Postal “back in the day”, I am coming at this fresh, and it doesn’t wow me if I’m being totally honest.
The game still plays well, but there isn’t much to it, you simply run around the map blasting anyone in sight and picking up the various weapons to help fuel your massacre. The game gives you 7 weapon slots, with weapons ranging from shotguns with a wide spread, to pistols that offer a narrow but powerful shot.
Running and gunning is mapped to the sticks, with the left taking care of movement and aiming catered for by the right, and credit where it’s due, Postal does control well. Playing with the DualSense controller the game feels responsive, and I was able to react quickly to any adversaries that may get in my way.
I say adversaries, but the enemies in Postal Redux are mainly police or innocent bystanders, which sapped my enjoyment away from the game. This was a real sticking point for me, something that I was surprised by.
The content of Postal has always been a controversial one, and it hasn’t mellowed with age. Yes, there are more violent and graphic games out there, but often they have something to say or the violence serves a larger purpose – it isn’t just there for the sake of it, yet playing Postal you can’t help but feel that it plays into that trope.
Normally, violence in video games doesn’t bother me – I’m of a certain age that I can say I played and enjoyed Manhunt back on the PS2 and that I didn’t skip the torture scene in GTA V or the infamous “No Russian” level in Modern Warfare 2 – my point being violence in video games doesn’t grind my gears, and it annoys me when the media portrays violence in video games as a bad thing; I believe it has a place when done well, but for me, in Postal it just feels off.
I think there are a few reasons for this. One is the annoying scream that punctuates the menu screens and the dated 90’s music, another is that the game doesn’t really try and justify your actions in any way by giving you a reason as to why you are doing what you are doing. As gamers, we’ve all shot up plenty of aliens/gangsters/innocent mammals in countless games before and not given it a second thought, provided we were being given a reason for doing so – Postal doesn’t offer us that justification in any form.
At one point my girlfriend walked in while I was playing and it did feel like I’d been caught doing something a bit inappropriate. She asked what I was playing, and then why I was doing what I was doing and I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t tell her – what’s the story?
“I’m not sure. There isn’t one really.”
“Why did you just shoot that person running away?”
“It’s part of the game, I need to unlock the exit.”
Even to me, the responses felt a bit weak, and she just laughed and moved on – she’s not a gamer so she just wrote it off as another video game she didn’t understand the appeal of. Normally I wax lyrical about the games I play in an effort to get her to play more games with me, but if more games were like Postal I’d be embarrassed to share them for fear of being branded a nutter myself.
I’ve since read up on Postal’s story courtesy of the gospel of the internet (read: Wikipedia) and I have since found out that the reason you set off on your rampage is due to you getting evicted from your home, but the game itself didn’t signpost this in any way. There is no story and there are no cutscenes to at least add a thin veneer of reasoning as to why you have suddenly decided to start shooting everybody – the games starts as you leave your lodge, and within seconds you’ve shot a policeman.
This was a feeling that I couldn’t shake, and it isn’t helped in that the main protagonist is wearing the school shooters uniform of a long dark trench coat (which just feels wrong) or the fact that the game itself is only fun for about 5 minutes.
Running around and gunning down everyone in sight isn’t a skill that requires much finesse, and there isn’t much in the way of depth to what you are tasked with doing. There are no quests, no hidden objectives to complete – simply kill the hostiles to unlock the level exit and move on, rinse and repeat.
Postal may have been fun in ‘97, but without much else to do it simply runs its course way too quickly. In a way this is a shame, as there is a stack of content bundled in Postal Redux including an expansion pack and a time attack mode (aptly named Rampage), but personally, I was glad to put the controller down.
Postal Redux PS5, PS4
- Overall - Bad - 4/104/10
Video games are the ultimate form of escapism, but in Postal there is something that just feels a little dirty. It further fuels the nonsensical view non-gamers have about violence in video games and how it creates violent perverted monsters. Of course, it doesn’t – but if more games released were like Postal, it would be easy to see where that stereotype comes from.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS4. Reviewed using: PS4, PS5.