The Postal games have always been somewhat of a mixed bag, at least in terms of how they are received. The first two were not masterpieces by a long shot, but they have somewhat of a cult following. In case you haven’t heard of the series before, let’s bring you up to date. The first Postal game was released back in 1997 by American developer Running With Scissors (previously Riedel Software Productions of Spy vs Spy fame). A 3D-isometric violent shooter that put you in the shoes of “The Postal Dude”, a guy down on his luck that wants to slaughter everyone in town with a wide-array of weapons, it was pretty extreme at the time. The sequel, released 6 years later, became a first-person affair in an open-world. As “The Postal Dude“, it’s more of same, except the addition of objectives in the form of chores, such as buying milk from the grocery store or picking up your paycheck from work, and you could choose to go about it as a decent, upstanding citizen, or you could just cause mass chaos. Anyway, while both games weren’t reviewed by critics too well, they were particularly fun for what they were.
Now what we have here is Postal III. There’s plenty of fun to be had, but the experience holding all the fun together is just an utter mess. Postal III alters the formula once again, this time moving to an over-the-shoulder third-person view, and also from the Unreal Engine to Valve‘s Source Engine. For a third time, you play as the foul-mouthed, nameless “Postal Dude”. A character with less depth than Duke Nukem, it’s surprising how little effort has been made in making the protagonist a little more appealing.
You can still murder everyone in sight with one of the many weapons at your disposal, such as pistols, M16s, and shotguns. However, there’s much more enjoyment from throwing an AIDS-infected cat at someone’s face and watching it go to work, or maybe you’d prefer the rabid badger, complete with its own handle that you can use to tear people limb from limb. It all sounds splendid enough, but aside from the giant bug that this game is, Running With Scissors made another colossal mistake in the transition from Postal 2: the open-world. The open-world is there, but we’re never given the opportunity to explore it at our own free will. This is because every mission launches into the next, regardless of whether you want to or not. This is unfortunate, as this was what made the second installment of the series a bit special. It is rumored that the developers are working on patching in the option to play in the open-world without missions, but at the time of writing, this has not become a reality.
Many of the gameplay features from Postal 2 return, but due to the move from first to third-person, this has created a number of issues. For example, if you want to pour gasoline in a certain place and throw a match on it, you’re going to encounter problems. It’s so awkward trying to direct where to pour the gasoline given the view, that it’s virtually impossible; this is something that worked perfectly in the second game. There’s a part of the tutorial that has you cover some enemies stuck in a hole with gasoline and set them on fire. If this was in first-person view, it would have been fine and not taken the 5 minutes it took in third-person. It was an unfortunate sign of things on the horizon when it comes to the mechanics of this game.
While the gameplay is awkward and clunky, the graphics are outdated, bland, and ugly. Even though it’s not the worst looking game, it certainly shouldn’t cause such poor performance on a high-end system. There are times when you get a smooth 60 frames-per-second, but too often, the frame-rate drops into the 20s, and that is unacceptable. Obviously, this is something that can be rectified through optimization in patches, but this hinders some parts to this game that could otherwise be enjoyed. Even though the source engine is updated regularly, Postal III manages to look worse than even the earliest source games. The character models would look at home in the late-nineties, with non-existent lip-syncing and massive repitition. An argument can be made that Postal 2 characters looked better. So, yes: it’s awful; the graphics, art, animation, models, everything.
Pretty much every mission can be played good or bad, meaning that how you go about them effects your karma. Normally ,this comes down to whether you choose to help or hinder the cops. I played a mix of good and bad, but was ultimately given the ‘bad guy’ ending, so there may be some missions and story implications that aren’t obvious to the player. Speaking of the story: there isn’t one. The consequences of removing the open-world gameplay and forcing you to play mission after mission means that more of a story is keep players interested in the tasks. Unfortunately, this was not done, so players or left wondering why they should care. The objectives in the previous game worked thanks to the sandbox gameplay, and the choice of whether or not to even do them; this system would have been more than welcome in Postal III.
The series is known for its dark humor, something that unfortunately falls flat on its face this time around. The only laughs come from the times “Postal Dude” insults his own game; lines such as “Ugh, GTA’s physics are better” are surprisingly accurate, but still kind of funny. Even objective screens poke fun at the game, wishing the player good luck in their mission to protect someone from waves of enemies with the god-awful AI causing them to run into the line of danger. Other than that, the funniest thing about the game is the price the developers are charging.
There was supposed to be a multiplayer mode in Postal III, but it was seemingly scrapped. Until they add the open-world gameplay and patch this game extensively, even fans won’t want to come back to this game. It takes just over 4 hours to finish a playthrough at a casual pace. The game is buggy, poorly optimized, uninspired, lazy, and ultimately, a disappointment. I’ll say it like my parents used to: I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed. Wait until it is mere pennies on Steam, and then maybe give it a go; that’s all it’s worth.
[xrr rating=2/10, max_stars=10]
This review is based on a review copy of the Steam version of Postal III by Running With Scissors