Postal 2 revisited: I have no regrets about my 20-hour gaming binge
During the Tết 2023 holidays, I scrolled through my Steam library feeling a bit bored and looking for an entertaining action game. With over 1,000 titles to choose from, I couldn’t find anything interesting. So I decided to check out the current offers on Steam and came across Postal 2, which was on sale for 14,000 VNĐ (≈0.55 EUR). Postal 2, the legendary hack ‘n slay ego-shooter game from Running with Scissors, was released in 2003 and took my school playground by storm, with burned CDs containing cracks and trainers, allowing me and my friends to play it in secret, hiding from our parents. Postal 2 is pure madness, a cynical-sarcastic parody of society, politics, and world events. It is the embodiment of chaos in software dress. In short, Veni, Vidi, Emi (I came, I saw, I bought) because it was cheaper than an average bánh mì and at least as satisfying.
“Today’s the first day of the end of your lives!”
Once we have created our character, Postal 2 opens up an almost limitless open game world with exciting main and side quests and drastic choices… Just kidding. The story of Postal 2 is simple: we play as the Dude, who lives with his “Bitch” and his dog “Champ” in a desolate trailer in the small town of Paradise, Arizona, USA. The game runs from Monday to Friday, with the Apocalypse Weekend addon running through Sunday (which is included in the standard version on Steam). Each morning, we leave the trailer with a sticky note containing three to four tasks that we are supposed to do for ourselves and Bitch. Tasks such as getting milk at the store, confessing our sins at the church, pissing on our hated dad’s grave, or getting some fresh napalm for weed control in the garden in front of our trailer. The kind of tasks we all face from time to time. Well, at least concerning the milk one.
“Mm, smells like chicken!”
So we leave our trailer, stretch our body, scratch our butt, kick our dog aside, grab a shovel, and kick in our neighbor’s front door. We beat the man who lives there to death with the shovel and decapitates the hysterically screaming and running-around woman to equip ourselves with gasoline, scissors, and dog food. Leaving the house, we skillfully kick the woman’s head over the garden fence onto the street in front of the house (achievement unlocked!), stab the neighbor’s dog attacking us with scissors until it resembles a hedgehog, and are caught in the crossfire by police officers on the street. Fortunately, other passersby, who are convinced patriots, come to our aid and pull out pistols and submachine guns to stop the police and all the other armed residents. People scream and run, heads splatter, arms, and legs are cut off, and we blithely continue to pour oil on the fire. Or rather, we pour gasoline over the crazed mob, then make a trail away from the chaos to a sheltered corner, finally lighting a single match and setting the gasoline on fire. Moments later, burning and desperately screaming people run back and forth in panic, infect other NPCs, and eventually fall to the ground shaking and whimpering. And we smilingly open the fly of our jeans to extinguish and cool the burning bodies with the force of our pee. Time for a joint!
And on we go to the supermarket because it’s still Monday morning and we have to buy milk.
“Well, I guess I don’t have to pay now!”
We arrive at Lucky Ganesh, the supermarket in the center of Paradise, run by the Middle Eastern-born owner Habib. As we walk in, we hear Indian music playing in the background. We casually remark that the place smells pretty bad and wonder if a goat has been slaughtered inside. Then we browse the shelves and find a bag of Jihad-brand goat’s milk in the refrigerated section. After waiting in line, we go to pay at the cash register but realize we don’t have any money on us. So we decide to keep the milk in our inventory and not pay for it, but Habib catches us. He locks the front door, grabs his shotgun, and comes after us. Our only way out is through the market’s adjacent warehouse, which is signposted “For Employees Only,” and an adjacent apartment building inhabited by female al-Qaeda terrorists. They begin to attack us with pistols, shotguns, and machine guns, screaming fanatically “lulu lulu.” We fight our way through the building, leaving a trail of destruction and bodies, and finally escape through a second-story window over a canopy and into the backyard. Before leaving, we find a rocket launcher guarded by aggressive dogs. We got our milk, saved some money, and got some damn good weapons, but we also caused chaos and depravity. Not bad at all.
Postal 2 – official trailer
“Please don’t think I’m a bigot, I kill races equally!”
Postal 2 is a game that revels in its violence. It takes the depiction of violence to the extreme, adding a fuse of madness to all NPCs and has a behavioral engine that seems designed to create chaos. Every NPC and situation feels like a powder keg ready to explode at the slightest provocation, resulting in bloody carnage. It’s up to us as players to decide how we want to interact with the environment and how it will react to our actions. While much of the game can be played peacefully, the game is at its best when things explode and go wrong. For example, we can try to buy milk after finding a few bucks and walking out of the front door with a happy tune on our lips, or we can end up in the mentioned bloody mess with terrorists attacking us (I am more of a gore guy).
Another example of a task due on Monday is picking up our paycheck from our employer “Running with Scissors” (RWS for short, and by the way, they are the actual developers of the Postal games). When we arrive at their headquarters, we find a group of concerned parents protesting outside the building, united under the name “Parents for Decency.” They are holding up signs that read “Make games with plots,” “Stop violent video games,” and “Censor RWS’s games.” The situation is tense and emotional, with the meta-level being all too apparent. After we finally get our paycheck, the protesters decide to storm the building and shoot at anything that moves. We have the choice of escaping through the back exit (without setting off a gas pipe explosion and causing a hellfire among the people wandering around there) or joining the fight and throwing ourselves into the chaos. It’s our choice.
Some random impressions
“Video games don’t kill people, I do!”
In Postal 2, the game tells us that it, the game, belongs to the good guys and that any bloodshed is a result of our own choices, reflecting our psyche. However, as the game progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid violent situations. We find ourselves in conflict with groups like the Parents for Decency demonstrators who will shoot at us as soon as they spot us in the open street after Monday. The atmosphere in the city gradually shifts towards madness and psychopathy, with the game providing us with more and more weapons and ammunition, culminating in a real apocalypse on Friday night.
It’s almost impossible to avoid trigger-happy NPCs while we carry out our daily tasks, and the game encourages us to shoot at innocent NPCs with rocket launchers, throw BSE-infected cow heads at police officers, set streets on fire with napalm, cut off terrorists’ heads and limbs with hedge shears in the catacombs of the secret Taliban base, split folks in half with a scythe, or simply cause a massacre in the good old fashioned way with a shotgun with a cat attached as a silencer.
The violence in Postal 2 is presented in an exaggerated and over-the-top way that makes it hard to take seriously. Even when, in moments of pause and calm, we remember what we’re doing, it’s still extremely satisfying in a twisted way. Postal 2 is pure mayhem, and in some ways, it may reminds us of all the virtual blood that was spilled during similar orgies of violence in games like GTA San Andreas or Duke Nukem 3D.
Postal 2 – pacifist run
“I knew that stuff wasn’t good for me”
When it was released in 2003, Postal 2 already had below-average graphics, despite using Unreal Engine 2. Even after the general overhaul in 2015, which included higher resolution and more details and objects, the visuals still leave a lot to be desired. However, the game’s fun, meta-level, memes, and absurdity make up for the weak graphics.
Of course, it’s important to note that Postal 2 is politically incorrect, perverse, sick, and insane. It does, however, offer gamers the opportunity to experience a great deal of violence that can be troubling, especially for younger or more impressionable players. It has been the subject of much coverage around school shootings and violence in games, and it is still on the index in countries like Germany. It continues to divide opinions and provoke criticism today, whether it’s because of the explicit depiction of violence on the part of politicians, or because of a perceived lack of creativity and innovation about Postal 4: No Regrets, the latest installment in the series, released in 2022.
These criticisms aside, Postal 2 is a classic game that defined an entire generation of schoolyard gamers. It hasn’t left any noteworthy lasting damage on us, regardless of its unfiltered content. Hopefully.
“I’ve got a note that says there’s a package for me. Last name’s ‘Dude'”
Postal 2, including its expansions, is available on Steam at a low price and is often included in sales. Despite its age, the game usually runs smoothly on current systems. Thanks to Steam’s support, an active multiplayer and modding community has formed, constantly adding mad content to the game and keeping it alive (which is funny because the community’s stated goal is to extinguish all in-game life as effectively as possible, adding to the game’s absurdity and over-the-top nature).
I bought and played Postal 2 for about 20 hours, and while it’s a violent and politically incorrect game, I have no regrets. The game is a unique experience that’s worth trying out for anyone interested in an unfiltered and over-the-top gaming experience.
Postal 2 at a glance
- Personal rating:
- Running With Scissors
- Running With Scissors
- Release date:
- 13 Apr, 2003
- First-person shooter
- Where to buy:
Headlines: Quotes from Postal 2.
Hero image: Wallpaper from runningwithscissors.com.