If I mention a game called Postal, most people will conjure mental images of the 2003 game Postal 2, rather than the original game, released in 1997, if they have heard of them at all. This series of games is quite infamous, and has caused its fair share of controversy over the years. I played the original game many years ago, and quite enjoyed it. So when I heard that it was getting an HD remake, called Postal Redux, I was very much looking forward to it.
Key word: was.
I’ll give a bit of info first to those who might have never heard of the series before. The Postal series is known for being overly violent, among other things. Where Postal 2 and 3 take that violence to preposterous levels, they are also darkly comical and tend towards everything being over the top, but the first game is not so. It is dark, yes, and twisted in a psychological manner, but there is no humour in it, black or otherwise. The first game is also isometric, rather than first person like 2 and 3. There was also a movie made, based largely on the second game, directed by Uwe Boll, but that follows the style of the second game. I am not a huge fan of the second and third games, because of the massive tonal shift that took place between the first and second games.
I am going to approach this review in a certain way. I am going to review it as a new game, in its own right, but I will also review it as a comparison to the original game. I will give two scores at the end, one for the game as a stand alone item, as if it did not have a predecessor, and a second, for those who have played the first game and want to know how it compares.
Graphics and Style
New: As mentioned above, Postal Redux is an isometric game. This generally means a static screen that the character moves upon. In Postal Redux, the level backgrounds are static, with no interactivity. The backgrounds have a hand drawn look to them, though I can find no confirmation of this. The character models, while small, are fairly well detailed. They, of course, do not look as good as the backgrounds, being illustrated in different ways. This does cause of a bit of a disjointed feeling, since it doesn’t look like the character models really belong there. The game utilises the Unreal Engine 4.
Comparison: The original game used hand drawn backgrounds for the levels, which was one of the main selling points. I am unsure if these new backgrounds are hard drawn or done on a computer. They are definitely not the same images. The old character models were pretty rough, being fairly undetailed collections of polygons. The new character models are significantly better, having good detail and movement. They still suffer from the same problem as in the original game, where they don’t match the background, having static colours and no lighting effects. At time is seems like the game is waving a cut out of a man coloured in with crayons in front of a painting. The main character, the ‘Postal Dude’, was largely indeterminate in looks in the original, but now resembles the character models in the second and third games.
Sound and Music
New: One of the first things that you encounter is the music in the main menu. It is gritty and speaks of psychological horrors and insanity, all without lyrics. The music throughout the game is more subtle, perhaps too much so, for even though I played the game only last night, I cannot remember music during the levels at all. Other sounds are well done. The gunshots are distinct and clear, and quotes spoken by the Postal Dude are easily heard, even above all the gunfire.
Comparison: As with the previous category, a lot of the sounds are direct transfers from the original game. The main difference here is that the amount of sounds has been drastically reduced, as has the Sound Test option in the menu. In the original, you could listen to all the sounds within the game through the Sound Test option, including all the enemy screams, Postal Dude quotes and gun sounds. In the original, slain enemies would often crawl around a bit before dying, screaming or crying or uttering pleas for help. This no longer happens. The amount of Postal Dude quotes have also be reduced. He used to have a bigger library of sound bites to choose from, but no longer.
New: This style of game is often called a ‘Twin-Stick Shooter’, where, if played with a controller, one analog stick controls directional movement, the controls character facing, and thus, aiming. I played with a keyboard and mouse, where WASD controlled movement and the mouse was for aiming. It worked well enough; sometimes I got stuck on things, but it didn’t happen very often. The goal for every level, and the only way to progress, is to kill a certain percentage of the hostile forces within the level, normally 90% or more. These hostile forces are normally police or similar, and will attack you when you move within a certain distance to them. There are several different guns and throwables that can be collected and used throughout the game, as well as armour and health to be collected. I played on Easy, as I normally do with a review game, but it was extremely easy. I completed the game, all 17 levels, in about an hour, which is crazy short. There is also the Rampage mode, where one gains points by killing in sustained streaks, getting environmental kills and so on, which may add some longevity to the game beyond the campaign mode.
Comparison: The game controls are quite different, but better. With the old controls W moves you forward in the direction you are facing, rather than the new movement method, where W moves you north, regardless of direction facing. Level progression and goal are exactly the same as previously; kill X% of hostiles on the level to move onto the next. The weapons are all the same, except the revolver, which is a new addition. The levels are also all the same, with addition of the Carnival, which is new. Played on easy, the game was significantly shorter than I remember. Redux has also implemented a cross hair that shows the targets health when mousing over, green as healthy through to red as almost dead. The original game did not have a cross hair at all. This, along with the better controls, made the game significantly easier on any difficulty. Considering the ease of playing now, it only took me about an hour to finish the campaign mode. Going by my normal rule, I wouldn’t pay more than $1 for this game.
New: There isn’t much of one really. There is no intro, no information given at all prior to the game starting. In the first level, there is a moving vehicle at the home of the Postal Dude, possibly indicating he got kicked out of his house, and that started this rampage. It is never stated, but heavily implied through journal entries, images and sounds between levels that the Postal Dude is spiraling down into insanity. Spoilers follow here – It is all but confirmed with the final level, labeled ‘The End’, where you move past a church into a graveyard with a single tombstone and a coffin before it. When you approach, the coffin lowers into the ground, and a piercing sound drives the Postal Dude to his knees, and then the screen goes black. Several images follow, showing a cell door, a chained up man and then a person bound in a straight jacket. It goes to credits after that. Make of it what you will, I suppose.
Comparison: Once again, things here remain par for the course, as nothing is really explained. The images from between the levels have changed, but the quotes remain the same. The main difference – and once again, spoilers ahead – is the ending. I told the new ending above, but the original ending is much better, and tends to feed the insanity ending better. Instead of a church and a grave, the Postal Dude comes to an elementary school. Of course, you try to shoot the children, but nothing works, the bullets pass right through them, as they play, seemingly oblivious. They form a ring around the Postal Dude and sing Ring-a-Rosie, while a piercing noise sounds that makes the Postal Dude collapse, then the screen fades to black and those same images (as above) play through. The ending was changed because it involved children, but I don’t know why, it’s not like they could actually be killed.
At the end of the day, this remake is not very good to me. Sure, a new level and a new gun are good, but the changes made to the (albeit thin) story destroy the feeling the game built. Maybe I just don’t understand the significance of what the ending of Redux means; there could be something I am just missing. Maybe my vision of the original game is clouded by nostalgia. I know I don’t like the trend of having to tone things down lest someone get a bit offended, because that is obviously what happened here. Or maybe it was the old ‘violent video games beget violence’ argument. Either way, the cons far outweigh the pros in Redux. I’m glad I got to try this game before buying it, because I would have been sorely disappointed had I bought it.
From a technical standpoint, this game will run on almost anything; new computers, old computers, farm equipment, old washing machines, decommissioned submarines, bricks, pocket calculators etc etc. As long as it has Windows Vista (ugh) or higher, it will run this game. Like the last game I reviewed, my PC was barely aware this game was running at all.
Reviewed On: PC
Review System: Nvidia 770GTX, i5 4690, 16GB RAM
Playtime: 68 minutes
Postal Redux can be found on Steam here and is due for release May 21st 2016.
SUMMARY: If you never played the original game, it isn’t too bad. Far too short on campaign mode, but depending on how much you like trying to beat your own score, Rampage mode could be just what you want. For those who have played the original, some things are better, such as controls, but a lot of things are worse, like atmosphere. Not hearing the screams and moans of the dying hostiles removes something from the game that reinforced the sadistic comments the Postal Dude was making, and stunts that feeling of diving head first into insanity, with eyes wide open and mind reeling.
SCORE: Stand Alone – 65%, Compared To Original – 25%