November 5, 2001

Postal Plus for Linux: Tasteless violence and kind of boring

Author: JT Smith

- By Jeff Mrochuk -

Loki Entertainment brings us Postal Plus, an expansion on the 1997 game Postal,
which boasts being banned in over 10 countries. It is not banned in Canada yet, so I'll fight my way through it and give you a review.

Note: All of the following information was based on the closed beta of Postal Plus
provided by Loki Entertainment. Because the product was beta, no bugs have been
considered, and some features may have changed in the final version, which was released Oct. 29.

If you're not familiar with Postal you should probably stay that way. Postal was a
game created by Running With Scissors, a company that's out there to make the most
offensive games they can. They've done it, and the game is called Postal.

postal05.jpeg

Loki's newest game announcement has already generated much controversy. Its release was announced before the recent anthrax attacks affecting U.S. postal workers, but it was already a game created for its shock value before those events. If you're easily offended, a child, have any compassion for humanity, or U.S. Senator Joseph
Lieberman, you should not play this game. Stop reading. Abort.

With that out of the way, let's check out the game.

The premise is what?

So you're a U.S. postal worker, and you've had a bad day. I'm pretty sure you get where
I'm going. Essentially, the point of the game is to shoot everyone before they shoot you.
That's all there is to it. Every level has the same goal: take out a certain percentage of
the "hostiles," and move to the next level. Nothing very deep here, so don't look for it.

Postal features your standard lineup of items to collect: ammo, armor, guns and health. What else is there really? You can find these scattered around the maps. Most of the game is presented with an isometric view of the level. You run around the square map killing your enemies. In a few levels the camera perspective is little more overhead, in a few its a little less, but the premise is the same.

Your journeys will take you through back alleys to shopping centers to an old folk's
home and everywhere in between. In all of these scenarios you're just a crazy
mailman killing whatever hostiles want to stop you. Sound pretty tasteless? That
seems to be the idea.

postal13thumb.jpeg

I won't get too far into the violence issue. If violence in computer games is already too much for you, I wouldn't bother with this game at all.

One-man army

Single-player mode is straightforward. Move through the levels killing all the hostiles and when you're done, move to the next level. Be careful, though, there's innocent people around. Of course, nothing bad happens if they die, but your own sense of self
satisfaction might drop a bit.

The game features a standard lineup of video game guns. You've got your machine
gun, shotgun, rocket launcher, some grenades, and a flame-thrower. You know the
routine.

The controls allow you to turn 360 degrees, run forward, backward and side to side.
They can be a bit tedious, and you have to find a turning speed you're comfortable
with, but the controls are customizable, which is a nice option.

For a little while, the single player is pretty fun. Unfortunately, it gets old fast. I'm not sure how long you can be entertained by excessive violence alone, but I need some
game play behind it.

If you can get into it, the game is difficult. Most levels will require you to try a few
times to succeed. But the game is short, even with the Postal Plus expansion levels. I beat the
whole game in no more than a weekend.

There are a few additional game modes like timed games and capture the flag. They
work on some of the maps for a little additional game play. However, these extra
modes didn't keep me interested for more than a few minutes. The game also features an editor for creating your own levels to play.

Overall, there's not much to see here on the single player side of things.

Blow up your friends

Postal features online play over the Internet, so violence among friends is now even
easier. Multiplayer works the same as single player without the computer-controlled
characters. Blow someone up, get blown up, respawn, repeat.

I actually had quite a bit of fun with the multiplayer. The entertainment lasts a lot
longer than with the single player. There's more difficulty taking down someone who
is (arguably) a little smarter, as opposed to masses of moronic enemies.

The multiplayer is more replayable, and can be played on all the single player
maps, as well as your own created in the editor.

Graphics

The graphics in Postal are bad. Seriously, this is a rehash of a 1997 game, and even when the game came out in 1997 the graphics were pretty bad. They serve the purpose for the game, but the resolution is quite low, and the characters are a bit shoddy. I'm being pretty harsh, but there are so many nice looking games out these days, I can't let my standards slip.

postal14.jpeg

However, the levels themselves are very nice. A few bitmap layers make up the
scene behind the violence, and for the most part, they're quite good.

Still, the blocky characters and poor animation are a real flaw in the appearance of Postal, despite nice backdrops.

Sound

The sound guy should get recognition. If there is some kind of video game sound guy
award, this guy should get it. Most of what you'll be hearing is the voices of the victims, and they are haunting. If the game creators were trying to darken the mood with sound they
hit the nail on the head. The voice acting can be a little over the top, but its better than most games I've played.

Postal has good music as well, which is often triggered by events and locations. The
sound is the only thing that makes Postal at all immersive.

Accessibility

Here's a nice part of Postal. It could probably run on an alarm clock if you could install Linux on it. I guess dated graphics do have their place. This should run fine on almost any Pentium class machine.

Loki's current system requirements:

  • Linux kernel version 2.2.X
  • 233 MHz Pentium II or compatible equivalent
  • 32 MB RAM required (64 MB recommended)
  • XFree86 3.3.5 or newer at at least 16bpp
  • OSS compatible sound card
  • Hard disk with at least 430MB of space

Thirty-two megs of RAM, you can't go wrong with that. It runs in 32bpp or 16bpp, but 16bpp is a fair amount faster. 32bpp has to scale it down before rendering, which is fairly CPU heavy.

The network code is not good. There's a lot of lag considering how much is actually
happening. Modem users might find this to be quite a problem.

Another attractive feature of Postal is it's cheap. The Loki store has it at a reasonable price tag of $19.95.

Conclusion

I've never had a problem with violence in video games. I agree with one thing Running
With Scissors has to say: Violence belongs in video games, and not on the streets.
However, I'm not giving Postal Plus a bad review because its violent, or disturbed, or
whatever you want to call it. I'm giving Postal Plus a bad review because its honestly
not a very good game. The shock thing can only take you so far.

Postal is fun for a bit, and that's about it.

Jeff's ratings

Graphics 2 out of 5 stars
Gameplay 2/5
Singleplayer 2/5
Multiplayer 3/5
Sound 5/5
Accessibility 4/5

Postal/RWS Web site: http://www.gopostal.com.
Loki Entertainment: http://www.lokigames.com.

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