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August 2022

Postal Redux

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action
Developer: Running With Scissors
Release Date: March 5, 2021


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PS4 Review - 'Postal Redux'

by Cody Medellin on Aug. 20, 2021 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Postal Redux is a twin-stick shooter where players take control of The Postal Dude as he battles to survive in a world gone MAD.

September 1997 marked the release of the original Postal on the PC, and it became a magnet for controversy. From the title referring to the unfortunate incidents of U.S. post office shootings to the encouragement of mowing down anything that moves regardless of their perceived threat to you, it attracted the ire of parent groups and similar entities decrying that the content was accessible to children despite the prominent ESRB warning on the box. As is the case much of the time, controversy creates cash, and the game became enough of a hit that a sequel appeared years later, albeit one that added some absurd humor to counterbalance the violence. For over 20 years, the series remained a PC exclusive, but that changed with the release of Postal Redux on the PS4, a platform that has started to gain more notoriety as employing more censorship than the game's other platform, the Nintendo Switch.

You play the role of a person that the company simply refers to as The Postal Dude. After being evicted from your run-down house, you suspect that the U.S. Air Force has unleashed a toxic gas all over your town. Somehow, while the gas has affected everyone else, you remain immune to it, so you take it upon yourself to get back at the Air Force and take care of everyone else who stands in your way.

None of this backstory appears in the game, so even back then, only those with access to the instruction manual knew why The Postal Dude was doing this. Normally, this would be considered a strike against the game for those who love narrative, but it works better here, since you don't get a chance to be sympathetic to the character.

For those who are only familiar with the game via the sequel, this version is a different beast. It is still a shooter, but it's a twin-stick shooter presented with a fixed isometric camera instead of a first-person view. Wacky weaponry, like using a cat as a silencer is also gone, so your arsenal is entirely composed of standard items of destruction, like submachine guns and grenades and shotguns. Also missing is the game's humor, and while it makes a comeback very late in the campaign, this is mostly a serious affair.

The campaign is split up into three versions: the base game, clocking in at 17 levels; the expansion pack, which contains four levels from the PC's initial expansion pack and the two levels exclusive to the Japan-only Super Postal; and an extended campaign that puts both of these things together. For those who remember the original PC game well, the school shooting level has been removed, and a new carnival level takes its place. The game includes a variety of locales, such as a ghetto, an Air Force base, Osaka, and a truck stop. No matter the location, the objective always remains the same: kill at least 90% of the hostiles trying to kill you, whether they're anarchists, state troopers, or SWAT team members. There are plenty of innocent people in each environment, and while killing them doesn't count, there's no punishment for mowing them down, either.

Take away the subject matter and your feelings on it, and you'll find that the core act of shooting can be fun, and explosive items help to create chaos. The items drops and enemy placement aren't randomized or procedurally generated, so if you fail, you can plan out the replay. The stages aren't so large, so dying and restarting at the beginning can be annoying, but you won't lose a ton of progress as a result.

The problems start to roll in when you start any level, as nearby enemies always seem alerted to your presence. Even if they don't see you, getting close to anyone makes them hyper-aware, and the panic immediately begins. Enemy gunfire is often more powerful than your own shots with the same weapon, so you often need to shoot more to get the same results. Speaking of weapons, only a few weapons feel like they do more damage than your sub-machine gun, such as the rocket launcher, while other guns (e.g., automatic shotgun) drain your ammo quickly without much to show for it. For explosive weapons, the hitboxes for some of the environmental elements are large enough that you can have weapons like the napalm launcher backfire when the projectile bounces back at you instead of over a low-standing object. These things aren't so bad if taken separately, but when you take them together , it drags down things enough to make the campaign feel like a chore.

Beyond the different versions of the campaign and the different difficulty levels , there isn't too much to keep the player occupied. The local co-op and online co-op modes from the PC version are gone, which is a shame since they go a long way to making some of the tedium more enjoyable. There is a Rampage mode that lets you replay all of the levels with more of an emphasis on score, as evidenced by the inclusion of multipliers for consecutive kills and more innocent targets for points. Otherwise, this can be more of a one-and-done affair, unless you're going after Trophies.

Even when keeping in mind that this is a port of a remake that was done in 2016, the overall presentation is decent. The team did a good job of updating the backgrounds, so they're clean on a modern screen, but the minute size of the characters doesn't go down that well by contrast. For such an old game redone on Unity, it experiences a ton of stutters on the PS4, so there's no way to get a completely smooth experience. The sound effects are fine and the voices sound hokey, but you'll grow tired of the repeated lines. Even if you find the more offensive stuff to be funny, such as a joke about welfare reform, it gets repeated so often that the humor dies very quickly. Unless you're playing in rampage mode, expect to hear no music outside of the loading and title screens.

When looked at through a modern lens, it is difficult to recommend Postal Redux to anyone who didn't play the original on the PC decades ago. The early attempts at being edgy backfire now into groan-worthy territory, while the singular focus gets tiresome if you're playing through the short campaign. The inaccuracy of your guns and their muted damage makes ammo management almost impossible, while the larger hitboxes create far too many missed shots and accidental deaths. The result isn't a terrible game since there's still some grim fun to be had, but there are certainly better shooter titles out there unless you're set on experiencing the shooters of yesteryear.

Score: 5.5/10

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