Postal 2 is the sequel to one of the most unique games of all time, the first Postal, which was released in 1997. Postal 2 was released six years later, in 2003. Since then, it has spawned two expansion packs, including Share the Pain and Apocalypse Weekend.
Unlike the original Postal, which featured an overhead view of the action, Postal 2 is fully 3D and first person. When it first came out, it had fairly steep system requirements, but now it will run fine on just about any system. One problem that I noticed, however, is that it had issues with my processor being dual core. As a result, I had to use a special program called WinLauncherXP to only enable one core before running the game.
The graphics in Postal 2 are pretty impressive, especially given that Running With Scissors is a very independent studio and seems to have made the game on a low budget. The game has nice high-res textures (for 2003) and high polygon count character models. The fire effects look great and very realistic as well.
One of Postal 2's great features is a good physics engine. The game uses rag-doll physics to accurately model what happens to things after they are shot or launched by an explosion. Even the liquids spray, drip, and splash accurately (more on that later). If you smack a corpse, it is going to move.
The game uses music sparingly, for example in the Indian supermarket. Sound is widely used, however, and the effects are pretty realistic. Gunshots sound very realistic as well and complement the great action sequences.
One of my major complaints about this game is the artificial intelligence. Much of the time, people in the game can't seem to figure out how to get around obstacles and run in place. Also, the AI characters are very uncoordinated in fights. Conversations between AI characters is canned and unrealistic.
One of this game's selling points is its uniqueness in gameplay. That is, you won't buy this game for the plot because the plot is, frankly, a bit lame. With goals such as cashing your paycheck and buying a carton of milk, there isn't much action.
What makes this game interesting is the brutal violence and gore that is built into it. Sure, you can go through the game without killing anyone or anything. But who would want to do that? You can mercilessly slaughter every character in the game at will.
One of the great things about this game is the weapons. The standby is the shovel, which can be used to decapitate people and then smack their heads around. There is also the gas can and matchbook, which can be used to light the ground or people on fire. Another unique one is the diseased cow head, which will make everyone in the area sick and vomit. Along with these gems are the standard pistol, shotgun, and M16.
The game does a great job of reflecting the absurdity of American culture. There are plenty of rednecks, politically correct protesters, drunks, jihadists, and goths scattered throughout the game. Gary Coleman even makes a guest appearance as a celebrity signing copies of his book. Many of the topics in the game are also controversial or stereotypical.
The game also features a lot of gross things. For example, there is an unzip button that allows you to urinate on whatever you want. If you urinate in other people's faces, they will start vomiting and you can even extinguish yourself if you are on fire by urinating in the air. The ground and even bathrooms are often littered with feces or blood. When you light people on fire, you will see them essentially "cook" and they will eventually fall to the ground and crawl on their charred limbs.
All in all, I found this game enjoyable, but not the same way I enjoyed Half-Life 2, for example. This game is more of a spectacle than a true gaming experience. It is fun to play for a while, but there are too many shortcomings to make it a great game as opposed to a fun game. Hopefully RWS will be able to improve upon this design for the third Postal.