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Review: 'Postal 2' more offensive than fun

By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service

A scene from Postal 2.
A scene from Postal 2.

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Marc Saltzman, a freelance technology journalist whose reviews also appear on the Gannett News Service.

Parents, politicians and religious leaders who say Rockstar Games' best-selling "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" video game crosses lines of decency and good taste with excessive violence, sex and drugs will be just as unhappy, if not more so, with "Postal 2."

It makes "Vice City" look like a Disney cartoon.

Controversy is the name of the game in "Postal 2." It's shocking and offensive, but not much else.

"Postal 2" offends many groups because of its disturbing content. For example, police officers can be decapitated with shovels, some arcade games in Paradise include slurs against gays and lesbians, Middle Eastern men are shown perusing bomb-making and terrorism books at the library (before opening fire with a machine gun), and the lead character can unzip his pants and mark his territory on just about anything.

Similar to its 1997 predecessor "Postal," this sequel places the player in the shoes of a "Postal Dude" who is pushed too far and inevitably resorts to shooting everyone in sight. To be fair, the game's developer (aptly named Running With Scissors) says "Postal 2" can be completed without pulling a trigger, but this means running away every time a gunfight breaks out, which is unlikely and would make the game dull.

"Postal 2" is played from a first-person perspective. Players walk around the fictional 3-D town of Paradise, Arizona, completing menial tasks before losing it and going "postal." These tasks include picking up a paycheck at work (only to learn you've been fired), dealing with an annoying teller at the bank and waiting in line to buy milk for your trailer park. And that's just on the first day.

Other tasks include being treated for a sexually transmitted disease, returning an overdue book to the library and getting an autograph from child star Gary Coleman, who makes a forgettable cameo in the game.

Eventually, weapons are drawn and "Postal 2" turns into a traditional 3-D shooter, where the goal is to kill or be killed. Other than exploring to find secret areas and power-ups, the gameplay is typical of every other shoot-em-up out there.

If the controversial content isn't enough to turn off players, the game's annoying technical problems will. The length and frequency of load times between levels is the biggest problem. For example, players have sit through about four progress bars just walk between the their former company and the bank -- and the two locations are only a couple of blocks apart. This seriously detracts from the pacing of the game. The game was tested on three different computers but the technical problems persisted.

If sales of "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" are any indication, many adult gamers probably would concede that there's nothing wrong with a little violence, sex or profanity in a video game. But when a title is built on a foundation of discrimination and political incorrectness, it has a problem and "Postal 2" simply goes too far, too often, and offers little else.

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