American developers Running with Scissors decided to take sole responsibility over the Postal franchise after Postal 3 was met with universal disdain. With exclusive control, they felt they could turn things around. Postal 3 was completely retconned out with the Postal 2: Paradise Lost DLC, and Running with Scissors really got down to business when they put Postal 4: No Regerts on Steam Early Access in late 2019. After two years in Early Access, it’s time to see if Running with Scissors’ efforts have paid off.
It’s been years since the events of Postal 2: Paradise Lost. Our hero Postal Dude and his dog Champ have been living their best life until their mobile home is stolen. Now broke and homeless, Postal Dude enters the town of Edensin, Arizona in hopes of finding work and a new roof over his head.
The writing is terrible. It is predictable and stupid. The characters are shallow and completely forgettable. The plot does nothing to draw people in or provides any incentive to care about anyone in the game. I spent the entire time feeling like I was being hauled along for some stranger’s to do list.
Postal’s big draw is supposed to be the controversial humour. Unfortunately, franchise’s reputation far eclipses the actual game’s content. The writers seem content with jumping between one attempt to be edgy to the next. It all falls flat. The writers just lazily use the lowest hanging fruit and sound more like a bunch of teenagers spitting out a word salad of key phrases they think will enrage the social media crowd. The comedy isn’t written intelligently or even that cuttingly for that matter. In the end, it leaves us with a string of toilet humour, bad sex jokes, and a few limp pokes at the social justice crowd that isn’t even worth getting out of bed for. Postal 4 has a lesson for future game developers looking to make controversial humour a selling point: go for the throat with smart, witty writing or don’t bother.
Postal 4’s gameplayis a boring, repetitive mess. All the main missions have the same linear design. Each mission consists of walking from point A to B while doing the same task over and over. If the player is lucky, they may even get a chance to engage in combat at some point.
The AI is brain-dead. They provide no challenge at all, just the odd moments of buggy frustration. The AI is more than happy to stare at a hostile player, run aimlessly into a wall, or spend minutes trying to figure out how to open a door to get to the player. For me, the real kicker is discovering half the human AI have a hard time opening doors, but the rats seem to have no problems with it at all.
The open world level design is a bore. The world feels dead. Buildings feel like they are there to take up space and maybe provide an objective for a future mission. Armies of NPC clones wander aimlessly in the streets. There are supposed to be lots of side activities and collectibles to be found, but the open world doesn’t have enough interesting things to see to motivate players to poke through every back alley in hopes of finding the last stuffed toy. As a result, I found myself hunting down the nearest mobility scooter so I could get to the next main mission as quickly as possible.
The side activities themselves are dull. The bulk of it is finding collectibles. It feels blatantly obvious that the developers were seeking a way to pad the game time versus putting together any meaningful content.
The gun play is extremely disappointing. The weapon handling is unresponsive and sloppy, making players feel like they’re getting into a gun fight while wearing oversized mittens. Animal hit boxes seem wrong, and there are a lot of times where a hit animation plays but nothing appears to happen to the target.
To make matters worse, there are too many weapons for the game’s control scheme. Scrolling through weapons takes forever. While it’s not a normal control scheme for old school FPS like Postal 4, the game would have been better served by using an inventory style hot bar like Minecraft.
Postal 4 is dying for quality-of-life features. The game needs a proper objective tracker on the HUD. The in-game map provides very little useful information and is very basic. Some quest markers are a little off. The map needs more detailed objective markers, and the GPS directions are completely useless half the time. Usually, it directed me through impassable hills instead of pointing me to the road that would actually get me to my destination.
To cap things off, the game is very buggy. I saw everything from a constant stream of visual glitches like floating objects to game breaking issues that locked out all weapons. The game breaking bugs are common enough to be annoying, but not enough to make the game unplayable. I found myself having to reload a save every hour or so.
Postal 4’s visuals makes the game look like a cheap mobile FPS than a $40 USD PC title. The art style has an odd look. I think the art team was shooting for a hybrid cartoon/realism style given the cutscenes’ cartoon look. The game ends up looking more like a 4K remaster of a title from the 2010s than an actual stylistic choice. The awkward animations, lousy models, and lack of visual variety contribute to the cheap, dated look.
The HUD is a clumsy mess. It stacks too many elements on the top right hand side. It takes up way too much space and isn’t easy to use. It could have benefited from simplifying the artwork, using clearer colours, and moving elements closer to the edge of the screen.
The audio experience is the only part of Postal 4 that’s barely passable. A few voice actors, especially the legendary Jon St. John, put on a half decent performance considering the garbage lines they’ve been fed. The soundtrack is forgettable but isn’t offensive either.
The rest of the audio experience is bad. The sound effects are of varying quality. The firearms lack any sort of crispness. They sound like generic sound effects purchased from a variety of bargain bins around the internet due to the lack of cohesiveness. Idle chatter is overplayed, and the volume of the Postal Dude’s lines is too high compared to the rest of the game.
Running with Scissors may have been looking for a clean break from the wreck known as Postal 3, but they delivered another pile of garbage in the form of Postal 4. The writing is flaccid, immature, and just plain lazy. The gameplay is incredibly boring and repetitive. It feels more like a cheaply made mobile FPS churned out for someone’s university project than an actual retail PC game. The audio/visual experience is a disappointment. To add insult to injury, the game is a buggy mess in dire need of quality-of-life features. Running with Scissors should have a lot of regrets about how Postal 4 turned out.
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