The Postal series of games have been primarily known for the controversy caused by their extreme levels of violence, disregard for graphic content, and exploitation of stereotypes. With the change from the Unreal to the Source engine, Running with Scissors had a chance to take the franchise beyond the simple foundations of bad humor and shocking imagery of past games. Unfortunately, Postal III continues in the tradition of its predecessors by containing generic gameplay, off-color humor, and an assortment of bugs that hinder the overall experience.
Controversy is not a new concept with the history of video games. Most gamers are no longer stunned by increased levels of gore or swearing during gameplay. Thus, a game based primarily on the shock factor of vulgar humor and overly used stereotypes can only be saved with a unique approach to gameplay or well-written and captivating story. From the beginning cutscene to the end credits, Postal III offers more of a challenge with patience than the actual gameplay difficulty.
Gamers will assume the role of quite literally ‘The Postal Dude,’ but for the first time in a third-person perspective. After recently destroying the city of Paradise with a nuclear bomb, the Postal Dude heads to the city of Catharsis in the search to acquire money for a tank of gas. Without any money and stranded in the foreign town, the Dude accepts various missions from a cast of minor celebrities including the appearances of Ron Jeremy, Jennifer Walcott, and even Uwe Boll. Even more odd appearances include Osama bin Laden and a Sarah Palin look-alike with an entourage of angry hockey moms. There is no actual connection between any of these characters or any real attachment to the game series, their simply placed in for the comedic effect. It is with great discomfort to call the assortment of levels in Postal III something that resembles a narrative. To give the developers credit, the narrative includes good and bad paths based upon how the player behaves in missions. The system doesn’t contain the complexity of the Mass Effect series or other similar games that have contained morality systems. There were numerous occasions that due to glitches and an inaccurate aiming system that resulted in accidentally selecting the bad path.
The narrative in Postal III is a combination of uninspired level design, dull characters, and stereotypes that somehow continue to repeat themselves throughout the experience. The only positive point of the game’s narrative is the complete unpredictably from one level to the next. Unfortunately, the surprise of events was quickly replaced with frustrating glitches in the game’s AI and lack of a mini-map. Before beginning each mission, there are screens that explain the objective and mock the game's lack of basic features. The developers thought it might have been ironic to joke about lack of a mini-map, but it doesn’t help when the levels in Postal III are often confusing in layout and include vague directions with little assistance in completing objectives.
The actual gameplay in Postal III can be compared to any other generic third-person shooter on the market. The objectives of each mission will always result in players either running through corridors or searching open areas to eliminate every enemy in the level. The third-person shooter mechanics are quite satisfying due to the array of weapons available during gameplay. From the Schwarzenegger-inspired M60 to a flesh-eating badger, the variety of ways in which to eliminate enemies is one of the few entertaining aspects of the game. Unfortunately, gamers will soon discover that the easiest method to survival in Postal III simply involves the use of the game’s various guns. Melee weapons can be highly entertaining, but offer little assistance against enemies with pistols or rifles.
To make matters worse, Postal III contains a wealth of bugs that can challenge patience and hinder progress in levels. There are a few occasions in levels that require the player to escort AI to safety against the backdrop of enemies. The escort missions rarely failed as the result of the AI being killed, but instead for being stuck in level environments. There were particular escort missions that required the AI to pass through select corridors and would simply stop in their tracks if brought another direction. With the game being built on the Source engine, known for its dependability and extensive compatibility with new and old hardware, Postal III still experienced a few frame rate issues and crashes to the desktop.
The game’s presentation was a mixed experience with its lackluster use of the Source engine and dull voice work from the few characters in the cast. However, there were small areas, such as textures and select music tracks, that aided the pain of drab character models and generic level design. The switch to a third-person perspective was a welcome change in the series that added more personality to the Postal Dude. If only the developers put more care into character models when in dialogue with one another. Characters would literally stand and deliver dialogue lines without so much of a facial expression or arm gesture. When Postal III was originally announced for the Source engine, it was exciting to image the chaotic series being translated onto a platform that allowed for nearly endless potential with unique physics and environment interaction. It is rather unfortunate to see such a waste of potential with a engine known for its innovative and quirky creations.
Postal III is now available for purchase on Steam.