First there was Postal, the gritty and dark top-down shooter about a man going on a killing spree. Then there was the tongue-in-cheek sequel, which had you completing mundane tasks in a chaotic town where things always seemed to go wrong. Postal III existed, but it’s better to pretend otherwise. For the longest while, indie developers Running With Scissors had very little to say about a new entry in the series until recently. From out of nowhere, Postal 4: No Regerts (yes, that’s the title) appeared… albeit in a very, very incomplete state via Steam Early Access. It’s not all bad news, and the future of the title is far from hopeless.
The eponymous Postal Dude just can’t seem to catch a break, but hey, at least we’ve got a good-lookin’, hand-drawn opening cutscene just for the occasion. During a road trip with his canine buddy Champ, the Dude gets his car and trailer nicked. With little money, he sets off to the oddly-named town of Edensin in hopes of scraping together some cash. One can only hope we see more of these in the full version, as they’re a great watch.
The developers weren’t joking when they said it was a “janky alpha build”, which was thoughtfully plopped in the top-corner of the screen during gameplay. Running in the Unreal 4 Engine, the game isn’t much of a looker. There’s missing textures, absent lighting effects, and some iffy particle effects to behold, plus it’s difficult to maintain a stable framerate at times (at least with my specs, but it miraculously never crashed, only jittering and pausing throughout most of it). Mind you, it’s not like the previous 3D Postal games were ever visual masterpieces. At least some of the weapon models and animations look better than before. It’s still missing some important features like manual saves, customizable controls and other stuff.
As unstable as the gameplay is, at least it feels reminiscent to the second game. After arriving in town and visiting the job center, you’ll be given three different jobs for the day to be, which can be completed in any order. One task has you catching cats and luring dogs to a van with a hungry bloke inside, which isn’t too strenuous. There’s a bit of fun to be had unclogging pipes and platforming across a sea of waste to fix pipes in the sewers, though swapping lightbulbs in a maze-like area is mind-numbingly boring and not that challenging. Finally, while guarding the prison requires a fair bit of backtracking and memorizing codes, there’s still some enjoyment to be had from splattering escaped prisoners.
Even though you can only play the first day, there’s nothing stopping you from freely roaming the environment. It’s pretty big, and doesn’t even have loading screens to slow you down (barring the ones you enter in order to complete said jobs). Most homes and buildings can be broken into, some of which contain some useful loot inside. There’s the added bonus of being able to ride disability scooters around to save you time, and while they’re prone to flopping around if you go too far off the road, it’s a better option than merely running.
There’s a slew of old and new weapons and items to get your hands on. Like before, you can use a pistol, assault rifle, spade, shotgun, etc. Some of the new inclusions are a vomit-spewing water gun and caged pigeons, which break out and peck people to death after being thrown. A lot of them are really effective and satisfying to use, especially the new, eccentric additions. You can expect the usual health items power-ups that slow down time and double your attack power. The AI will likely react accordingly to your antics, either by running away or attacking you in self-defense, though they can be a bit braindead at times. Even then, it’s safe to say that messing around and picking fights with everyone is still surprisingly fun, even in its incomplete state.
Postal Dude’s got himself a new voice too, none other than Jon St. John, best known as the voice of Duke Nukem. It’s a little odd to hear at first, especially for longtime fans, but chances are you’ll warm up to it pretty quickly, thanks to some of the hilarious quips he’ll exclaim. Some of the old civilian dialogue and miscellaneous SFX are retained from game no. 2, though there’s still some funny interactions and jokes to be found as you progress.
It may be held together by tape and gum, but you can’t deny that this is definitely a Postal game in spirit and a taste of promising things to come, even if it’s not even 5% completed. Postal 4 is, in ways, emulating Postal 2 while bringing with it a few slice-of-life improvements and nifty weapons. Postal fans will likely want to swipe it up straight away to support the devs, and there’s nothing wrong with that, so long as you know what you’re getting into. The team’s been working on updates and patches since release, and even have a flow chart on the content that they’ll be implementing in the coming months. Even if you decide to stick to the other Postal games (except the third) until many more patches are rolled out (can’t say I blame you, if you do), there’s still some mischievous joy to be had here, if you’re patient enough.