After an ill-advised and fundamentally broken sequel, Postal is back for the first time since 2011. Well, kind of – Running With Scissors has been very clear that Postal 4 is in the earliest of early access, referring to the current version as the "janky alpha build." Still, what we've got is shaping up to be a worthy successor to Postal 2 and a decent little sandbox game in its own right.
Postal 4 ignores the entirety of the previous outing, instead focusing on the fallout of Postal 2's cataclysmic ending. Postal Dude's hometown of Paradise is reduced to irradiated cinders, and the foul-mouthed protagonist is forced to hunt for work in the small town of Edensin. Players are tasked with drawing up a sign asking for a job, then set loose on the unsuspecting masses. From there, one can do whatever they please – although there is a set mission path, should they choose to pursue it.
Postal 2 was a game marketed with the slogan "it's only as violent as you are," and Postal 4 thankfully takes the same approach. Despite having access to a small arsenal of melee weapons and firearms, players don't necessarily have to murder everything on site. They don't even have to engage any attackers. Much like in Postal 2, objectives can be accomplished through non-violent methods, although it's definitely the hardest way to play the game. Postal 2 put players through the wringer when they wanted to do a pacifistic run, and Postal 4 seems willing to do the same.
Should players choose to get violent, though, the combat is decent enough in this alpha build for them to hold their own. While it's tough to call any of it "good," (there's some dodgy hit detection and a lack of basic features), it's functional and a definite improvement over its predecessor. Melee weapons are the most satisfying to use by a country mile, with a nice selection of bladed and blunted options to choose from. Guns will get the job done, but don't feel great to use and lack a certain degree of "oomph."
But again – gunplay is optional. None of the core objectives in the game explicitly require the use of firearms, despite giving players ready access to them. Tasks like keeping a prison riot from getting out of hand and throwing animals into a sketchy "animal control" van don't demand force, nor does fixing up a large sewer map. Yes, the world goes absolutely postal (ha!) on the protagonist, but he doesn't have to respond in kind. That's where the appeal of Postal has always lied: a player attempting to do menial tasks in a world that's clearly losing its grip. Postal 4 seems ready to course-correct the franchise back in that direction, and it's all the better for it.
Which isn't to say there's isn't room for improvement. While pedigreed and beloved VA Jon St. John is an inspired choice as the Postal Dude, the writing hasn't really popped out and made me laugh all that much. There's some clever bawdiness in the signs, and the entire prison guard mission had me cracking up, but the rest of it falls sort of flat. None of it is particularly offensive, so much as it is transfixed with being as goofy as possible. Sometimes that lands, sometimes it doesn't.
What's surprising is that Running With Scissors, a studio historically unafraid from roasting contemporary social climates and political landscapes, is taking what could be called a truly apolitical approach here. After several hours of playing, there's nothing that could be considered even remotely slanted in one political direction or another. The game seems willing to just be raunchy, violent, and dumb, which I appreciate. Usually, developers that go out of their way to do political humor in games do a terrible job, and I'm not entirely sure Postal 4 would end up any differently. If this game continues down the route it's going, I'm all aboard – there's a place for this kind of humor in gaming still, and while not all of it connects, I'm nevertheless happy RWS is keeping the spirit of stuff like Saints Row 2 alive and well.
Postal 4: No Regerts is definitely janky as all get-out. Its writing could use a bit of polish and its gunplay is lacking. What's here, though, is the potential of a sequel to one of the weirdest, wildest sandbox games that's ever come out. Players will find a map full of potential and plenty of fun ready to be had. Postal 4 is a game that isn't trying to offend, so much as it is just trying to be goofy as hell. There's not enough of that out there, and for a little under twenty bucks, I'd say that's worth checking out if you know what you're getting into.
As a fan that spent around 100 or so hours in high school playing Postal 2 and all of its crazy mods, this could be the sequel I've been waiting almost a decade for.