had its share of problems, but one of the major ones was a complete lack of multiplayer. This didn't hurt other open-ended, over-the-top action games like Grand Theft Auto 3
, but that was mostly because GTA3
was a shiny game experience all by itself. Postal 2
, however, featured poor AI, too much running around, debilitating performance issues, long load times, and a few other things. Share the Pain
reduces the load time issue, but everything else is pretty much unchanged.
In addition to multiplayer, Share the Pain load times have been squeezed down to about 15-20 seconds per level on a mid-range system. If you like to wander around and take your time doing all kinds of horrible things to people, then it's not much of an issue. But if you're objective-oriented and want to get directly to your next task, it is a bit less painful this time around. STP also added a couple extra areas and a new missile launcher, and a couple extra difficulty levels, but it's still Postal 2 at its core. If you liked the first one, you'll like these new additions, as the Tora Bora area is quite large and fairly well-designed, although when you're done you have to go all the way back through it to get to town. The new weapon, "Weapon of Mass Destruction," is a missile launcher that creates an explosion of toxic gas, spreading in the same manner as fire, and it seems to smolder on a corpse indefinitely. This combination quickly creates a field of dead bodies, which you may find cool or unsettling, depending on your tastes.
Performance still lags sometimes, though, even on a high-end system with a P4 3.0GHz, 1GB of RAM and a Radeon 9800 XT. You can scale down the view distance, the number of people and corpses, and decals (bullet holes and other damage), but when you really wreak some havoc, things will start to chug to the point of unusability. You can use the Performance Wizard to optimize your settings, but it's not a complete solution. Besides, who wants to turn off something as important-sounding as "World Detail"? Plus, it was impossible to successfully set hardware accelerated audio. One on machine, changing the setting killed all audio, and on another rig, changing this setting caused my computer to spontaneously reboot.
But let's talk about the core of the new experience here, the multiplayer. It's provided in-game through GameSpy Arcade, and the server listing is fairly fast, but the first thing you'll notice is that hardly anyone is playing the game. What you'll notice next is that you can't organize servers by population. After that, you'll notice that the game type isn't listed. It's like going back in time to the dawn of online gaming. You'd think they'd be able to whip up something more robust in the 9 months or so since the release of Postal 2. (The level of server information has been addressed in a patch, in addition to a few miscellaneous glitches, but our policy is to review the out-of-the-box version of the game.)
Issues like this can be overlooked if the actual gameplay is engrossing and fun. Yet the style-over-substance theme that pervaded in Postal 2 carries over at full strength. You can choose some varied skins including a priest, fundamentalist Muslim, ATF officer, leather fetishist like the Gimp in Pulp Fiction, and Gary Coleman. There aren't any female skins, but I can't see this game appealing to the girl gamer segment anyway. Maybe it's just me. But a big problem here is that the Gary Coleman model is about half the size of the others, so almost everyone uses it in deathmatch and team deathmatch since he's a much smaller target. Again, I find myself wondering if Running With Scissors was paying much attention to such details in other multiplayer games. You just don't put in models that are significantly smaller or harder to see, or else that success depends more on appearance than skill. No fun for the skilled player when he's surrounded by darting children-sized people. > But you know, that wouldn't be so bad if there weren't some other fundamental problems, mostly regarding explosives. You have grenades, Molotov cocktails, missile launchers, and the cow head, which leaves a long-lasting cloud of noxious fumes. These items appear to be absolutely everywhere. Plus, grenades can be used as mines. Just drop them on the ground using the right-click mouse button, and they will only blow up when an enemy walks over them. So multiplayer matches were an exercise in staying alive, rather than killing. Passages from one end of the map to the other would be lined with grenades like bread crumbs, making these tunnels and canyons effectively useless. People spammed all over the place with Molotov cocktails and scissors, which bounce back and forth from wall to wall like the Ripper in Unreal Tournament (the game engine of which Postal 2 is based on, though the MP code was apparently left behind).
So you have landmines everywhere, Molotov cocktails setting you on fire (to be put out by pissing on your own face), and then bunnyhopping--making it near-impossible to draw a bead on somebody, what with the ground being littered with their mine grenades, your surroundings bursting into flames, and swarms of Gary Coleman clones taking pot shots at you as well. Sounds like something out of a drug-induced nightmare, doesn't it? Makes it difficult to care that RWS took the time to add body armor art to each model.
Also, there isn't much game mode variety. There's Snatch, which seems to have been changed to "Grudge Match," but it's just standard CTF at its core, with the maps usually too large to support the number of players. There's also deathmatch and team deathmatch, but those aren't compelling without good gameplay to go with it. There's also Grab Mode, where you run around trying to be the first to collect ten bags, each of which makes you stronger, but when you create a game style that increasing rewards talent like this, it just accelerates the gap between good players and everyone else, with frustrating results.
Lastly, there was significant lag, even with low reported ping and a corporate-level connection on this end. It was impossible to successfully negotiate simple hallways and aim at enemies that were almost right in front of me when the connection performance got bad enough.
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