The Steam page for the open-world first-person shooter Postal 4: No Regerts markets it as: “The long-awaited true sequel to what has been lovingly dubbed ‘The Worst Game Ever’, Postal 2!” If the developer of Running With Scissors’ goal was to live up to this legacy and perhaps even surpass himself, then he succeeded with confidence. Postal 4 is an abysmal video game. It’s stunningly boring, its fight is creepy and lifeless, its humor is hilarious, and it’s plagued by countless technical issues, bugs, and crashes. This is a series that gained traction by courting controversy at a time when bead grips on video game violence were world news. Postal 4 can not even claim to be problematic, as its bloodshed is particularly tame by today’s standards, and all jokes that can be considered offensive are too focused on lazy stereotypes to be considered remarkable.
Postal 4’s basic setup sees Postal Dude return with his loyal dog friend, Champ. After taking a pit stop and forgetting to lock their car, the couple’s vehicle, trailer home and all their earthly belongings are stolen, leaving them stranded on the side of the road with nowhere to call home. Fortunately, the fictional city of Edensin in Arizona is just over the horizon, so the unlikely duo go there in search of employment and their stolen items.
Like previous games in the series, you get a different set of errands to perform every day, from Monday to Friday. These are mostly insignificant tasks such as changing bulbs in the sewer, convincing people to sign a petition and taking on the cloak as a prison guard for the day. Others are a little more unusual, including an errand that requires you to send disillusioned Americans across the Mexican border using a temporary catapult. The one thing that all these goals have in common – and I can not stress that that’s enough – is that they are not fun to engage in in any way, shape or form. This is probably intentional in some cases, but for what purpose? Postal 4 does not offer a satirical critique of capitalism or anything like that; the game is only designed around tediously busy work that proves more effective than any sleeping pill. Eventually, these quirky tasks add up to more and more firefights, whether you get involved in gunfights with border patrol agents or an anti-bidet cult.
Match would add a tinge of excitement if it were not inevitably bad. Enemy AI is the main culprit that prevents Postal 4’s first-person shooting, but it’s far from the only one. Your enemies tend to run towards you in a straight line and suddenly forget that you exist, or clump together in a group, motionless, waiting to be killed. The Postal Dudes’ arsenal consists of a well-known selection of pistols, shotguns and rifles, none of which feel satisfying to use outside the revolver – because it lets you send multiple enemies at once like Overwatch’s Cole Cassidy. All weapon types lack the punch and sense of impact you would expect, which is partly due to the slack sound design, and aiming down at aim points feels way too clumsy and stiff in a way that not many shooters do. The boomerang machete and dueminen are the only weapons that turn away from your bog standard firearms. The former lets you chop off limbs by throwing a machete coming back at you, while the latter unleashes a swarm of pigeons that will tear all nearby enemies apart in a feathery rage. The Fournicator sounds like it might be weird, but it’s basically just a four-barrel shotgun.
In addition to being stupid and directly destroyed at times, the AI also records bullets, making most of the weapons feel decidedly weak. Cannons like the M16 remedy this somewhat, but it’s almost impossible to find ammunition unless the enemies you are fighting with themselves use the same weapon. You can buy ammo in vending machines located around Edensin, but the game does not make it easy to find them. The map in the game is terrible, it is both cumbersome to navigate and lacks relevant information. The vending machines are not located on the map; in fact, the only icons that exist are for stores that often serve no function other than being decorated. It is also rare that you will ever find yourself drowning in cash, so buying a small amount of ammunition will empty your pockets in a hurry.
As a result of all this, I spent most of the game using pistols instead of something more powerful, and the lukewarmness of each handgun is only exacerbated by Postal 4’s habit of artificially inflating the difficulty level by throwing dozens of enemies at you at once . Dying does not matter because you do not lose any progress and can simply run back to where you were after resuscitation, but slowly killing all of the game’s brain dead enemies is still a monotonous task.
Outside of running errands and shooting people, you will spend the rest of your time crossing the city of Edensin. The map is large enough that it takes a while to get everywhere, and Postal 4 ensures that it is purposefully frustrating to get around. You can hop on a scooter to travel a little faster than the postman’s running speed, but finding one is not as easy as you might expect. There are plenty of scooter rental stations scattered around the map, but renting one costs $ 50, which is not a negligible amount of money. Charging for these vehicles is especially creepy when they usually disappear if you go into a scene or leave them alone for too long, so you will spend a lot of your time just trying to find an abandoned scooter, which you can staff for free.
To make matters worse, Postal 4 is riddled with technical issues, especially when crossing the open world. It’s an ugly and dated game, but even on a powerful PC, the frame rate has a hard time keeping up. Fast saving is also a necessity because it constantly goes down to the desktop. Some of these crashes are completely random, but there are others I could easily repeat. An errand, for example, takes place in an amusement park and requires you to disable all of its power boxes. I used the game’s cumbersome platform game to knock them all off without warning the gun-wielding staff, but the last one was located halfway up a roller coaster. I assumed it was the only way to reach it by riding the ‘coaster’, but every time I interacted with the wagon, the game would immediately go down. The same thing happens with the other two roller coasters in the park. Eventually I grabbed the power box, which then warned all the nearby enemies. You can easily complete the game as a pacifist, but it’s hard to do when the non-lethal approach is broken.
The same goes for your aforementioned shift as a prison guard, as you get a relay with an optional non-lethal state if you do not want to kill everyone without thought. I tried to oppress all the prisoners by using this, but at one point it stopped having an effect, forcing me to switch to a deadly option instead.
One of the more frequent problems arises when entering a new area of the open world. There are loading screens between these areas and the game has a habit of placing you inside a mountain as you pass through them. The only way to escape is by reloading a previous checkpoint, but even this does not always work as intended. On several occasions, I gave birth to a ruined version of the world where most of the environment had disappeared. The only thing you can do in this case is to keep reloading until it finally decides to work. Even this may not be enough. At one point, I managed to load back into the game, only to find that I had shrunk down to about two feet tall.
There are many more problems besides these. There was an errand where the game broke down and would not let me pick up a mission-critical item; on several occasions bullets will just stop doing damage; and at one point the game crashed at the end of a level and then locked me inside the closed environment after I reloaded. It’s a mess, and many of these shortcomings have been present throughout Postal 4’s period on Steam Early Access, with no fixes in sight.
According to the developer, a number of changes are being made to improve performance and add features. These range from new masks to some characters and subtitles to different languages, to a physics pass and improved car models. Maybe squashing bugs are on the agenda too, but at this point it’s way too late considering their frequency and severity.
When you do not hit your head on your keyboard because of Postal 4’s countless crashes, you will do so because of its horrible attempts at humor. Here’s a quick look at the main topics that Postal 4 finds funny: deterrence, male and female genitals, sex, animal cruelty, and Mexicans. Now I like dark humor and there is plenty of toilet humor that sources my funny bone, but this is the bottom of the barrel for the lowest common denominator. To give you an example, “It’s a lot of shit,” is the punchline to see a lot of shit. Jeff Goldblum already delivered this joke with better execution 29 years ago.
One errand is about flushing piles of feces away to prevent a group of Mexicans from using them as a secret ingredient in their tacos. Shit with the fact that Mexican food is great, it’s just funny, racist and banal. There’s another gag where some angry white women run over two Mexicans – do you notice a theme here? – in their truck, just so they can attack me while shouting for cultural appropriation. Of course, it’s not enough to evoke a smile, and it’s just downright bad. Most of the humor in Postal 4 would still feel at home in Postal 2, a game released in 2002, and it would not have been fun either.
Even the latest pop culture references in the game are still quite outdated, with nods to people like Breaking Bad, Arrested Development and Twin Peaks. There’s one out of the blue boss fight where you have to kill a Peter Dinklage facsimile that starts by sitting on a Game of Thrones-like throne that is also a toilet. Why Peter Dinklage, you might ask? Probably because it’s easy to change his name to “Tinklage”. That, and the fact that the series has a precedent for making fun of little people. Somewhat surprisingly, the voice acting is mostly pretty decent, especially considering the material the cast has to work with.
Postal 4: No Regerts is devoid of humor and anything close to approaching fun or engaging mechanics. The only things it has in spades are constant technical problems, which only amplify the game’s long checklist of serious shortcomings. Running With Scissors might consider this review a badge of honor, given that the game’s bad is apparently part of the gag, but do not think for a second that Postal 4 touches on “So bad, it’s good at all.” There is nothing redeemable about this game. It is a truly horrible experience that should be avoided at all costs.