June 15, 2024
A "Boomer Shooter" taking place in a "Dudescape" inspired by Doom and Quake, does Postal Dude's mind make for a game? The Finger Guns Review:

A “Boomer Shooter” taking place in a “Dudescape” inspired by Doom and Quake, does Postal Dude’s mind make for a game? The Finger Guns Review of Postal: Brain Damaged.

Postal is one of the most easily recognisable names in video game history. Courting a heap of controversy back in the day, it roused the attention of gamers, fearful parents and overbearing law-makers alike. Such was the intensely negative press surrounding the original, it was actually banned in 14 countries and faced waves of anti video game violence protests at its mere existence. Somehow, not only did the original succeed, it spawned further sequels and even a movie tie-in.

Unlike the furor that faced say, Mortal Kombat or Grand Theft Auto when they first journeyed their violent baby steps, Postal hit its frenzied controversy peak with its sequel. Postal 2 introduced the first person perspective, but also had a bit of meta narrative to go along with its heinous action and pixelated orgy of brutal gore. See, the objectives in Postal 2 were all menial odd jobs schmucks like you and me will find ourselves doing every day. Collecting eggs from the store, standing in line at the bank, all the fun stuff. The violence was entirely optional, offering a bit of insight into a player’s mindset conflict of real life vs fictional world. Of course, everyone who played it would be a sociopath – but that’s because you chose to be. So it kinda worked, on a weird, juvenile sort of level.

I never played the previous entries myself, but I watched plenty of commentaries and deep-dives to know that 3 was universally despised, having been outsourced. Which, in and of itself is never usually a good sign. So along comes Postal: Brain Damaged, a spin-off of the original where Postal Dude is left, you guessed it, brain damaged. Gone is the open world structure and meta narrative of the insatiable desires of players to murder everything, in comes linear, structured level design, fast paced action-heavy gameplay and a stratosphere’s worth of awful humour. Let’s dive into this rotten brain stem and see if there’s anything that can be salvaged from its grey matter.

I Like The Cut of Your Gib

Postal: Brain Damaged is a pretty simple concept to grasp. It’s a first-person shooter, emulating the frantic and zippy speed of both Quake and the newer Doom entries. You charge around purposely designed levels, blasting, exploding and peeing on everything in sight. Hell, you can even fire dildos as a makeshift sniper from a bow or propel cats at old, leftist-hating old dudes threatening you with a double-barreled shogun. It’s a wild ride and certainly not one for the faint-hearted, or those who care for offensive, unapologetic humour.

Gameplay wise, it isn’t going to ask a great deal of your hippocampus nor your frontal cortex to navigate your way through its particular blend of gory action. Every level is comprised of finding levers, keycards or some MuGuffin which progresses you through the next doorway or alley. There’s 15 levels of this, with each taking anywhere between 10-30 minutes on your first go, so it can become tiring by the end. Each level is pretty well designed, with plenty of secret areas and collectible posters to hoover up. Puzzles are straightforward and your path forward is usually clear, with a couple of odd bits stumping me for a moment.

It never really tests your critical thinking abilities in the level design, but it absolutely will test both your trigger finger and your patience. Enemies number the 100s for almost every mission, meaning you’ll be desperately scrambling across landscapes firing off rockets, bullets, shells and piss (yes, really) galore behind you as a veritable army of mis-mashed demons attempt to rip you apart. It’s frenetic and probably importantly, pretty damn tough even on normal difficulty.

Some of this difficulty comes from rough design – the burger flinging, obese flying American mascots can seemingly hit you through walls. Illuminati head figures can laser beam you from across the map and without fail, every time you pull a lever or interact with a key item, a mass of dickheads will instantly spawn all around to put you out of your misery. It can feel cheap in places, but when it plays by its own rules the combat can hit that satisfying rhythm of dashing around, trading damage, nabbing a health pickup just before meeting your untimely end.

I felt throughout that it was a knock-off, Aldi own brand version of a Doom or Quake. It pales in comparisons to the titans that came before, but I don’t think Postal: Brain Damaged especially cares. It delivers a rip-roaring time, regardless of whether it’ll steal away your serotonin or overdose you on dopamine. For want of a better phrase, it’s very all-or-nothing.

Gun Goes BLAM

While the gameplay mechanics are competent and decent enough, they fail to live up to its inspirations like Doom or Quake. Weapon variety has always been something the series has coveted, with some… interesting… previous iterations of lethal equipment. To this end, Postal: Brain Damaged comes equipped with a pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, minigun, dildo bow and the cat hoover. No, you’re not reading that wrong. You literally can fire cats at demons and then hoover them back to you, dealing damage to anything they hit on return. A force-propelled cat boomerang.

Now, cat hoover aside, most of the weapons are traditional fare. They all have a special ability, such as the pistol locking on homing bullets, the assault rifle firing time-stopping grenades or the shotgun straight up copy & pasting Doom’s grapple extension. They’re fun enough to mix and match between, which each have a solid amount of weight and punch behind them, but there’s a couple of teething issues. At levels 6 and 11 you get reset to no weapons, which dulls the pace considerably, and when you eventually get hold of the cat hoover, there’s no reason to use anything else. It feels so insanely OP compared to everything else it nullifies the need for the other weapons, with the exception of the Holeyer-Than-Thou grenade launcher.

Throughout the missions, you’ll have to contend with traditional health and armour meters, harkening back to the old days of managing your damage carefully. I gotta admit, I do appreciate this style more than the bloodshot-eyes and hiding behind rocks to magically heal wounds approach of Call of Duty or most modern shooters. Additionally, there’s plenty of special pickups littered throughout the worlds, whether it be running akimbo chainguns, Tabasco bottles to infuse your piss with skin-searing flames or just straight up armour or health. Managing your inventory, ammo counts and abilities carefully is key to succeeding, which adds a nice layer of thought to your endless rampage of destruction.

But what good are devilishly skin-puncturing weapons without snarling, vicious enemies to gun down? None, that’s what. Brain Damaged has a feast of different opponents it’ll throw your way over its many levels, from the walking-stick, shotgun wielding right-wing suburban American Grandads, to aliens, Mexican demon gunslingers sporting sombreros and creepy, sexually-disturbed slug things that crawl about and bite you. They’d make for a strange “year of” photo, let’s put it that way. A couple are again ripped straight out of Doom: floating blob of mass with one eye that spits things at you? Check. Large, overly-inflated body with canons on each hand? Also check. You can interpret it as a nice homage, or see it as creative deficiency, I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

On top of the roster of demon types, there’s 3 main bosses you’ll need to overcome on Postal Dude’s journey. The first is a giant, overweight, handbag-swinging soccer mom Karen. That’s right. Your main antagonist is a manager demanding lady who smacks you about with a designer bag. Nice. You’ll also kill Bad Bad Rona – literally a physical form of coronavirus, complete with mutated eyes. The boss fights sound more exciting and clever than they are, as they really just descend into bullet-sponge foes who play like virtually every other enemy. There’s some amusement from them, but I wouldn’t say they match the quality of other similar titles.

Not For The Feint Of Heart

I think we’ve avoided the preverbal elephant in the room for long enough. There’s simply no way of reviewing a Postal entry without discussing its… unique, shall we say… brand of humour and storytelling. If you’re someone who’s predisposed to offence regarding cultural sensitivity issues, then I don’t really know why you’d be reading this review as you surely must know Postal’s history by now?! Anyway, Postal: Brain Damaged follows in exactly the same vein. Shit and piss jokes, cultural stereotyping, garish “humour” that’s so far on the nose it would make Pinocchio blush.

The “story”, if you can call it that, follows Postal Dude slipping into some kind of coma/mental aberration from which the developers give themselves carte-blanche to be as “random” and “weird” as their hearts content. It justifies why in each of the 3 chapters you’re chasing an image of yourself to reclaim a TV, toilet paper and whatever was going on in the final section. It also justifies why you’ll be traversing a host of varied levels – from creepy mental asylums, South American deserts and alien infested space stations.

Now, the “humour” on offer is low brow at best and kind of shit at worst. Postal Dude recites the same tired quips repeatedly after killing enemies or finishing a task, so despite the voice acting being decent on the returning actor’s part, it just nulls any impact they may first have. In terms of sensitivity of offensiveness, it borders the line between cultural appropriation and just being awfully basic stereotyping. As mentioned before, the desert level has gun slinging cowboys and sombrero wearing dudes. The mental asylum has women trapped in straight jackets who have a nerve-shredding scream. Karen’s, leftists, boomers, almost every current stereotype is made fun of in some way.

In that way, you can see it along the lines of GTA or South Park, where basically the entire humour basis is on making fun of everybody equally. The difference is, those IPs are actually funny. Postal: Brain Damaged uses tired stereotypes and while it’s not outright offensive, it’s just kicking an already dead horse. Having the desert level plastered in “Por Favor” is just low effort. I’m not someone who really gets offended by stuff, but Brain Damaged offends more by how blandly it plays on humour that peaked about 20 years ago and brings little new to the table.

There’s plenty of pop culture references mixed in throughout the experience which is actually pretty cool. The occasional time it lands a joke or nonchalant bit of banter can be amusing, but it never made me laugh or reflect on the stupidity of the stereotypes it uses. Postal Dude’s narration is fine if light and it does provide the freedom for more experimental levels and a greater variety of things to see. I would have preferred for each level or section to have distinct enemy varieties instead of earlier ones getting constantly reused in areas that don’t make sense (i.e why is a feral dog on a space rocket?) but then it’s all a result of a twisted, immature and cognitively wretched mind, so who am I to question it.

Back To The 2000s

Visually, I kind of dig Postal: Brain Damaged. Unlike the humour and some of the combat choices, the graphic style actually feels like a genuine effort to evoke old-school shooters. There’s a mix between high contrast, bright colours and well developed environments, juxtaposed with a pixelated and blurry texture approach across the board. Bullets leave blocky trails, environments are purposely blocky and detail-less. Then there’s the gore. Shotgun a human in the face and bear witness to an eruption of bloody guts, pieces and entrails. Enemies positively explode in a disco-fever of raining bodily organs and pixelated insides. Explosions have a satisfying pop and the way your piss turns clear PS2-era water into a ghastly green overflow of vileness is weirdly impressive.

More importantly, Postal: Brain Damaged runs like an absolute dream. The FPS on my PC was regularly hitting 120-190 frames during gameplay, and about 1900 in cutscenes/the menu, which is frankly ridiculous. I didn’t suffer any glitches (minus the clipping issues with relation to enemy attacks/damage effects) and it never crashed on me, even when hundreds of demons were chewing at Postal Dude’s heels (or balls, probably). It’s a buttery like performance to achieve and is a real credit to how well it’s been developed. Throughout I felt like I was skating through the maps instead of walking, perfectly capturing that rapid movement of Quake or Doom and the framerate achievement goes a long way towards this.

I felt like I’d been transported back to a time of the Goldeneye’s, Time Splitters and the like era, where the focus is on frantic gameplay and a decent backdrop rather than pure spectacle. You can feel this too in the game’s approach to replays. Your timed through each level, with a breakdown at the end showing your completion percentage (how many enemies killed, how quickly, how many collectibles) alongside the “par” time for speed running. It actively encourages you to hop back in, racing through now that you know the layout and enemies, but the gameplay never really captured me enough to want to do so. It’s a nice addition and incentivises longer play, which is needed given it clocks in at around 5-6 hours.

Better To Look Forward

In a nutshell, being transported back 20 years is kind of the whole reason Postal: Brain Damaged exists. It brings back the fun of steroid-speed action gameplay, varied and interesting level design, creative weapons and old-school mechanics like item pickups and powerups. Unfortunately, it also brings back a lot of the now defunct and obsolete habits of the past. Poor humour, repetitive jokes, a non-sensical approach to story, strange hitbox collision causing cheap damage and a short runtime also make their mark. Some of this is subjective – if you find the idea of having your piss set demons on fire hilarious then all power to you, but it didn’t do much for me given it serves no gameplay purpose when blasting the Hell out of them works much better.

Indeed, this game is unapologetically focused on bringing the past back for those who have a hankering for old school gameplay and outdated approach to what constitutes wit. I don’t begrudge nor judge anyone who enjoys it, quite the contrary I think controversial games have been some of the most important for moving the medium forward (as GTA or Mortal Kombat can attest to), but I do wish the development team tried to do more to make the humour actually funny or interesting, rather than just bland stills of what stereotypes used to be considered the norm.

For a Doom or Quake fix, the gameplay should serve more than enough to make it worth checking out. It’s ironic it’s called Brain Damaged, given that this Postal entry will probably cause you the loss of many a brain cell, but if you can look past its issues, it’s got a decent foundation of frenetic shooting and high octane challenge.

By design, Postal: Brain Damaged is a relic of an era that passed about 20 years ago. It captures some of the best of the 2000s through lightning quick, buttery smooth and challenging gameplay, but also soils itself by relying on tired old tropes for comic relief and some rough edges with balancing. Postal Dude has a penchant for pissing himself and this Postal entry unfortunately can’t escape the dregs of his urine, but when did a little pee stop him causing havoc?

Postal: Brain Damaged is available now on PC via Steam.

Developer: Hyperstrange / CreativeForge Games
Publisher: Running With Scissors

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

If you enjoyed this article or any more of our content, please consider our Patreon.

Make sure to follow Finger Guns on our social channels –TwitterFacebookTwitchSpotify or Apple Podcasts – to keep up to date on our news, reviews and features.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.