Like GTA, when the graphics weren't realistic due to technology, the original Postal was written off as a joke and not even the Daily Mail was as annoyed as usual. It did however, sell well enough for Running With Scissors to program a sequel in full 3D, which you see here.

This time round, the action's divided into several mundane, dull tasks given to The Postal Dude (that's you) spread over the course of a week. You can get on with completing them, and take in some of the sights along the way. Essentially, that's it. If it were that simple however, it would just be the worst Unreal Engine-powered total conversion you'd ever seen- but there's more to it.

Aside from the ability to whip out any weapon from shovel up to assault rifle for no reason, everyone in the town of Paradise, Arizona can “go postal” any time, for any reason, and it's your choice whether to reply with lethal force or not. There's no need to fire back at bank robbers for example, and there's one sub-mission where by default you'll be caught up in the violence and be on the run from the police, whether you like it or not (when playing on the Very Hard skill level), so the developer's claim that you never need to fire a single shot is economical with the truth.

What may make you go postal are the slowcoach loading times between sections, not helped by the fact that to go to church, for example, involves going through two sets of tunnels. So you're looking at four separate loads to get around the same small town and that's enough to make you interminably bored, so torching the residents with petrol or Molotov cocktails does become relief from the dullness of waiting for sections to load. It doesn't help when the computer cheats- you need three headshots from a handgun to take down anyone attacking you and armed enemies rarely miss. The poor scripting makes you stand in exactly the right place when trying to hand over cash otherwise there's no reaction and you waste a lot of time trying to complete your objective- before it randomly and magically wakes up.

Verdict

So forget the controversy the game tries to scare up; With Grand Theft Auto 3 there's a game behind the Daily Mail-baiting content to actually enjoy. With Postal 2 there isn't. It's The Sims with automatic weapons, longer load times and worse graphics. If you still like looking up four-letter words in the dictionary then this may appeal to you; otherwise it's the worst game of the year so far. If you're a pirate, I'd save your CD-R, or the electricity and bandwidth in downloading it.

Like Devastation before it, this engine-wrecking piece of crap has since had a patch to try and address the loading times and every other fault save the gameplay itself. Unfortunately that can't be saved. There's also the multiplayer add-on Share The Pain- the perfect title, since playing against real people may let you get together and lament the money you've wasted.