Posted October 14, 2019 by Peter in News

Postal 4 – the series returns to push our comfort levels (again)

Postal 4 logo
Postal 4 logo

The Postal series has never shied away from controversy. Postal 1 had the Postal Dude gunning through his local town. Postal 2 is still banned in some countries due to content. Postal 3 was so badly received that its co-publisher (and company behind the rest of the series) Running With Scissors themselves pulled it from sale. And yet…

For all that, it definitely has a loyal fanbase. And with this fanbase firmly in its sights, the release today of Postal 4‘s “pre-beta” steps out wearing its reputation with pride. The political push against Postal 2? Mentioned. Describing Postal 3 as “a dump”? Why not. Offer a trailer which includes the main character urinating? Well, at this point it’s probably not going to lose the people still remaining.

Postal 4 screenWhen I got to speak to Jon Merchant in the lead up to Postal Redux‘s release, I acknowledged that the game made me uncomfortable with its theme of small-town shootings – something that seemed less feasible on the original game’s 1997 release than it does today. But at the same time I cannot shake the feeling that the developers enjoy that sense of discomfort (“RWS develops signature experiences focused more on making people laugh than making sure everyone is comfortable” the press release helpfully fills in).

And for sure, for many there is more of a draw to the game than shock humour and even more shocking violence. Not only is there a streak of satire amongst the more scatological humour, but a goal of not rising to the game’s bait. Jon Merchant pointed out how many players work to get the pacifist achievement in Postal 2 on Steam, not taking the opportunities presented with a cast of characters who all seem to deserve a violent end.

Selling the game as a “pre-beta”, Postal 4 is overtly a work-in-progress, with input from the longtime fans sought to make a new title. I’m not sure I’m entirely convinced how a design-by-democracy approach works, and hope that everything does get given a more focused, creative vision by the design team. But really, to me it’ll be more interesting to see how this unfolds – will we end up being scandalised again? Are we shockable in the same ways as before? Will this be a game that looks backwards at what the community has already enjoyed, or something to provoke a reaction today that will mark a high/low point in a decade-and-a-half (again)?

Postal 4 screenI’ve never quite been at ease with the Postal series, feeling like it is poking away at taboo themes. But this isn’t automatically a bad thing, as this is how we come to terms with what we are comfortable with, in much the same way as a comedian can use humour to test limits. When – or if – the audience laughs, it pushes against those limits and tests how much power they hold in society. We don’t have to be proud of how we react… but there is usually something there to learn.

The Postal series test those sorts of limits and for better and worse provoke reactions. For whatever value they have as games, ultimately they make you feel something, and it’ll be interesting to see if Postal 4 can show us something new in how we react.


Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.