Continue the Dude’s errands into the weekend, and the end of the world.
PC Release: August 1, 2004
By Ian Coppock
How do you properly conclude a game like Postal 2? This gory errand simulator, fraught with extreme racism and violence, was condemned by parents and critics worldwide for its controversial content. And yet, the boys at Running with Scissors furthered their creation. Apocalypse Weekend is more than just an expansion; I think it represents the single point that Postal 2‘s creators and its critics can agree upon: the town of Paradise needs to die. It’s an interesting sendoff for the series, and when you’ve spent eight hours killing Al Qaeda, soccer moms, and men in giant scrotum costumes, what harm could there be in adding a few zombies?
Apocalypse Weekend is the story of the Dude’s Saturday and Sunday exploits. After failing to secure his wife’s Rocky Road ice cream at the end of Postal 2, the Dude wakes up in the hospital on Saturday morning with a gunshot wound to the head. His wife has left him, his dog Champ is in the pound, and he can hear screams outside his window.
The only Get Better cards he seems to have received are eviction notices. This day is not looking great.
After battling through two parts hospital and one part hallucinations of Gary Coleman clones, the Dude breaks back out into Paradise, which has become overrun by mad cow disease Tourette’s zombies.
Yup. Zombies that moo, and spout horrendous streams of swearwords.
The Dude picks up a scythe and begins chopping, but the horde continues to shamble forth, adding sufferers of mental disorders to Running with Scissors’ offense roster. His skill earns him a job with an in-game rendition of Running with Scissors and its real-life studio head, Vince Desi, who promotes the Dude to marketing manager and tasks him with promoting Scissors’ upcoming video game… even though the world’s ending.
Because, y’know, nothing says prep for the apocalypse like starting up a marketing campaign.
Once again, the Dude is given a series of missions to complete, but rather than mundane chores like in Postal 2, Apocalypse Weekend‘s fare comprises much more alarming tasks, like securing a nuclear warhead and exterminating a herd of cows. In stark opposition to the previous game’s open-world structure, in which players can complete chores in any order, Apocalypse Weekend is organized into a series of linear missions. It’s quite the change-up.
For those of you just joining my Postal 2 train, the original game is considered highly controversial because of its racist and violent content. You spend the first game battling stereotyped caricatures of Arab terrorists, women and racial minorities. You can very bloodily disembowel people with everything from scissors to exploding cow heads. You can smoke crack and even urinate on people until they vomit. It’s not exactly subtle.
All of this returns in Apocalypse Weekend, but it is toned down a bit in favor of focusing on an actual narrative. That doesn’t necessarily excuse its presence, nor Running With Scissors’ addition of animal rights groups and the gay community to its list of degraded portrayals.
As with Postal 2, your focus is almost exclusively on completing your missions in violent and outrageous style. The Dude is once again not much of a character, more like a set of eyes with some ridiculous one-liners and no shortage of foul language. The plot of Apocalypse Weekend is sabotaged by its random assortment of missions. After storming an Al Qaeda base for weapons and explosives, I was randomly dropped into a park and ordered to slaughter an entire herd of elephants. This quest had absolutely no bearing on the greater story, and you’ll find tangents like that throughout Apocalypse Weekend.
I firmly believe that the content of Postal 2 was created simply to shock, and not because of any actual malice on the part of Running with Scissors. Apocalypse Weekend offers no dystopian commentary or societal undertones, though; it’s like an episode of South Park with all the stupidity and none of the underlying commentary. This belief is epitomized in the animal slaughtering missions, which I found to be the most pointless and tasteless of all of Postal 2‘s content. There’s no potential for social commentary in killing elephants; at least the Al Qaeda missions hint at America’s Islamophobia problem.
Any potential for the irony ruminating beneath the town of Paradise is dashed by the ludicrous presence of a zombie apocalypse. As the game reaches a fever pitch, Paradise becomes a five-way war between Al Qaeda, zombies, the National Guard, PETA, and an army of Gary Coleman clones from Hell. Perhaps it’s equally ludicrous to call Postal 2 subtle even in a commentary sense, but this expansion is even worse. It’s pure violence and hatred.
On a game design and storytelling level, there’s not much to be said for Apocalypse Weekend. Your missions feel completely disjointed from one another and the jokes don’t exactly mesh well with the serious linearity of the missions. The humor in Postal 2 was rooted in the triviality of doing everyday chores. Running with Scissors tried to apply that to a military zombie apocalypse shooter, with mixed results.
Apocalypse Weekend isn’t a terrible expansion, but it fails to conjure perhaps Postal 2‘s only redeeming quality: the social commentary underlying the town of Paradise and its deranged inhabitants. Without that commentary, it’s just a string of poop jokes and violence. The portrait of American greed and materialism present in the original game just isn’t here, and thus the expansion tries to rely on the Dude’s shallow strength as a character and some head-shaking shoot-em-ups. It didn’t work for me.
Apocalypse Weekend receives a graphical update and some new items over the main game. The level design isn’t horrible, but it’s clear that Running with Scissors is better at open-world environments than linear ones. Oftentimes I got lost in mazelike office complexes and cordoned-off town squares, looking for an exit rather clumsily slapped into a basement or on a roof. Linearity doesn’t exactly suit Postal 2.
The atmosphere of fear and loathing present in Postal 2 is also gone in Apocalypse Weekend. I don’t need to rehash the social commentary thing, but its absence seems to have affected this game in multiple ways. The missions feel very tired, isolated and repetitive. Sure, there’s humor to be found in each one, but it’s just not the same.
Apocalypse Weekend is rolled together with Postal 2 on Steam. I gave that game a yes-and-no based on its horrendous violence and interesting commentary, but this expansion only really packs the latter. You can give it a try if you want; it takes about three hours to complete. I did it. I looked around. I probably won’t visit it ever again.
You can buy Postal 2 here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.