Of all the jokes in Postal III, there's one that just about works. It's near the beginning, which is cruel, creating as it does the impression that there might be more jokes to come.
You work in a porn shop, hoovering up the tissues of masturbating patrons. It's invaded by Palin-esque hockey moms, so you flip from suck to blow, and so pelt the moral guardians with fresh fapkins. It's not fun to play, for reasons we'll come to. But there's a certain, undignified satisfaction in it.
Suck and blow. These are two things that Postal III will continue to do for some hours. It's a shooter, and a 'crazy' one at that. You'll be battling Mexican Japanese chefs for the rights to the town's FIV-infected cats. You'll deliver exploding dicks to a salad bar for Osama Bin Laden. This is how Postal III works best: single sentence summaries. But if the going exchange rate is a thousand words to paint a single picture, you can see how one sentence might not stretch to an entire videogame level.
It's like someone has learned the vocabulary of shock – AIDS, hobo, piss, Bin Laden – but never bothered picking up the grammar. It makes the Uwe Boll movie, in which Mini-Me is sex-attacked by monkeys, seem positively nuanced. This is the first videogame franchise to embrace a Uwe Boll movie as canon. That tells you something about Postal III's level of ambition.
Postal III cashes-in the open world of its predecessor for a matted clump of short corridors. There are no secret corners, because the game has nothing to hide. The enemy AI will ignore you, raise its guns before deciding to strafe harmlessly away, and when those arthritic subroutines recognise the Postal Dude as someone worth shooting, bullets barely scratch you.
That's not to say the game isn't difficult. It is. It is difficult, because it crashes so regularly. It's difficult because you never know who's got a Molotov because there are so few character models. Some missions lack checkpoints, some have doublymoronic friendly AI to escort. Others simply throw 20 enemies at you at once. This last tactic, incidently, can be overcome by retreating around a corner and killing them as they conga into view.
One mission asks you to drop dolls off at Krotchy's Salad Bar. Can't find it? They didn't say, but it's in the mall. Oh, you tried the mall? Well, they didn't say, but you trigger the mall-entering cutscene by driving into the Segway shop on the road opposite. If Postal is supposed to be the story of a simple man driven to violence because his simple life has been made unbearable by idiots, then perhaps this whole game has a sophisticated existential point.
Probably not, though. Postal III's lack of self-awareness is most agonisingly evident when it tries to be self-aware. “The physics in GTA are better,” says Postal Dude, regularly. Really? You're going to get rid of your open world, and still go there? Postal III winks at the player, but it's hard to see when it's repeatedly punching you in the face.
The open-world missions that unlock upon completion give some clue to the developers' unrealised ambitions. Just buy Postal 2 on Gog. com. It's got everything Postal 3 has, plus an open world, 20% better jokes and Gary Coleman. And to anyone who thinks Bin Laden is edgy, insight-free gay jokes are hilariously un-PC, or that a badger melee weapon is rib-ticklingly surreal, please consider donating your organs to someone who'll use them.