XBOX REVIEW: STUBBS THE ZOMBIE in REBEL WITHOUT A PULSE

If you're looking for mindless entertainment, you had better look elsewhere. This game requires brains, and lots of them.

Stubbs the Zombie is after brains. He needs to feed, and brains agree with him indeed. His insatiable appetite for human sustenance drives the gameplay in this farcical, fifties, horror, sci-fi action game. It's what you might imagine would happen in an episode of Leave it to Beaver if it was directed by Quentin Tarentino. A bustling, upper middle class town with pipe smoking fathers on their way home from work bedecked in snappy hats is suddenly invaded by a ghoulish creature that looks as though he once belonged in that sterile suburban environment.

Presented in a comic-book fashion, Stubbs is full of humor, albeit dark humor. It's interesting to take the role of a zombie just to see life on the other side. The only frustrating thing is that zombies don't move very fast. Moving around is like trying to run in quicksand, although you can speed up your pace after you've been trudging along for a while. It the same as building up a rage meter.

The object of the game is to kill as many people as possible. Not all of them are a walk in the park. They will put up a fight before they begrudgingly offer their tasty grey matter for your culinary delight. Army men are armed and will take shots at you. These guys aren't so easily taken out. You have to make sure you don't use too much force and kill your prey before you devour their brains while at the same time you have to make sure they are sufficiently stunned so they don't continue to put up a fight.

To this end you will have various weapons and techniques that you can employ including the ability to take off your head and roll it like a bowling ball in hopes of having it explode near your enemy. You can also stun your prey by farting. Your fart will have a wide effective radius that is good when surrounded by enemies. You can rip off an enemy's limb and use it to beat him about the head, rendering him unconscious. Or you can throw your hand and use it to run amok like a drone from the mothership. A camera displays the hand's perspective as you get it to do your bidding. It's particularly effective against an enemy with a gun.

Vehicles can be used but they don't respond very well to the control system. Jeeps, sod launchers and trucks are available. At the very least you can use them to get to a location faster than walking at zombie speed.

Enemies that succumb to your feasting eventually become zombies and like baby chicks that attach themselves to the first thing they see when they're born, follow you around as you assume the role of leader. You can issue the odd command and make some noises to grab their attention but for the most part they will wander around and take care of themselves. As the enemies you encounter become more powerful and sophisticated, your zombie mob will begin to dwindle as they come under fire.

Not only can't you walk fast, but the enemy can retreat making it almost impossible for you to catch up until that speed walking feature kicks in. Before it does you could find yourself filled full of lead by soldiers that are backtracking while continuing to fire at you. Fortunately there is an auto save that will let you learn from your mistakes without having to go back to the beginning of a mission.

The best aspect of the game is the two-player co-op mode. It's so much more fun to play this game with another person. The single-player mode is fun and it's a blast to uncover the cutscenes and dialog but it does become redundant. You will see the same textures and backgrounds appear over and over like you're in a Hanna Barbara cartoon. There are some mini-games such as a dance-off that break things up a bit but you'll hardly notice any imperfections during the co-op mode.

I really like the look and feel of the 50s-style setting. All of the homes, characters and objects are retro. An adult would think nothing of this game but I can imagine a young child having nightmares for years after watching some of the content. The innocent people scream for their lives as they become zombie chow and the crystal clear squishy sounds of the brains begin ingested would be enough to make even me sick - and you should see what I eat.

Stubb's the Zombie is not only an original and fun romp but it's easy to pick up and play regardless of your lack of skills. You know a zombie game is good when you're playing it days after Halloween and it still is "fresh". Hobble your way to the nearest game store and use your brain....and buy Stubbs!

Preview By Devin

Do you ever get the feeling that zombies are given a bad rap? After all, they're deteriorating, they walk with the fluidity of my grandma, they're the living dead. Zombies are only trying to make their way in this crazy world, just like you and me. All they want is a good, nourishing meal of human brains. And if their rotted carcasses and lack of communication skills aren't enough, the poor creatures are being hunted by girls with shotguns and all other sorts of anti-zombie folk, like the military. However, zombies now have someone to look up to. Someone who will fight for zombie equality and someone who will make sure a good meal is in the belly of every zombie around, providing you still have a belly. That someone is Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without A Pulse!

Wideload Games is taking a very brave step in their first project; a 3rd person action game where you are the zombie. No more running and gunning your way through the maze of walking cadavers; you are given complete control of your very own zombie. This may not sound so hot at first since zombie lore has the creatures trotting around like a 5 foot Gollum, which happens to be the case with this game. Nevertheless, the fun comes in the animalistic nature that we all possess, which still lurks in the minds of zombies, feeding. Stubbs goes around eating the brains of his victims, which will cause his recent meal to come back to life as a zombie. Hey, now you have a buddy! What is really cool about this is the fact that the new zombie will go about their own zombie business, eating brains! There can be anywhere from 5 up to 20 zombie "allies" on screen.

Recent game play videos show that Stubbs can whistle at his unearthed companions and they will follow his lead. Oh, but devouring the gray matter of civilians isn't the last straw. Stubbs comes equipped with exploding guts which you can toss at people, a head that doubles as a bowling ball and a detachable hand that can not only go places you can't but can also take over any victim you want! This will add a subterfuge feeling to the game as you can use your host as a shield and any weapons he or she may have equipped. Mmmmm, human slaves to do my bidding right before I feed!

The graphics look to be nice and crisp. Wideload has garnered the help of the Halo engine. However, the lighting in the game seemed a bit too dark, and too much of the horror feel can be a bad thing. How are you supposed to kill if you can't see? The music in the game shouldn't disappoint with tracks from Ben Kweller, The Flamings Lips, Phantom Planet and Cake. Well, unless of course you don't like those kinds of bands, in which case we can turn the music slider down all together. Stubbs will give you enough blood, guts and brain eating excitement to tide over the palate of Hannibal Lechter. It is about time we have a zombie hero, and actually playing the zombie is going to be one of the most unique experiences in gaming history. So keep your eyes peeled for its Summer 2005 release and feel the hunger, for braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaains!

Story:

In 1933, Edward "Stubbs" Stubblefield was just another traveling salesman trying to get by during the Great Depression. His lifelong losing streak reached its logical conclusion when he was brutally murdered and ignominiously buried in a remote Pennsylvania field.

Now it’s 1959. Billionaire playboy industrialist Andrew Monday has constructed a monument to his own ego: Punchbowl, Pennsylvania, a technology-driven City of the Future to which the world will look for guidance. Unfortunately, Punchbowl (motto: "Drink your fill of the Future?") is built atop the same stretch of land where Stubbs was buried all those years ago. When he crawls out of his grave during Punchbowl’s opening day celebration, Stubbs doesn’t know who killed him or why he’s returned. All he knows is that this strange city of towering buildings, bright lights, and incredible machines wasn’t here before...and that eating somebody’s brains would make him feel better.

In death, Stubbs has finally achieved the success and power he never had in life - and he sees no reason to stop until all of Punchbowl is his. Of course, Andrew Monday has other ideas. The tension mounts until the city explodes in a full-scale human vs. zombie war.

System: X
Dev: Wideload
Pub: Aspyr
Release: Oct 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review By Cole
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
4.0
CONTROL
4.0
MUSIC/FX
4.0
VALUE
3.0