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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Aspyr

 

Developer

Wideload Games

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

November 21, 2005

 

 

- Great soundtrack

- A macabre sense of fun

- Creative zombie powers

- Evenly-spaced checkpoint saves

 

 

- Shambling speed takes some getting used to

- Great soundtrack is not used enough

- It's over pretty quick

 

 

Review: Resident Evil 4 (GC)

Review: Resident Evil Zero (GC)

Review: Halo (XB)

Review: Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (PC)

 

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Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse

Score: 8.4 / 10

 

Stubbs the Zombie is one of a few games at E3 2005 that really stood out for me.  It demonstrated originality and a strangely likeable zombie hero.  No after chewing my way through the completed game, I like Stubbs even more.

 

You are Stubbs – awoken on the opening celebrations for the city of the future (today!) Punchbowl.  It’s not clear why Stubbs climbs out of the ground at this particular time but one thing’s for sure: he’s hungry.  And it so happens that like so many zombies before him, his preferred food is the soft supple human brain.  As Stubbs shambles across the landscape he’ll chow down on brains pretty much continuously until the final credits roll.  Doing so helps keep his extra zombie powers topped-up and ready to unleash when he really needs them.

 

stubbs the zombie review          stubbs the zombie review

 

Most times Stubbs can simply walk up to a victim and wail on him or her until they drop (only to rise up as a zombie a few moments later) but when it comes right down to it sometimes that’s just not enough.  Stubbs can snap his head off and use it to bowl over humans and even make it explode; he can reach into his exposed abdominal cavity and hurl a “gut grenade”; and maybe most impressive, he can fart a gaseous ring of unholy flatulence that temporarily stuns most human so Stubbs (and his zombie horde) can eat their brains to refill all the special abilities.  Stubbs can also take control of humans directly by maneuvering his detached right hand into “possession” distance then latching onto their head.  The feature of this move is that Stubbs then has the remote ability to shoot unsuspecting humans if the possessed subject has a firearm.  The zombie allies can be ordered around to a 

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very limited extent – pushing them toward humans or whistling to gather them.  Also available are a few vehicles, including a tractor with some very sharp farm implements attached to the scoop and a hovering manure shooter.  Stubbs needs this formidable arsenal because the main disadvantage to being a zombie is the distinct lack of speed – one of the townsfolk shouts, “They’re shambling this way!” – which makes Stubbs an easy target for the living, particularly anyone with a chainsaw.

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This fact brings to light Stubb’s biggest aggravation.  Lurching along from place to place takes forever.  I learned early on to live with this limitation.  After all, when was the last time you saw zombies sprint anywhere?  It will surely irritate some.  (Stubbs does sort of run after holding down the forward button for a few seconds but it’s hardly a turbo boost.)

 

The second biggest aggravation is the lack of direction.  The most direction offered is a trio of small green arrows as Stubbs approaches the exit to each area.  The game offers snippet cutscenes to push the story along but even I would have appreciated some kind of clearly labeled mission goal.  This can conveniently be written off again as consistent with the zombie lore that Stubbs sticks to – you’re a zombie, you eat brains, that’s what you’re life is all about, so what else should you be expecting?

 

Stubbs the Zombie oozes a great sense of style.  Punchbowl is a ‘50s version of a futuristic city complete with hovering cars and an array of helpful robots and it all looks great.  To give the visual style greater impact Stubbs the Zombie features the best soundtrack this year.  It’s a compilation of ’50s “pop” tunes that have been given updates, like Mr. Sandman, and the way they’re integrated into the story – including an amusing Thriller-like dance off – makes sense.  My complaint is that the tunes seem to be underutilized.  This must have been a deliberate decision because my first purchase after completing Stubbs the Zombie was the soundtrack.  Other audio of note is the one-liners of your human enemies that change up just enough to prevent that “How many times am I going to hear this?” feeling.  And the sound effects to accompany the zombies… better than anything else available.

 

stubbs the zombie review          stubbs the zombie review

 

It’s amazing to me that Stubbs the Zombie actually manages to maintain a light sense of humor throughout the gory action. (Stubbs really does earn it’s “M” rating.)  The scene that made me laugh uncontrollably for about five minutes was a very amorous gas station robot topping up a car’s gas tank.  It’s wacky and I like that.  There are also great nods to zombie flicks that will surely please fans of that particular film genre, like when Stubbs stalks through a field of corn attacking members of a backwoods militia that believe Stubbs’s appearance has something to do with a vast Communist plot.

 

As Stubbs the Zombie runs on the Halo engine progress is saved via a checkpoint save system which works extremely well at not forcing Stubbs to re-cross vast expanses in search of the next checkpoint because they’re spaced evenly.  The only “downside” is that you’ll probably finish the game relatively quickly if you consume the game with great big mouthfuls instead of nibbling here and there.

 

Does Stubbs the Zombie reinvent the action genre?  No but it does reinvent the zombie genre – showing how the undead live – and it’s a fun game filled with a great sense of style and features the best soundtrack this year.  Good clean, brain-eating fun!

 

- Omni

(November 23, 2005)

 

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