Love The Stubbs
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Following in the footsteps of Destroy all Humans, Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse turns the tables on the traditional scenario. You're not armed with a shotgun and there are no creepy houses. This time you play the zombie and it's all a cross between a 50s B-movie and a classic Romero zombie fest.
Developed using the Halo engine, hopes were high for this one. And there's nothing like a bit of zombie comedy to lift the gaming spirits.
Edward "Stubbs" Stubblefield was a down-at-heel salesman during the Depression and somehow he ends up as a brain chomping zombie in 1959. In true 50s style the world's richest man has built the City of the Future, which is populated by polite robots and hovercars. Pollution and crime are a thing of the past, but unfortunately the city seems to have a small zombie issue. And this is where our eponymous hero comes in.
It's the grand unveiling of Andrew Monday's City of the Future, Punchbowl, but unfortunately, it's also the day Stubbs raises his ugly head from the grave. The basic aim of the game is to eat as many human brains as possible to fuel your undead rampage through the city.
Eating brains has a two-fold benefit; it charges up Stubbs' strength and powers as well as making zombies of whichever unfortunate he's just devoured. Chow down on enough heads and you'll soon have a small, shambling army of zombies. Although, in true zombie form, I can't vouch for their intelligence and they are liable to get themselves killed in seconds.
Civilians are the easiest fodder and put up little fight, but the police tend to be armed, so you'll need to use a little more skill and strategy to take them down. Sometimes a vigilante civilian will have a pop at you with a crowbar - but to no avail. Generally, once you've got enough zombies on your side, the going is pretty smooth.
Powers at Stubbs' disposal include a detachable hand. Stubbs will rip off his hand and throw it. The hand then takes on a life of its own and can be controlled by the player. Leap onto an unsuspecting human and it will attach itself to their head, possessing their mind and allowing you to control their every move. This is very handy (if you'll excuse the pun) if they happen to have a gun or in later levels a rocket launcher. Make sure Stubbs is safe though because his body can be killed while you're controlling the hand.
His head is also detachable and can be used like a bowling ball of doom. Stubbs will roll his head and foes are toppled like proverbial skittles. This is particularly good when faced with rows of riot police complete with shields.
Rip the arm off a foe and you can use it to club other characters to death. Fortunately, Stubbs can also hurl internal organs at the living. The fetid organs then explode, taking casualties with it. This is only a successful weapon in a very crowded area, otherwise the enemies just run away to avoid the explosion.
Unholy Flatulence unleashes a green cloud, which chokes enemies and incapacitates them, allowing you to devour their brains. This is a good way to increase zombie numbers. You also need to eat brains to keep these powers charged and at your disposal.
The levels are all pretty straight forward and won't offer anything for puzzle fans to get their teeth into. The message is clear: braaaaiins. But the variety of powers at Stubbs' disposal means you can approach each of the varied levels in a cornucopia of ghoulish ways.
The 50s setting is excellent and offers the team great opportunities for pastiche and general humour. One of the levels is set in a lab and yes, the technicians do have ray guns - hoorah! There are barbershop quartets with jetpacks and the prerequisite shopping mall. Plus, my favourite zombie recruits had to be the James Dean-alikes and girls in fifties skirts who scream "I'll never go to college" as you snack on their brain.
The Halo engine is most recognisable once you decide to try and drive a vehicle and it handles like a paper bag. But it has to be said, mowing down hillbillies in a farm vehicle that has been specially adapted to impale all passers-by on pitch-forks is a joy I never thought I'd experience.
Stubbs is a fairly easy romp until you reach the last one or two levels, when the dev team seemed to decide that they need to eke out the action. Now, I'm all for a challenge, but I prefer it to go up in increments, rather than just ramp up all of a sudden. The trouble starts when the army gets involved and suddenly your shambling rag-tag bunch of zombies doesn't cut it against rocket launchers, tanks and snipers.
That said, Stubbs offers up some enjoyable zombie fare and is a welcome break from the survival horror genre that zombies have been pigeon-holed in for far too long, if you ask me. It is also one of the few games that are genuinely funny. True to its Halo origins, NPCs in Stubbs come up with some classic throwaway comments that will have you chuckling to yourself.
The graphics offer a great balance between cartoon styling and attention to detail, conjuring up the era superbly. And the soundtrack is fantastic! Two of my favourite bands are featured, covering 50s classics, namely the Dandy Warhols and The Raveonettes. There's nothing like having brains for breakfast to the saccharine sweet melody of Mr Sandman. Other bands include the Flaming Lips, Cake and Ben Kweller.
Without much story or action to keep you interested, the humour and attention to detail just about sustains you to the very end.
Chella is GiN's UK-based product tester. A self-confessed Cornish pasty addict, Chella is never happier than when she's slacking off to play a five-gem game. : email@example.com.