|Publisher: Aspyr Media Genre: Action|
|Min OS X: 10.3 CPU: G4 @ 1200 MHz RAM: 256 MB Hard Disk: 4000 MB DVD-ROM Graphics: 64 MB VRAM|
For many of you, the gigantic number projected in bold at the top of every game review is the first thing that catches your eye, and for good reason. The overall score that a game receives is a good indication of a game's overall quality. As a strictly mathematical average of a game's major attributes—gameplay, graphics, sound, and value—it's an easy way to gauge whether or not a particular game is worth your time, and more importantly, your money.
Unfortunately, our current rating system is flawed. You see, the problem is that some games are far more than the sum of their parts. Some games may have graphics that look like a kindergarten art show or repetitive music that would wilt the ears right off a donkey, but somehow, they still manage to crush the latest FPS with its über-graphics and techno-thriller soundtrack in the one category that truly counts: fun.
Unfortunately, our current system doesn't allow us to rate games on their subjective "fun factor." Stubbs the Zombie, for all of its minor flaws (which you can read about below), is one of the most fun games to hit the Mac or PC platforms in a long time. While our current, purely mathematical system gives Stubbs an overall score of 7.25, it is my opinion as the reviewer that Stubbs definitely deserves an overall score of 8.00 for its outstanding fun factor.
Few subjects have ever been as exhaustively covered in the entertainment industry as much as zombies. Through hundreds of movies and books, the subject of zombies has been recycled to the point where most people automatically associate the word "zombie" with "slow, mindless, brain-munching machine." As cannon fodder, zombies have served us well over the years, but surprisingly, no one has ever thought to take this tired subject and spin it on its head to allow us to experience the world from the eyes of the undead. Therefore, it seems appropriate that a rogue portion of the original Bungie creative team—Wideload Games—would be the ones to present the world with Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse, a wildly entertaining game that proves that you can have no brains and eat them too.
GameplaySeverely stretched clichés aside, Stubbs the Zombie provides players with a memorable brain-munching adventure that is long on action and laughs, but is pathetically brief. Players assume the role of Edward "Stubbs" Stubblefield, a traveling salesman who was murdered in Pennsylvania and buried in 1933 under the future site of Punchbowl, PA. Funded by billionaire industrialist Andrew Monday, Punchbowl brings the sterile 1950's vision of utopia to life in a faintly sinister manner. On the opening day of Punchbowl in 1959, Stubbs reemerges into the middle of this unfamiliar world, and quickly commences doing what zombies do best: eating brains.
Once Stubbs returns from the dead, players will initially have to survive without any of Stubbs' special zombie abilities, but not to worry—it's exceptionally hard to kill something that's already dead. As a zombie, your primary objective is to eat brains: lots of them. Fortunately, if there's one thing that zombies do particularly well, it's eating brains. This is good news for you, because battering Punchbowl's inhabitants and snacking on their brains is not only gruesome good fun, it's often downright hilarious—especially when bystanders are present. Citizens who turn around only to see their best friend's grey matter spewing about will react by running away screaming, attacking Stubbs, or even becoming nauseous. All of this chaos is not without purpose, however. Brains are an essential part of the action; they help restore your health and regenerate special abilities. In an ingenious twist, once dead, your victims will join your side as lesser zombies—accompanying you on your illustrious quest and, more importantly, functioning as a key gameplay element. Players can let Stubbs' minions wander about eating brains as they see fit, or they can direct them by either shoving them in the right direction or whistling to them. While these individual zombies are much less resilient than Stubbs, in large numbers they can give clever players a crucial edge against overwhelming odds by functioning both as a distraction and as a roving meat shield as the player flanks the enemy and annihilates them from the rear.
As the game progresses, Stubbs will encounter more and more opponents—some of which may be heavily armed, armored, or both. Many of these armored opponents cannot be "de-brained" or possessed due to their bulletproof helmets, but this problem presents Stubbs with the singular opportunity to rip one of their arms off instead—prompting such memorable lines like, "Aieeee! How will I juggle?" Adding insult to injury, Stubbs can proceed to use said appendage to batter his or her former pals into a soggy pulp. As if that wasn't enough, Stubbs gains four immensely useful special abilities over the course of the game. The most frequently used of these is called the "Gut Grenade," which essentially involves Stubbs casually removing an organ from his body with a wet "sluuurp" and chucking it at his foes. Anything caught in the blast will rise again as a zombie, making this attack an extremely effective way to turn the tables against an otherwise unmanageable cluster of foes. Another indispensable weapon is Stubbs' arm. Since zombies are quite strong and apparently feel no pain, Stubbs has no problem ripping one of his arms off, which he can use ("The Thing" from the Adams Family comes to mind) to control the majority of characters he encounters. This becomes extremely helpful when you face the US Army later in the game, since Stubbs cannot handle enemies' weapons himself (though he certainly manages to drive all manner of vehicles). The last two special abilities: "Unholy Flatulence"—a fart with such a monstrous stench that it incapacitates opponents—and Stubbs' very own head—which is used as a sort of remote-controlled explosive bowling ball—are also useful, but limited in effectiveness. In order to use and replenish these abilities, Stubbs needs to consume brains. Certain attacks, like the Gut Grenade, are not very costly, but more powerful attacks such as the "Unholy Flatulence" are difficult to restock and have to be conserved carefully.
In case you missed the discussions about Stubbs during the game's development, Stubbs the Zombie is built on an upgraded Halo engine. While Stubbs clearly looks a world apart from Halo, many of Halo's most clever gameplay elements, such as regenerating health, bouncy vehicle physics, and powerful (yet convenient) grenade attacks have been preserved. One regrettable carryover from Halo has survived, however. If you didn't like the running speed in Halo, Stubbs will make you grind your teeth in agony. While zombies have always been portrayed as slow moving, it's unfortunate that Wideload took this aspect of zombie physiology so seriously. To seasoned Unreal Tournament players, Stubbs moves like a stoned glacier; in fact, it's often difficult to catch fleeing enemies without taking a pounding in the process. To be fair, Stubbs does break into a sort of a "zombie trot" after moving in one direction for five seconds, but that wait seems about four seconds too long when you're trying navigate one of Stubbs the Zombie's huge environments. Including a "run key" like so many other games would have been an easy way to avoid such a problem, but it's probably too late to change that now.
In all, Stubbs the Zombie's gameplay is hilarious, gruesome, and most importantly, fun. It's extremely difficult to describe the locales that Stubbs travels to in his adventures without giving away any of the game's many surprises, but I can say that the missions in Stubbs are fairly diverse, taking the player all around Punchbowl and the surrounding area and back again for a bizarre but satisfying finale. Once again, without spoiling the surprise, there are many objectives, locations, and cutscenes scattered throughout Stubbs that are extremely creative (or simply hilarious). Players should find themselves fully engaged in Stubbs from start to finish.