Game Review - Stubbs the Zombie

6364
Genre: Third-Person Action
Format: DVD
Developer: Wideload
Developer: Aspyr Media, Inc.
Minimum System Requirements: Mac OS X v10.3.9, 1.2GHz G4/G5, 256MB RAM, 4.0GB free hard disk space, ATI Radeon 9500 or NVidia GeForce FX5200 with 64MB VRAM, DVD drive
Review Computer: 2GHz 20" iMac, 1GB RAM, 128MB ATI Radeon 9600
Network Feature: No
Price: $34.99
ESRB Rating: M (blood and gore, crude humor, intense violence, mature sexual themes, strong language)
Availability: Now
Official Website: www.stubbsthezombie.com
Demo: macgamefiles.com

Back in the 90s when I was living in New York City, I saw a play called Zombie Prom. It may have been a musical. I can't really remember too much about it, except that the high school was named Enrico Fermi High, and there was one joke that made me laugh:

Man: You never answered my letters.
Woman: You never wrote any.
Man: Oh yeah.

I also remember not much liking the play, mainly because I found the title misleading. If your play's called Zombie Prom, you'd damn well better have a prom full of zombies. I want hundreds of high school kids drinking punch, dancing to bad Billy Idol songs and eating brains. Zombie Prom had just one zombie. One. More brains were eaten at my prom, but you'll have that in rural Ohio.

Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without A Pulse, on the other hand, has tons of zombies. Or, at least as many as you turn into zombies. It also has tons of eaten brains. Or, at least as many as you want to eat. In Stubbs, you see, you're the zombie. You get to do the killing. You get to do the eating. You get to have the fun.

Stubbs the Zombie

Stubbs wasn't always a zombie, of course. In 1933, he was Edward Stubblefield, a traveling salesman murdered and apparently buried under what would become the retro futuristic town of Punchbowl, PA. I say retro futuristic because the game is set in 1959, and it holds true to the 1959 vision of what the future would be: robots, hover cars, doors that open and close automatically with a quick "thhhhp." Why is it the future is never nearly as cool as what we envision it'll be? Here we are in 2006, and I'm still waiting for doors that open and close automatically with a quick "thhhhp!" I need to move to Germany.

Honestly, though, I'm not sure why Stubbs the Zombie is set in the 50s, as I don't recall many zombie movies from that era. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I guess, but as far as I know, zombie movies didn't really take off until Night of the Living Dead in 1968. Still, the 50s setting does provide a good opportunity for some remakes of popular songs from (mostly) that era, featuring bands you've heard of but never really listen to, such as Death Cab for Cutie, Cake, the Dandy Warhols and the Flaming Lips. Phantom Planet has the only original song in the game, but all the tunes are used effectively throughout and are good enough to warrant a release on audio CD. If I'd had this CD when I was in high school, long car trips with my dad would've been much more enjoyable for the both of us.

But back to Stubbs. On the day Punchbowl is opened or unveiled or whatever you do with a new city, Stubbs arises from his grave and pretty quickly sets to eating brains. The benefit to this is that eating the brains of a human turns that human into a zombie, so Stubbs soon finds himself with a mini army of the undead (in gore, no one eats alone), all of whom are happy to take a bullet or twenty for our hero and set out to seek more zombie "converts." In that way, Stubbs isn't a whole lot different from Senator Sam Brownback, Rep. Kansas.

Except that Stubbs is funny. The game is funny. As morbid as it sounds, eating brains can serve as some good, light-hearted fun. Stubbs the Zombie plays up the comedy angle of the violence, not the horror angle, so it all seems about a violent as thumb wrestling. This is also apparent in the choice of weapons presented to Stubbs. There are his teeth, of course, and Stubbs has the ability to commandeer vehicles to make use of their weapons or to run people down. Aside from that, his method of fighting is much more zombie-like. As the game progresses, he learns the use of the Gut Grenade, which is basically him ripping out an organ and throwing it at his enemies. Those hit by the explosion become zombies, allowing Stubbs to create converts from a distance. He can also tear off his own arm, which he throws onto an enemy's head to take control of his body, allowing Stubbs to use the enemy's weapons against his fellow humans. I think I might like to make that a bumper sticker:

Guns Don't Kill People:
Disembodied Zombie Arm Controlled People Kill People

Stubbs the Zombie

Oh, and your own isn't the only arm you can rip off and use as a weapon. Just letting you know.

Finally, your last two weapons are Unholy Flatulence (enough said about that) and your own head, which is explosive when disconnected from your body. Unlike your other explosive organs, however, you can control your head as its rolling around on the floor. And where do you get the power for such weapons? From brains, obviously, which, as far as I know, is the first attempt at explaining why brains are so appealing to zombies. I'd like to believe that when I die and return from the grave for whatever reason, I'd still fancy a nice plate of tortellini alfredo over...well...any organ from a living human.

Stubbs the Zombie is based on a modified version of the Halo graphics engine, which means that about 5% of Macintosh gamers will have a system that can handle it at higher resolutions. Such is the trouble with the recent trend of delivering console games on the computer. If you want the game to look the same on the Mac as it does on Xbox, you'll need a graphics card that costs more than the Xbox. Still, I don't feel this is an unreasonable request. Stubbs the Zombie is obviously a high-end game geared towards hard core gamers, and hard core gamers should have a hard core machine. On my 2GHz iMac, the game played okay at 800x600 resolution with most of the detail options set to low. This is unfortunate, as I get the feeling Stubbs the Zombie would've been a gorgeous game if I could've seen it the way it was meant to be seen. The settings are vast and colorful, and the characters are nicely detailed, but most of you will have to find screen captures to see that.

Stubbs the Zombie

The game is also surprisingly short. Almost as short as this paragraph.

Ultimately, Stubbs fell a bit shy of my expectations. I'm not terribly upset by the high system requirements; I expected them. The level design is interesting and open (so open that it may take you a bit to figure out where to go next), but the action itself tends to get a bit old even within the limited running time of the game. Staggering your exposure to the weapons helps, but the basic strategy remains the same throughout (unlike in most war first-person shooters, for example, where different missions require different methods of execution). The game is amusing, but never laugh-out-loud funny. The soundtrack may be the best I've heard since Redneck Rampage (speaking solely of rock songs, not orchestral scores).

But there are better games out there. For 50s-styled B-movie fun, Otto Matic does a better job capturing the spirit. For gory, violent, "In your face, Senator Brownback" first-person-shooter fun, Postal 2 is going to upset more people. But I'm not saying Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse isn't worth the money. Rather, it's much like a light, 50s B-movie leftover you might find on Saturday afternoon television. You won't regret the time you spent with it, but you probably won't remember it, either.

Much like Zombie Prom.

Applelinks Rating:

Order Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse




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