Stubbs The Zombie In Rebel Without A Pulse
A Mac Game Review

South Africaby Paul Pregnolato
Posted: 13 November Comments View Comments

Satisfy your inner zombie's craving for B-R-A-I-N-S, find the ghoul of your dreams, and take your revenge on society at large in an ode to gleefully over-the-top carnage and bad taste. Our anti hero feasts on brains, has a real problem with authority, and turns everyone he meets into a zombie - and if that isn't bad enough, he (shock! horror!) even smokes....

Stubbs The Zombie In Rebel Without A PulseZombies have it really tough. Everyone loves vampires... one has only to look at the success of HBO's True Blood as well as Stephanie Meyer's execrable Twilight series of books. Zombies (on the other hand) have been getting the short end of the stick from George Romero's genre-defining Night Of The Living Dead through to the merciless lampooning in Shaun Of The Dead. Let's face it though: zombies are incoherent, feast on brains, aren't particularly photogenic and (to top it all) have appalling dress-sense. As far as gaming goes, zombies have been staple cannon fodder since the first installment of Resident Evil and we've since encountered Nazi zombies (Call Of Duty: World At War), Satanically-possessed zombies (Doom 3) and even interstellar zombies (Dead Space). However, Aspyr's 2005 game Stubbs The Zombie In Rebel Without A Pulse turned the genre on its head by reversing the roles and casting the player as the game's eponymous brain-eating, cigarette-smoking anti-hero.

In Stubbs The Zombie, you are Edward "Stubbs" Stubblefield, a down-on-his-luck Depression-era travelling salesman who was murdered and buried in a (then) vacant plot in Pennsylvania. Fast forward 25 years and a futuristic city called Punchbowl has been built on top of his mortal remains. Brainchild (no pun intended) of Andrew Monday, a Thomas Edison-type genius, Punchbowl is a blend of modern technology and high living: everyone is well mannered and kind - imagine an entire city populated with clones of the Ned Flanders character from The Simpsons - and it is full of hi-tech flying-cars and robots reminiscent of The Jetsons. In short, it is a modern Utopia... that is until a re-animated Stubbs shambles into town both for a bite to eat and to find the girl (or should that be ghoul?) of his dreams. What follows is carnage on a massive scale, as Stubbs exacts his revenge on society. The game's tagline is "Destroy Civilization One Brain At A Time" and Stubbs tries his utmost in a revoltingly funny over-the-top caper executed in gleefully bad taste.

I installed the Mac OS X version of the game, which is also available for Windows and the Xbox, on a 1.8 GHz iMac G5 running Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" with 2 GB RAM and an nVidia GeForce FX5200 graphics card. While the machine's specs were marginally above the minimum system requirements, it managed to run the game quite comfortably at 1024x768 resolution and any Windows-based PC or Mac made after late 2005 should have no problem running it. Installation was straightforward: drag the Stubbs The Zombie folder from the installer DVD-ROM to your hard drive and you are done; to uninstall, simply drag it to the Trash. You will, however, have to keep the DVD in your optical drive to play the game, which I found extremely annoying.

Stubbs The Zombie In Rebel Without A PulseTechnology wise, Stubbs The Zombie isn't particularly innovative as it is nothing more than a glorified beat 'em up that has been grafted onto Bungie's Halo game engine. Where it does shine, however, is its role reversal: instead of mowing down hordes of the undead, you are the zombie and you are responsible for creating your own "army of the undead" to wreak havoc upon humanity. Everyone you kill is zombiefied (as are their subsequent victims) and it is only a matter of time before Punchbowl is overrun by your legion of the damned. Unfortunately your zombie cohorts are neither particularly smart nor responsive and getting them to follow your commands is akin to herding cats; if anything, their main function is to sow chaos and destruction and serve as convenient cannon fodder while Stubbs hunts down those responsible for murdering him a quarter of a century earlier.

Some of the scenes involving Stubbs and his minions are genuinely very funny. However, in one instance, Stubbs gives a pep talk to his horde in a direct homage to George C Scott's performance in Patton - except the only word he can say with any degree of coherence is "B-RA-I-N-S" - while in another moment he has a Thriller-type dance-off against the midget Chief of Police. The game also boasts a truly bizarre ensemble of supporting characters, namely Otis Monday (a conspiracy theorist in charge of the "Quaker Street Irregulars" militia), Maggie Monday (a white-trash trailer-park girl made good and Stubbs' paramour), Hermann Wye (a former Nazi scientist), Cletus (a chainsaw-wielding hillbilly), Mister Skegness (a possible relative of "Fat Bastard" from Austin Powers) and (finally) the deadliest Barbershop Quartet in gaming history.

Fans of FPS (first-person shooter) games may be disappointed in the limited selection of weapons that Stubbs can wield but it is these weapons that make Stubbs The Zombie such a laugh fest as you take on Punchbowl's inhabitants using (literally) nothing more than your rotting carcass. First up is "Unholy Flatulence", which incapacitates your victims and is accompanied by the appropriate sound effects as well as suitably outraged comments from bystanders ("Shouldn't you vary your diet?!" being a personal favourite). Others include a remotely-detonated "Gut Grenade" harvested from Stubbs' pancreas, and his head can be removed and used as a sputum-spewing bowling-ball-type bomb. The main weapon in his armoury (excuse the pun) is a detachable hand - not unlike Thing from The Addams Family - that allows you to "possess" Stubbs' enemies and make them do your bidding. This is especially useful when the US Army (with tanks and crew-served weaponry in tow) eventually intervenes to stamp out your minions.

Stubbs The Zombie In Rebel Without A PulseThe game's Halo roots are also strongly evident throughout the game. The controls and menus closely resemble those of Halo and you can also use a wide variety of vehicles - from hover cars and Jeeps to the "Sod-O-Mobile" - conveniently scattered throughout Punchbowl; anyone who has driven a Warthog in Halo will feel right at home driving these as well. There are also some good variations in the game's environment, with some levels (such as Punchbowl itself) being very well designed; unfortunately some (such as the Greenhouse) are very repetitive and a number of these levels are extensively recycled towards the end of the game, as was the case in Halo.

In terms of graphics, the game is cast in a grainy haze reminiscent of a bad copy of Reefer Madness and while the graphics still hold up well today, the cinematics show off a distinct lack of detail in the characters, although this could have been deliberately done to keep the game true to the dated and simplistic quality one would expect from a 1950's B-movie.

The sound and weapons effects are - by themselves - average but the zombies' moaning and screaming (not to mention the sounds of your zombie squad being blown apart or feeding on brains) sets the game apart. Stubbs The Zombie is also unique in that it has a killer soundtrack, featuring covers of popular 1950's songs, such as The Penguin's Earth Angel, The Drifter's There Goes My Baby and The Chardelles' Mr Sandman, by modern alt-rock/indie groups such as The Dandy Warhols, The Flaming Lips, and Death Cab for Cutie. After watching the trailer included on the game's DVD-ROM you'll regard The Chordette's Lollilpop in a whole new light!

Given that the game is unapologetically blood-soaked and peppered with fart jokes, crude language, and excessive violence, it is hardly surprising that Stubbs The Zombie received a Mature 17+ rating from the ESRB in the US, while the National Institute Of Media And The Family's 2005 MediaWise Report Card Buying Guide , also from the US, included the game on a list of games to avoid buying for children. Be that as it may, the violence is often so over the top that it verges on parody and I couldn't help but laugh out loud at times. The brain-eating animations are pretty bloody but the comments made by some of Stubbs' victims are priceless, such as a hapless scientist complaining that "This was never in the training video!" after Stubbs rips off his arm and starts battering him with it. Ribald humour aside, this game is definitely not for small children.

Stubbs The Zombie In Rebel Without A PulseIf there is a major shortcoming of Stubbs The Zombie, it must be its brevity; an accomplished gamer can easily shamble through the game's dozen levels in about six to eight hours, while casual gamers can probably complete it in a weekend. This will no doubt cause a furore amongst hard-core gamers but one cannot fault the game's designers given the subject matter. While they could have padded out the game with half a dozen extra levels, there are only so many ways you can chomp your way through Punchbowl's citizens before the novelty wears off. The linear storyline and the absence of any alternate completion methods also weigh heavily against a longer game (not to mention replay value), and the abbreviated nature of Stubbs The Zombie is a somewhat bitter pill to swallow. However, it does have the advantage of being an old game – it was released four years ago this month – so you should be able to obtain a cheap copy without too much effort on sites such as eBay and Gumtree.

Despite these misgivings, Stubbs The Zombie will nonetheless appeal to any gamer with a morbid sense of humour. The (admittedly) simple plot and tongue-in-cheek comedy combine to produce a strangely twisted and at the same time addictive gaming experience that is worth adding to your gaming collection. OpinionShare/Bookmark
Rating: 7/10
The game is unique in that you play as the zombie and slaughter humans by the dozen instead of the other way round. The retro 1950's feel is well executed with lots of "technology" that many imagined would be in widespread use by the 21st century - such as hover cars and jetpacks - being present throughout the game. Stubbs' unique "weapons" as well as the bizarre ensemble of characters, ribald cartoon-like violence, and the warped sense of humour that permeate the game must unfortunately be set off against the fact that the game is pretty short and occasionally repetitive.
Graphics: 6/10
The graphics are above average but at the same time nothing really spectacular, although this could have been done deliberately to fit in with the retro 1950's feel of the game as well as act as an homage to the grainy B-movie horror films of that era.
Gameplay/Mechanics/Controls: 7/10
The controls are typical of those found in FPS games and rookie gamers will have no problem mastering them. Stubbs' "weapons" are limited in number but very easy to use bar his detachable hand - "possessing" someone with it initially requires some degree of skill.
Sound/Music: 8/10
The sound effects are run-of-the mill, but the background music - which comprises modern remakes of 1950's rock 'n' roll and soul standards - is one of the best I've ever heard and is even available as a stand-alone CD.
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3/10
The unique gameplay, morbid sense of humour, hilariously over-the-top carnage, and great soundtrack make Stubbs The Zombie one of the more entertaining titles you'll encounter... where else is giving off more gas than a bean-eating contest one way to incapacitate your enemies? However, while fun to play the first time round, the linear storyline and the absence of an alternative completion method means there is very little replayability. You could always attempt to replay the game on a harder setting, but there is little reason to do so.
Originality: 6/10
You get to play as the zombie for a change but once you look past the (admittedly unique) zombie "weapons" and munching on brains, there isn't much here that even casual gamers wouldn't have seen before.

Key Facts
Year: 2005
Genre(s): action, adventure, third-person shooter
System Requirements: Mac (Power PC Only):
  Operating System: Mac OS X 10.3.9 (10.4.2 recommended)
  Processor: PowerPC G4/G5 1.2 GHz (1.5GHz recommended)
  Memory: 256 MB or higher (512 MB recommended)
  Hard Disk Space: 4.0 GB free disk space
  Video Card (ATI): Radeon 9500
  Video Card (NVidia): GeForce FX5200
  Video Memory (VRAM): 64 MB or higher
  Media Required: DVD Drive
    Click here for PC and Xbox system requirements.
Developer: Wideload Studios
Publisher: Aspyr Media

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