|Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse (2005)
Available for: Xbox
It’s always more fun to play as the bad guy, and Aspyr’s latest release, “Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse,” is no exception. Modeled much in the same way as Pandemic’s early summer hit “Destroy all Humans,” “Stubbs” replaces the alien with a zombie, maintains the 50’s-style backdrop, and cranks the humor level up to eleven to create one of the more surprising and original games of the year. There’s nothing like watching a zombie perform a “Patton”-esque pep talk to an army of the undead, especially considering the only thing you can understand is “braaaiiins....” Still, Stubbs the Zombie is a pretty chill dude – save for the whole brain-eating habit, but what’s a dead guy to do?
Styled after a third-person shooter, “Stubbs” drops the player into the futuristic wonderland of Punchbowl, Pennsylvania where you immediately start cracking open some skulls and sucking out the delicious brain matter inside. This in turn creates a nice little army of zombie friends for you play with, and/or use as a shield as you make your way around town destroying everyone in your path. You don’t have too much control over the other zombies, but you can push them around and whistle them in your direction. What else do you expect from a bunch of brain dead sleepwalkers? And we all know that a hefty diet of human brains doesn’t sit well in the stomach, so it’s not surprising that one of Stubbs’ special attacks is Unholy Flatulence, a putrid fart that renders your enemies useless for a few seconds.
Other special attacks that you’ll earn over the course of the game include a Gut Grenade (more specifically your pancreas, which you can manually trigger by pressing the L-button), a Sputum Head (which allows you to remove your head and roll it at your enemies like a bowling ball, thus turning anyone it passes into a zombie), and the ultimate skill: Possession. Possession can be accomplished by removing your hand and stealthily maneuvering it close enough for it to jump on the back of your enemy’s head. By doing so, you lose complete control of Stubbs, but gain the nice little advantage of surprising your other enemies with whatever weapon the possessed is carrying.
The biggest disappointment of the game – and the reason why this can be only classified as a good game, and a not a great one – is the fact that the gameplay is really shallow. An average gamer will have no trouble plowing through the Normal story mode in under eight hours, and while there are two more difficulty settings and a two-player co-op mode, you’re more likely to be sick of the tedious gameplay than to jump at the chance of playing this again. That being said, “Stubbs the Zombie” is perhaps the most entertaining rental game you’ll play all year, complete with a rocking soundtrack comprised of modern acts (i.e. Death Cab for Cutie, Oranger) covering classic 50’s hits.