Trying something new is probably a rare topic for developer meetings; this industry is so large now that most companies cannot afford to take a risk on new properties. Sure zombies are a viable commodity in gaming, just look at Resident Evil, but have you ever had the opportunity to play as one? Thankfully the boys at Wideload Games are willing to take a chance, introducing Stubbs The Zombie. A game where eating brains and tossing appendages at people are no longer frowned upon. So join me now as we take a wild ride on the undead side of gaming.
Stubbs was actually born Edward “Stubbs” Stubblefield and grew up to be a traveling salesman. He even managed to obtain his own business by the year 1933, but Stubbs was know for having bad luck his whole life. This luck ran all the way up until his untimely death by a shotgun blast to the abdomen, and then to add to his luck he was buried in his assailant’s yard in an unmarked grave. Fortunately for Stubbs he will get a chance to act his revenge, the year is 1959 and the town of Punchbowl is thriving. The town is years ahead of the rest of the world with robots and even hover cars, and now an undead traveling salesman looking for a little retribution for his early demise. The story will take you in a journey filled with excellent writing and great humor that really gives Stubbs great presentation.
To those uninformed Stubbs is actually built off of the famous Halo engine, in fact almost all of the menus and options are identical to the Bungie shooter. The difference here, of course is that you play from a third person perspective. Stubbs controls excellent, as you would expect from any game being powered by the flagship Xbox title, and the layout is simple and easy to pick up and play.
The premise is sort of a mix between Freedom Fighters and a Zombie movie. You spend most of the game eating brains, but whenever you partake in these cerebral appetizers your victims become your legions. You can have them follow you and even shove them towards other enemies. You have to remember that they are zombies so do not expect them to run and hide for cover, only basic instincts apply here, but you can mass quite the army of undead to wreak havoc about the city.
You will also acquire special powers as you progress, these range from the simple fart bomb which incapacitates all surrounding enemies for you to feast upon their cranial cavity, to the more sophisticated severed possession arm. This is a very innovative weapon as you can simply detach your arm and send it off to possess the living. Take control of cops to fire off rounds at their fellow law enforcers, or simply use it to open doors that you normally could not pass through. You even manage to rescue yourself from captivity early in the game with this crucial power.
There are of course other powers in the game such as the bowling ball head which allows players to periodically detach poor Stubbs’ head and wing it at unsuspecting foes. If that is not to your liking you can always grab some of your entrails and lob them at large crowds, did I mention you can also detonate these with gaseous effect? There are lots of things to spice up the game play, but it can still become repetitious at times. Controlling your minions is more of a chore than it should be and the mindless feasting on human brains can tend to wear on you after a few hours. There are a few breaks in the monotony though such as driving vehicles and of course the infamous dance scene with the Chief of Police. While entertaining, you will still find yourself growing tired of the mass consumption of gray matter after a while. There is a co-op mode which is a nice feature, but we would have love to seen some Xbox Live support.
Visually Stubbs does not disappoint great animation and smooth textures round out the impressive visual package. The game uses a grain filter to give the appearance of an old 50’s movie and the environments are spot on. Using the impressive Halo engine to render this game really gave the team at Wideload the ability to craft some truly stunning visuals. There is some clipping from time to time, but overall the game is about as polished as you would expect from a title this late in the console cycle.
One of the best features of Stubbs is the soundtrack. There are a ton of classic 50’s tunes remade by new artists. Hearing classic such as “Mr. Sandman” and “My Boyfriend’s Back” really set the mood. The voice overs stray more towards the side of ridiculous, but in the overall scheme they do fit the mood and style of the game. Effects are also top notch, hearing someone skull crack open has never sounded better and more disgusting at the same time. Ripping flesh will give you nightmares and make you wonder how the developers managed to get it to sound so real.
When the day is done and Stubbs finally packs it in what will the industry think? To be honest I believe this title will be another niche Xbox title that amasses low-key popularity among the hardcore. While certainly not the best title in its library Stubbs does bring some needed diversity to the FPS driven XB lineup this fall. I recommend giving this game a go if you are a fan of zombie movies and simplistic action games. Stubbs does a lot of great things, but at the end of the day you will grow tired of eating brains.