Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse puts you in the decaying shoes of a zombie who is just trying to find his way in life. Having risen from the dead in the 1950s you find that a futuristic city has been built on top of your shallow grave. Instead of welcoming you back into society though, people run screaming from you. Is it your fault that you have an intense hunger for the brains of the living? No. But people just don’t want to understand someone who is different than they are. Soon you fall in love with the beautiful mother of the owner of the city, but before you can express your feelings through the beautiful language of zombie groans, she is carried off. So you set off to find her. And turn as many people into zombies as you can along the way.
The gameplay in Stubbs the Zombie is fairly simplistic. There is only one attack button, which you use to weaken your opponents. Once they’re weak enough you can then hit another button to eat their brains. While eating brains in and of itself is amusing, especially with the funny things that people yell, it serves a far more important purpose. Not only does eating brains restore some of your life, it also turns your enemy into a zombie. These zombies will then wander around on their own, finding other innocent victims to eat and turn into more zombies. You can then shove your zombies in the direction you want them to go, or whistle to them to have them gather around you. It is pretty cool commanding an entire horde of the living dead and making them do your bidding. This is a central tactic in playing the game. If you find that you’re facing overwhelming firepower, you gather as many of your zombie minions together as you can and start shoving them at the enemy. They act as both an ablative shield that draws fire away from you and they can also take out the enemy on their own.
In addition to this, you also have a number of special abilities that you gain as you progress through the game. You start off with a special “gas” attack that disables your opponents and leaves their brains ready for easy devouring. You then get organ grenades, which are powerful but seem to have way to long a fuse. You can detach your hand and use it to possess enemies. This is a lot of fun, and really changes the gameplay around. Instead of being the shambling zombie, you get to become the ray gun wielding scientist or the rocket launcher armed soldier. This is the only way getting a shooting attack in the game, and comes in handy quite often. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t follow your hand, so you’ll find yourself walking through a lot of empty halls to catch up to where your possessed victim was. Your final special attack is the ability to throw your head like a bowling ball and detonating it.
My favorite part of this game is the co-op play. It was a lot more fun playing through the game with a friend in split screen than it was going it alone. This really extended the play time for me. Although there are some technical glitches (two identical Stubbs running around, but only one during the cut scenes) this part of the game was very well done, and is really the best way for it to be played.
I have to admit to being a little disappointed with the story in the game. While the premise is hilarious, you aren’t really given enough story to keep you interested. I just couldn’t empathize with Stubbs as a character. Part of it may be because I didn’t feel connected to his goals and motivations. The game is extremely linear, and I just felt shoved along in the direction I was intended to go without any sort of explanation. I just performed one act after the other for no reason other than it was the next thing put in front of me. Stubbs also never talks. While this is completely appropriate for a zombie, it makes it hard to understand him. He could have at least had some expressive facial expressions or pantomimed some things to help me understand what he’s thinking. I had to play through half of the game before I was given even the slightest inkling of Stubbs history. With such a creative idea behind it I really expected to be pulled into the story, but instead I was just left feeling apathetic towards Stubbs as a character.
Despite this lack, Stubbs the Zombie has some really great moments that will definitely stick out in your mind: the dance contest versus the chief of police, the escape on the back of a sheep, the horrible, horrible way in which Stubbs contaminated the town’s water supply. Ultimately though, Stubbs ends up feeling like a date with a really pretty girl who’s also really boring. The whole time you keep thinking “I should be having more fun than this. I should be having a better time. This should be so great, but it’s not.” It’s disappointing, but that’s the way it is.
But I have learned something. From now on, I vow to be a strong zombie advocate. After all, zombies are people too. They’re just people who want to eat your brains.
I like a wide variety of games. I’m great at action and rpg games. I tend to be too much of a perfectionist with first person shooters and stealth games. I’ll spend 20 minutes in a level, only to reset it the first time a guard sees me. Platformers aren’t really my thing, I think the technology has better things to offer than that now. And I don’t do sports games.
I love games with a good story. I’ll play for hours just trying to get to the next plot twist. In a perfect world, I’d be writing my own video games someday