Jeremy Jastrzab
04 Dec, 2005

Stubbs the Zombie in "Rebel without a Pulse" Review

Xbox Review | Being the living dead isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Ever since the inception of 3-D gaming, survival-horror gaming has placed the player in the shoes of some unsuspecting protagonist and in most case put them up against hordes of undead zombies. From mansions to schools to ships, virtually every scenario imaginable has been covered. Except that until now, no game has actually let you play as the zombies. Stubbs the Zombie in “Rebel without a Pulse” looks to change this as Stubbs, the zombie, looks to reap revenge on those who left him with that gaping hole in his stomach and tries to give you some laughs along the way. However, is the idea of actually playing as a zombie genius or should this idea have remained buried?

Edward “Stubbs” Stubblefield is a traveling (and struggling) salesman from 1933. One day, his droll existence comes to a sudden halt and is buried in a remote field in Pennsylvania. Fast-forward to 1959 and this little patch of Pennsylvania has been transformed and built into the city of the future, Punchbowl. This is the brain-child of Billionaire playboy industrialist Andrew Monday and it’s a place that is purely driven by extremely futuristic technology. So basically you’ve got many service robots and hovering cars. Incidentally, on the day that Punchbowl is meant to open to the world, Stubbs gets his second chance at life (kind of) and is set to make the most of it. He doesn’t know why he’s back or how he ended up like this but for some reason, chomping on brains makes him feel better. So with his zombie army, Stubbs is set to take over Punchbowl and see what got him into this mess in the first place.

The story is serviceable because it tries to hard to deliver too many things but ends up short and shallow. At least it does it with quite a bit of clever and clichéd humour. It really is at it’s best when it’s trying to be funny and there are quite a few laugh-out-loud moments. The humour is the main thing that drives the game because the story itself is shallow and clichéd. There are some terrible moments where a sequence will be taking place and the player will be ruing how painfully obvious and overused some of these sequences are. The story also tries to cram in a few too many sub-plots with no success or substance. It manages to work off the humour, some very clever and well-written dialogue and 1950’s innuendo. Otherwise, the rest is negligible.

Let it rip!

Let it rip!
Through the whole game you take control of Stubbs the Zombie. As a zombie, the main thing that you’re trying to achieve in this game is to eat as many brains as you come across, create a zombie army and go from point A to point B. Eating brains is simple enough, hobble up to a living person and press Y to watch Stubbs gorge on an unsuspecting civilians gooey head contents. Not all people will take lightly to having their heads cracked open so you’ll need to beat them down with either X or the R-trigger. Civilians don’t require any beating and the living range from farmers to scientists to police to soldiers to the Punchbowl elite-guard, all of which require more beating as you progress. Beating isn’t particularly exciting as it is a mere flail of the arms but Stubbs tries to be a bit more than a one trick pony.

You’ve got four zombie moves at your disposal that you’ll earn through the first half of the game. The first is a zombie gas-release (fart) that debilitates anyone in the certain radius, leaving them open for a brain consumption. Stubbs has a gaping hole in the left side of his stomach and he can reach in and pull out an organ and toss it at enemies. This basically acts like a sticky grenade the will kill anyone in range of the explosion and convert as well. The most unique ability is to use your hand as a “spy-gadget” by tossing it against a wall and using it to scope out the area. It can also be used to possess an enemy with a gun and use him for some clean-up. The final ability is one where Stubbs can rip off his head and toss it like a bowling bowl. On command you can blow it up and wipe out a large area of enemies.

These abilities are certainly unique and are useful in many situations but they don’t boil down to being essential outside some of the boss battles. They each have their own little icon on the side of the screen and will deplete each time you use an ability. Refilling is as simple as munching on a brain, though some abilities require several before they’re back up to speed. Given that you’re going to convert hordes of zombies and that they’re all on your side, you have a few basic commands to help you marshal them around. You can push them in a direction that you want them to go or whistle for them so that they follow you. These are amusing but the fact remains that these are zombies and they’re stupid.

Painting the down red and green

Painting the down red and green
At least they’ll go and hunt brains on their own. They’re pretty good for redirecting enemy fire as well. The virtual majority of the game involves hobbling through the large levels and as the amount of armed adversaries increases, so does your zombie army, so getting to your goal is made easier. As mentioned, you can possess enemies and control their weapons. As good as the idea is, it is ultimately shot down by some very poor, clunky controls. What makes this more surprising is that the game was made using the Halo engine.

Played entirely from the third person perspective, Stubbs the game unfortunately suffers from it’s premise. Stubbs has to control like a zombie. That means hobbling at a slow pace and performing moves that consume valuable seconds. Move for long enough and he’ll eventually get into a trot. While it is manageable at times, this design eventually falls over itself when it comes to enemies that are faster and pack a harder punch. Stubbs simply doesn’t have the legs to carry himself out of stick situations. This results in a lot of deaths, a lot of chasing while being fired at directly and ultimately, a lot of frustration. There isn’t much middle ground, as chomping on brains becomes boring very quickly when it’s too easy. And he can’t move that fast but he can jump pretty damn high for a dead man. Odd…

What it boils down to is that the game plays like a very simplistic Halo. The levels are big and you’ve even got vehicles. However, moving so slowly makes getting around a pain and the vehicles are placed in such an arbitrary manner that they seem irrelevant. Frankly, it’s something that’s been done a lot better and developers really shouldn’t use the Halo control scheme for vehicles, it’s horribly unintuitive. As good as the idea of playing as a zombie is, it’s this premise that ultimately brings the game down.

That's one way to get in

That's one way to get in
There are some very interesting and unique portions of the game and it is here that the game is at its best. The dance sequence is totally off-key and is an interesting and fun change of pace. Then when you go to a farm level, you’re forced to hide in the crops and sneak up on farmers if they wander too close to the edge. Later, when you infiltrate the farmhouse, you can break through the barred windows and get people on the inside. When you’re playing through these moments, the game is interesting and enjoyable. Unfortunately, the game is bogged down by the pure fact that most of the time your linearly wandering from point A to point B to point C and so forth, while brain consuming along the way. It’s either way too easy or very frustrating with very little in between.

Graphically, the game follows the gameplay pattern. There is a wonderfully comical artstyle complemented by plenty of amusing animations and impressive effects and architecture. They’ve got the fifties look nailed down, with people dressed like they’re from the fifties to those cheesy, squared robots that were conceived in the imaginations of people at the time. Then there are some of the most horrible textures and bland level designs that you could possibly imagine. There are too many portions of the game where you are wondering for long periods of time through empty corridors and walkways. It’s a mix of very charming and good with extremely poor and bland. Sound-wise, the clever writing is backed up by a lot of very good voice acting and bit of bad. It’s just that some of the canned phrases get extremely repetitive after you eaten your 100th scientist, policeman etc. There are some good fifties tunes and decent music but the game doesn’t utiltise it enough.

Stubbs the Zombie in “Rebel Without a Pulse” is an interesting game with a unique premise. Not just because you can play as a zombie but because it is one of the few titles that can genuinely boast to have a great sense of humour to complement it’s well-suited style. Unfortunately, an ordinary game is an ordinary game no matter how you look at it and this game simply tries a few too many things and ends up not being very good at most of them. There are some interesting portions and playing as a zombie is different, but the poor design across the board drag it down out of the level of potential purchase. Clocking in at about eight hours with little reason to come back, this one is best set as a weekend rental if you’re still interested.

Stubbs the Zombie in "Rebel without a Pulse will be available for Xbox on December 9th.
The Score
As different, interesting and funny as Stubbs is, clunky controls are annoying, poor design and many dubious decisions are intolerable at market price and simply, an ordinary game is an ordinary game. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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8 years ago
Frankly, it’s something that’s been done a lot better and developers really shouldn’t use the Halo control scheme for vehicles, it’s horribly unintuitive
I do not agree with this point at all. Halo vehicle control is only unintuitive if you're a one armed man icon_razz.gif
8 years ago
I'm with Matt, the Halo vehicle control is excellent.

This seems like a rather harsh review compared to others I've seen.
8 years ago
Does it seem that PALGN is deliberately trying to piss of HALO fanboys?

I mean that, they insult PALGN; so you hit them below the belt.
This is going to be F-U-N!
8 years ago
this game looked pretty fun and good untill i saw the ratings.
8 years ago
halo = good
halo rip-off = bad
8 years ago
I don't see how you can call it a Halo rip-off, this was from (mostly) ex Bungie people. Prehaps if the other half of Bungie also helped on this one Stubbs would be awesome, but I think the lack of this half made Halo2 as bad as it is. icon_wink.gif
8 years ago
Rather than trying to be a stand-alone game in its own right, it blatantly rips elements from Halo to try and raise its own profile, which it does with very mixed results.

Eg, Halo had excellent control from the FPS perspective, in Stubbs, even when you've possessed someone, the controls are slow, clunky and hard to work with.
8 years ago
I see what you're saying.
I guess I won't buy it then: doesn't look worth buying.
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