Stubbs the Zombie in "Rebel without a Pulse" Review
By Adrienne Dudek |
Everyone remembers the 1950s as a peachy keen era when everything made sense. Jobs were stable, everyone was polite, it never rained, the world was completely at peace, and everyone was constantly smiling their shiny, white smiles. At least, so say the history books. In the universe of Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse, the idyllic town of Punchbowl is stuck in the same type of 1950s overblown optimism. What better setting could there be for a happy-go-lucky zombie to unearth himself and start ripping out the mushy insides of the brainwashed populace's skulls?
When you pick up the controller in Stubbs, you'll be the one initiating the undead infection. You'll eat brains and turn your victims into your followers who you can control to, well, eat more brains. Throughout your shockingly gory adventure you'll find some obvious and some not so obvious references to Nazism and Communism, proving Stubbs is actually trying to make a George A. Romero-esque sociopolitical statement, but it never really nails down anything specific. Just as long as you're comfortable tearing down the image of the American ideal, you'll enjoy playing this game.
Fart, Throw Guts, and Be Merry.
The gameplay in Stubbs is pretty straightforward. Your mission is to kill everyone you see. To do so you have a range of special powers. You can fart and stun the enemy, throw explosive gut bombs, use your hand to control an enemy, and use your head as an explosive bowling ball. In addition, you can perform melee swipes, eat brains, and rip off the arms of your foes which can be subsequently used to beat them in the face. As grotesque and intriguing an arsenal as this sounds, you'll soon find some attacks to be far more effective than others.
The hand, for instance, is the best weapon since it lets you control enemies with guns. This is essentially the only way in the game to access firearms. When you launch your hand, you'll get a fish eye black and white camera view as you move it across the floor, ceiling, or wall. Capable of grabbing onto enemy skulls while in midair, the hand soon becomes the most effective method of taking out airborne or otherwise out of reach enemies. It's also a great tool for flanking enemies provided you can successfully maneuver it behind enemy lines. Of all the selections, this was definitely the most entertaining to use, and an interesting alternative to simply killing your foes. Of all the weapons, the bowling ball head seemed the most useless since gut bombs were usually just as effective. The fart nova was also a great tool for when you're surrounded by multiple humans.
It's like a photo from a textbook. Weren't the '50s great?While the special attacks work well by themselves and in combination with each other, the melee attacks are slightly more erratic. This is mainly because each enemy type takes a specific number of swipes before you can eat their brains. For instance, army soldiers generally take four, shotgun wielding militia men take three, musket shooters take two, and the list goes on. While this is fine, the game also presents you with random opportunities to eat brains that do not follow the above patterns, making combat imprecise. Oftentimes you'll find you accidentally killed an enemy or haven't injured him enough when you go to eat their faces, resulting in either a missed opportunity to charge your special moves or unnecessary damage and death. Luckily, Stubbs features an excellent auto-saving system, so you'll never have to retread too much ground.
Another frustrating aspect of the melee combat is the fact that enemies will back away from you faster than you can catch up to them. This may seem logical since zombies typically move at a slow pace. However, and this is something many people seem to forget, zombies are not real. Given that excruciatingly true statement, why can't Stubbs walk faster? There is a fast walking ability built in, but it only activates after you've moved forward for a certain time period. When chasing a nearby soldier, there isn't enough time for this fast walking to activate, so you wind up chasing after him while taking tons of fire from their guns. This was especially frustrating with the enemies that carry some of the bigger guns. Adding a function to activate sprint at the press of a button could have alleviated this issue.