AN UNDEAD MASTER CHIEF?
I’m a sucker for horror-themed games, and getting to play one in Stubbs the Zombie (PC) — in which I get to take on the role of a brain-eating zombie — is just too rich to ignore. After all, in the post-Resident Evil era, we’ve had what seems like thousands of zombie games, and they’ve all been the same, with the player trying to survive against a zombie horde. While Stubbs hardly comes off as something completely original, its role-reversal within the horror-game genre is quite unique, and ends up making the game feel not much like anything else. Well, except for Halo…
See, Stubbs comes from the executive producer of Halo and also uses the Halo engine, so it’s not too absurd to see similarities between the two. Stubbs can throw his explosive innards as bombs, which stick to their target, exactly like Halo‘s “sticky” grenades. There are also vehicles in the game that Stubbs can commandeer, which control just like the vehicles in Halo. The first time you do so, you can’t help but instantly think “WARTHOG!”
While the aforementioned Halo similarities are a good thing, there is one considerable drawback to Stubbs being Halo‘s half-brother: Poor performance. The graphics in Stubbs are good, but not so good that the game should suffer poor frame-rates — which it certainly does as you near the game’s final act. This was one of my complaints with the PC version of Halo, and with Stubbs it’s even more pronounced, especially since the environments aren’t so highly-detailed as to require a game that’s seriously resource intensive.
A ROTTING GOOD TIME
The gameplay in Stubbs is certainly the main draw, and while it doesn’t exceed any expectations, it is quite good. Stubbs has several humorous and effective attacks at his disposal: The aforementioned gut-bombs; a limb-removing melee attack; farts that can stun groups of enemies; a removable and explosive head that can be used like a bowling ball; a detachable arm that can affix itself to an enemy’s head, causing them to be possessed and under Stubb’s control. Even cooler is the fact that after enemies are attacked by Stubbs, they turn into zombies themselves and are under his command. (Well, somewhat under his command. Stubbs can only make his zombies follow him.) Unfortunately, though, you will often lose your zombie army upon entering a new area, simply because they won’t follow you. This happens repeatedly throughout the game, and is quite an irritation. I also found the game to be quite short (5 to 6 hours total) and linear, and I would have loved it if things had been a bit more free-roaming.
Negative issues aside, Stubbs the Zombie is a fine game that features not only fun gameplay, but loads of humor as well. There’s plenty of light-hearted dialogue to be found throughout the game, and several of the levels feature parodic situations that any horror film fan should get a kick out of. (Especially the Romero-esque sequences, like attacking a shopping mall and farmhouse.)
If you have even a passing interest in this game, I recommend checking it out. It’s not going to change your life or anything, but it’s certainly a great diversion from the normal video game rigamarole.
Oh yeah, and the (underused) soundtrack is superb!