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Stubbs The Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse

Platform(s): PC, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Aspyr
Developer: Wideload Games

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Xbox/PC Preview - 'Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse'

by Rainier on Jan. 1, 2006 @ 1:30 a.m. PST

Based on an updated version of the same engine technology used in Bungie's first person shooter "Halo," "Rebel Without a Pulse" puts players in control of a wisecracking zombie named Stubbs, "who takes on an ultra-modern city of the future using nothing but his own carcass and the weapons of his possessed enemies." The game is rife with tongue-in-cheek humor, a strong storyline and innovative combat techniques.

Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse

Genre: Action
Publisher: Aspyr
Developer: Wideload Games
Release Date: Fall 2005

Wideload Games found its origins last year, when Alexander Seropian left Bungie Studios with a dream to create a smaller studio that was able to have more creative freedom with its titles. Their current project, Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without A Pulse, has been in development for two years with a core team of 12 people, as well as a few freelancers who have previously worked with Bungie. Stubbs the Zombie is currently slated for a simultaneous release in fall 2005 on Xbox, PC, and Mac.

The game's story follows the life and death of Edward Stubblefield, an unsuccessful door-to-door salesman who met an untimely demise when buried in a shallow grave. Twenty years later, a millionaire built his dream of the City of the Future directly on top of Stubblefield's grave. The city is set up in a 1950s outlook on the year 2000, complete with flying cars, robots, and a crime-free environment. Stubblefield's corpse, angered by the desecration of his grave, rises from the dead to wreak havoc on the city, complete with an army of zombie minions. As the story progresses, Stubbs is believed to meet old acquaintances and develop new motivations for his destruction, adding variety to what starts off as a basic story.

Let's talk a bit about game play. The game is set up with a third-person camera to follow the slow-moving zombied protagonist, Stubbs, and is focused on a strong single-player story (although we were told a co-op mode would be nice to throw in if time permits, and if it didn't ruin the single player experience). You start the game with only a basic melee attack, which involves viciously clawing and biting your victim. Once your target has suffered enough damage, you can then choose to eat their brains, which comes with a B-movie style animation and an ample amount of blood. If your target becomes tainted by the melee attacks or a good brain-eating, it will rise from the dead, adding another zombie to your army. Your zombie army can be ordered around as well, although you shouldn't expect advanced military tactics. You can whistle to call your zombies to you if they've wandered off on their own, or you can shove a zombie in any general direction. If they run into a human, a brain buffet will ensue, with no need to wear down your victim's health.

Stubbs also has a variety of special attacks, which are learned as you progress through the game. These abilities are originally given to you for a specific obstacle, although we're told you'll have more than a few opportunities to use them throughout the game. Each special attack, such as intestinal grenades and a farting stun-bomb, has its own meter for how often it can be used, and the meter can be refilled by eating more brains. In addition, the special attacks are affected by your environment, reflecting off of walls inside, or expanding quickly outside.

Another ability that we expect to be heavily used is the detachable hand. The hand acts as an entirely separate character, acting as some sort of remote-control camera. It can also climb walls and ceilings, allowing you to interact with places you couldn't normally go. If Stubbs happens to run into trouble while you're busy in hand mode, you can switch back on the fly and return to the hand when the situation has been resolved. As the hand, you can also possess people, which lets you control them and use their weapons to kill their own kind, although that will leave a number of untainted corpses that won't rise to join your army.

One neat aspect of the game looks like something from a nice cheesy horror film. In some areas, you may find a house or other structure with boarded-up windows or doors. Be sure to approach them, as you will be prompted to push a button in order to snatch a human who has been strategically positioned for you to grab them through the wall, at which point you will consume their brain.

Graphically, Stubbs looks below current top-tier games, which can be attributed to their choice of using the engine from the first Halo. That aside, the game does look nice, and as a result of using the Halo engine, there are a number of vehicles throughout the levels. While we couldn't get a confirmation on any flying vehicles, Wideload's lack of a denial spoke quite loudly. One vehicle we did actually see was an interesting take on a tractor, featuring a scoop-bucket as you would find on a bulldozer that can be raised or lowered to shield yourself from fire. The tractor we were able to see in action actually had pitchforks attached to the front of the scoop so you can go on a driving rampage and make human-kabobs. However, killing people in this fashion did not allow the humans to become tainted, thus preventing them from joining your crusading plague of death.

On the musical front, Stubbs features a soundtrack consisting of several indie artists, with several tracks being covers of older songs. The entire soundtrack will be exclusively released as its own music cd, and artists include: Ben Kweller, The Raveonettes, Death Cab for Cutie, Rogue Wave, Cake, The Walkmen, The Dandy Warhols, Oranger, The Flaming Lips, Clem Snide, Rose Hill Drive, Milton Mapes, and Phantom Planet.

All in all, Stubbs looks to be very interesting. The game is expected to ship with a Mature rating, although the title looks like it might have been targeted at a slightly younger audience due to the fairly easy game play. Wideload chose Aspyr, who has previously published titles on the Mac, for their personal interest in, and dedication to, Stubbs the Zombie. When questioned about an Xbox 360 title, we were met with a grin and silence, although we were told they definitely intend to work on a multitude of platforms in the future.

Conrad Pendergrass also contributed to this preview.

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