I was mulling over what topics I should cover in future articles and I thought what better game to write about than Stubbs The Zombie…..Only I didnt have the game to hand. So imagine my joy when I found this very underrated game on the shelves of a charming independent video game store named Level Up! Just to kiss ass for a moment, they are actually one of the best independent stores I have ever set foot in, selling things ranging from brand new games and consoles to all the old and most loved retro consoles, and even selling things like Pokemon cards and comics! If you are ever in the Liverpool area check them out, you wont be disappointed! Ok that’s our advertisement over……I feel like an ageing rockstar endorsing golf clubs! But I digress…..
For those of you that never caught this when it came out in 2005 for the Xbox, Windows and Mac, here’s a quick summary. Eddie Stubbs is a down on his luck travelling salesman during the Great Depression when he finds happiness with a girl named Maggie Monday. Just when he thinks his luck has finally turned around, in walks Maggies father Otis who proceeds to chase Eddie out of the house, pumps a 12-Gauge round into his stomach and leaves him to die. Fast forward to the year 1959 in the city of Punchbowl, Pennsylvania, and its the grand opening of the ‘City of The Future’ founded by billionaire Andrew Monday, Maggie Monday’s son. Punchbowl just so happens to have been built on top of ‘Stubbs’ not-so-final resting place. As you can imagine, Stubbs isn’t too pleased to have been blown away and left for dead, so raises from the grave to wreak havoc on the inhabitants of Punchbowl.
Now you may think that this may not be worth your time in this day and age, where the zombie genre rules the roost over anything to do with TV, Movies and Video Games, but Stubbs the Zombie was the king of the shambling horde before this genre became the benchmark for today’s media.
WEAPON OF CHOICE!
The first thing that springs to mind and instantly peaked my interest when it came out all those years ago was the fact that you could play as a Zombie instead of blasting mountains of them away like you did in games like Resident Evil. Instead of having a finely tuned instrument of destruction, Stubbs is armed with an array of unconventional weapons. First off the bat is Stubbs head! And no, I’m not talking about stubbs using his “Braaaaains” (See what I did there?) I’m talking about the fact you can take off his head and bowl it at your enemies and, when close enough, detonate it like a bomb killing everyone caught in its radius. Next up is Stubbs hand, which you could say adds a small amount of stealth to the gameplay. If you don’t fancy taking on the mob of enemies you can always find a quiet corner, detach the hand and make your way up walls and ceilings to the unlucky individual that you have choosen. You then take control of this enemy and can wreck havoc from behind enemy lines whilst Stubbs remains hidden at a safe distance. Last but not least is the ‘Gut Grenade’! It sounds exactly as it reads and to put it quite simply, you pull out your stomach and throw it at your enemies who are then engulfed in a gas cloud. The great thing about this is that it also has the potential to turn your enemies into your zombie brethren depending on how many you already have in your ranks.
This brings me neatly on to recruiting for your undead army. While the ‘Gut Grenade’ is one way of turning your enemies, there is always the age old zombie stand by of biting your enemies! Simply shamble up to an enemy and sink your teeth into them, simple! This prospect excited me more than anything else, the fact that if a battle isn’t quite going your way a few bites of some NPC’s later and you have a nice little domino effect going as more of your allies bite the remaining enemies. Unfortunately due to the limitations at the time of the games release we were only able to have a certain number join our ranks, any more than this and the enemy would simply die. The technology wasn’t quite at the ‘Dead Rising’ stage quite yet. So you have your undead army in toe but their attention spans arn’t too great (They are Zombies after all!), what do you do? If this becomes a problem then you can always give a little whistle to your helpers and they instantly shuffle over to you. If it only appears to be the odd ‘Walker’ that has been distracted by a passing butterfly, then you can always walk over to him and give him/her a shove in the right direction. I feel that this gives the game a sense of realism as it were in that Zombies are easily distracted by the slightest of noises, so to have to actually physically or verbal beckon them over is a nice touch instead of the NPC’s just following you around everywhere and not really paying attention to what’s going on around them, or just stood idly by whilst your enemies have decided to re-enact the scene in Robocop where Alex Murphy get’s gunned down!
IT’S A DANCE OFF!
There is also the subject of the humour of this game. Now as much as I laughed on my first playthrough and how much of a fun journey the game is throughout, I just don’t think that some of the humour or jokes would stand up if the game was released today. Granted there are still some parts within the game that I have a good old chuckle to but there are sections such as where you have a dance off with the Chief of the Punchbowl Police Department that had me cringing a little bit. This section is a not so subtle nod to Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, Which I know is one of the all-time great music videos but it has been parodied to the point of overkill by a parade of other people within various forms of media and kinda loses effect.
There is also the cut scene in which Stubbs is addressing his Zombie army in the style of General Patton, in front of an American flag and all. Now unless you have either seen the film Patton, are aware of who he is or are interested in the whole time period of World War Two then this cut scene kinda falls on deaf ears. I got the reference straight away but if you are only catering to a minority of people then I don’t really think it is worth the effort.
However, I am a fan of developer Wideload’s response to NIMF’s (National Institute on Media and the Family) David Walsh and U.S Senator Joe Lieberman’s claims that the game contains cannibalism and is harmful to children…
” The current kerfuffle in the US media about Stubbs the Zombie can be summed up in one word: semantics. Stubbs, they say, is a cannibal. This is nonsense, as anyone with a working knowledge of cannibals can tell you. Stubbs fails all the classic litmus tests for cannibalism. He does not wear a bone through his nose. He does not help FBI agents track down serial killers. He has not written a cookbook. He is not named Jeffrey Dahmer. The list goes on and on. Stubbs is a zombie. Thus the title “Stubbs the Zombie.” Zombies eat brains. That’s what they do. Stubbs cannot just saunter into the cafeteria and order a plate of freedom fries. He has to fight for his meals. In fact, actual cannibals only make it harder for Stubbs to eat, which is why this “cannibalism” story is insulting as well as injurious. It’s no surprise that the all-human media cartel resorts to distortions and name-calling; their anti-zombie bias has been evident for decades, and Stubbs is just the newest target. If you’re a thinking adult, you’re probably ready to hear the other side of the story. You’ll find it in Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse, in stores now for Xbox, PC and Macintosh. Don’t let the humanity-centric media tell you what to think about zombies. A free mind is a tasty mind!” (Setting The Record Straight: Wideload Games; 2005)
The way in which they turned negative press and spun it in a promotion for the game is an unequivocal stroke of genius in my opinion!
It’s not all doom and gloom! With the exception of most of the examples I have just given, the rest of the game is in tip top shape! Being a huge music fan I loved the soundtrack that they produced specially for the game, roping in artists such as The Raveonettes, The Flaming Lips, The Dandy Warhols and Phantom Planet to record covers of classic 50’s and 60’s era music such as There Goes My Baby and Earth Angel (The full soundtrack is available on YouTube if you fancy giving it a listen). My personal favourites on the album are Mr Sandman by Oranger and My Boyfriend’s Back by The Raveonettes. Normally I think classic songs should never be touched again and are perfect as they are but I think they have done a great job in bringing this era of music into the present day to accompany this game. Below is a small taster of one of the tunes on offer!
All in all, if you see Stubbs The Zombie sat on the shelf of a Video Game store then it is well worth a purchase. It may not be the longest and is a tad bit linear but it never strays into ‘Boring’ territory and should be praised for it’s ambition to create something that’s outside the box.