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Stubbs The Zombie in “Rebel Without a Pulse”

Stubbs The Zombie is one of the most original and amusing game ideas I’ve heard in a long time. Here’s the premise: it’s a zombie game, but where you play the zombie. Genius!

You play Edward ‘Stubbs’ Stubblefield, a travelling salesman who was just trying to get by during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. That was until his lifelong losing streak reached its logical conclusion when he was brutally murdered and ignominiously buried in a remote Pennsylvania field. Fast-forward to 1959 and billionaire industrialist Andrew Monday has constructed a monument to his own ego: Punchbowl, Pennsylvania, a technology-driven City of the Future. As it happens, the city is built on the same land where Stubbs was buried all those years ago. When he crawls out of his grave during Punchbowl’s opening day celebration, Stubbs doesn’t know who killed him or why he’s returned. All he knows is that this strange city of towering buildings, bright lights, and incredible machines wasn’t here before… and that eating somebody’s brains would make him feel better.

Essentially, Stubbs The Zombie boils down to a new look at the standard 3rd person action game. Developed by a small breakaway group from Bungie, it uses the Halo engine to create the game world and allow Stubbs to lurch around in it. ‘Lurching’ might not be the most appropriate word though, as he has been sped up to make it playable, whilst keeping that zombie feel to the character movement. Stubbs may be a little faster than you’d expect, but he’s unarmed, in more ways than one.

With only a variety of melee attacks and a supply of ‘gut grenades’, his main weapon is the ability to eat the brains of his enemies, turning them into zombies and creating a small army for himself. This undead horde can then be controlled with a few simple commands to provide extra muscle or a meat shield in combat.

When that fails, Stubbs can detach his own hand which can then be remotely controlled as it scuttles around like Thing out of the Addams Family. Dropping this onto an enemy’s head possesses them, allowing you to take control and use whatever weapons they may be carrying. This should provide an opportunity to make the most of the Halo engine’s aiming and shooting mechanics, which we know has worked before.

The gameplay looks like it’ll be a case of a series of linear missions in which you have to fight your way through the different parts of Punchbowl, destroying it as you go along. Presumably the limb-wrenching combat will be mixed with a good helping of puzzles solved by the use of your detachable hand, with story elements thrown in along the way.

Visually, Stubbs The Zombie is already looking the part, but of course you’d expect that from the Halo engine. Expect presentation to be of a high quality too, whilst the licensed soundtrack has already been announced and should fit the part.

From what we’ve seen so far, Stubbs The Zombie should turn out to be an enjoyable and amusing take on what is a slightly tired genre. Its portrayal of the undead is fresh and original, surely set to attract zombie fans in their droves. This is certainly one game to watch out for in the coming year.

Stubbs The Zombie in “Rebel without a Pulse” is set for release on Xbox, Windows and Mac this autumn.

The author of this fine article

is the Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2000. Get in touch on Twitter @PhilipMorton.

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