Stubbs the Zombie Review - 

Stubbs the Zombie is a game that doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a third person action game built with the Halo engine, which basically allows you to venture round a city eating people's brains. It is packed with humour, and is great fun to match.

Set in 1959, the city of Puchbowl is a playground for the scientific minds of America, experimenting with futuristic technology, and founded by the supposedly benevolent 'Mr. Monday'. Stubbs' real name is infact Edward Stubbsfield, but that isn't very fitting for a zombie. Having spent his life as a travelling salesman, failing because of the Great Depression, and then getting shotgunned in the side by a customer, Stubbs paid a visit to the grave.

What wakes Stubbs up is not clear at the start, but you tend to ask questions later when lots of brains are available for an eating.

Despite his nickname, Stubbs has all his limbs intact, but there is a gaping hole in his side where you can see his guts 'slurping around' as one boisterous helper robot says. This hole can be used to your advantage, but we'll come to that in good time. More on Stubbs though, and he wears suitably stylish 1950s-1960s clothes, and a bright red tie which is often commented on by the dwellers of Punchbowl.

Stubbs is designed perfectly, and looks so at home in the game. Just his facial expressions, fashion sense and mumbling voice make him instantly lovable. He actually looks remarkably like Pete Doherty (you'll probably have to be British or a Babyshambles/Libertines fan to have heard of him), and no disrespect to Pete, as we, or at least I, am an avid listener to his music, but you can see the comparison screenshots we made at the bottom, to the right.

You are introduced to the game via the previously mentioned helper bot. You will meet such robots throughout the city, and they range from workers, to healers, which you can use to restore your Zombie health. The basic move that is available to you at first is the brain eat. A simple press of the Xbox's Y button, or the PC's respective key, instructs Stubbs to latch onto someone and plainly eat their brains. This can be used to restore your own power bars, as a one hit kill, or simply for the pleasure of the sound effects which accompany it.

You can also punch and melee attack. This works very well, as when another Zombie or a human is on the ground, Stubbs will instinctively kick them, and again, this is animated almost to perfection, looking unthinkably funny. This means you can unleash a flurry of attacks on an enemy, and not relent when they fall to the floor.

The graphics will of course strike you to begin with. There is a grain as in 50s movies down the screen, which seems to take the edge off any possible realism, but it makes the city seem from a different time period and everything seems at home in it. The textures are bright and vibrant, but in some places everything begins to look the same, and you find yourself getting slightly lost amongst rooms or roads. The gore is suitably over the top, people get cut in half, you see bits of skull when you eat people's brains, and blood spurts everywhere, but it all looks appropriate and is in no way sickening.

As you eat someone's brains, they will of course die, before coming back to 'life' as a Zombie. You can kill people in any way and they'll still rise from the proverbial grave, but you will need nutritious brains to charge up moves that are unlocked later in the game.

People say things like 'Hey, stop eating my brain' and 'Oh no, he's eating my…brain' in very humourous ways. No one gives out blood curdling screams that will make you disgusted at yourself for even thinking about playing a cannibalistic game, and the speech and noises of the humans are definitely well done.

When the zombies rise from death, they make low groaning noises and generally mope around after you. Having said that, they are very useful in getting through sections of the game, especially against the armed police and certain civilians throughout Punchbowl. You can whistle to them to get them to catch up to you, as they walk pretty slowly and generally just amble along to you otherwise. When you whistle, by turning to face them and pressing Y when the prompt appears, the all make slightly more high pitched 'eurhhh?' noises which again is hilarious to hear.

Stubbs walks unfortunately slowly too, shuffling his weight from side to side. After a prolonged spell of walking in a straight line though, he will break out into a slow sprint. He can also execute large Halo style jumps, with his arms outstretched in the air and landing in virtually the same pose – again, great animation to make it funny.

You can actually pull people's arms off, and then get almost always one hit kills with them. The attack you will choose to use will depend on the enemy in question. SWAT teams are very hard to get rid of, as their shields prevent punches, and their helmets stop possession (to be explained later). You either sneak up behind people, or you have to stun them with punches and kicks, or a special attack, before being able to eat their brains.

Your missions are in fact fairly linear. That is to say that they are unclear and often not even laid out in front of you. Your first real task is to track down Mr. Monday's 'mother', who Stubbs grows a liking to. This is indicated by a cut scene, but you eventually find a room with a button in. You press that, and nothing appears to happen, but we can only assume that it unlocks a door somewhere else in the level, but it is a pretty pointless addition – this sort of thing is repeated regularly, and often things happen in the plot for apparently no reason.

Despite the actual 'missions', your real task is just to gather a zombie army and enjoy yourself. This shows Wideload's dedication to the fun of Stubbs the Zombie, and while this significantly reduces the plot and variety of the main game, it is in our opinion, of great benefit to the gameplay as a whole.

The special moves that you unlock later in the game are:

Gut Grenade. Basically this is where Stubbsy removes his gut, and throws it towards the enemy. This is discovered early on, and becomes very important in the game. You can detonate it early too, which is good to do before the enemy run out of the way.

Unholy Flatulence. This, like all of Stubbs' discovered abilities, is metered, meaning you have to eat brains to recharge it. Still, when surrounded by enemies, Stubbs can let rip with his unholy flatulence, and allow for some easy brain eating. Being dead for 25 years leaves some bad things stuck inside you I suppose, and all those brains can't be good for Stubbs' digestion system, despite the fresh air it gets from the hole in his side.

The Hand and Possession. This is the most exciting part of the gameplay, as it allows you to tear off your own arm (don't worry, it grows back) and use it as a separate character to explore the level or possess enemies. If someone stamps on the hand or shoots it, then it is wasted, but it provides a great tool for attaining weapons. If you use the hand to grab onto someone's head as it is intended, then you get full control of them. Whereas the hand's view is in black and white, you return to the full colour third person view in possession, and if the person in question has a weapon, then crosshairs appear on the screen and you can fire away. Other people don't recognise the hand growing from the top of their friend's head instantly either, so you can often surprise them with sneak attacks. Stubbs is vulnerable in this mode, so it is essential to make sure you have some zombie friends guarding him, or that he is hidden around a corner.

Sputum Head. The final discovery is the ability to roll your head as a bowling ball into a cluster of guards, and detonate it to kill them all. As the head is rolling, it can infect people, knock them out of the way, and it also has a larger explosion than the gut grenade.

All these special attacks are certainly needed to keep the game from getting very very repetitive, because even as it is, there is a large amount of repetition in the attacks, and you may find yourself getting bored before the end of the 6-8 hour campaign.

There are vehicles in the game, which work excellently, and are much more than just an afterthought, as they appear regularly throughout. You can drive hover cars, military jeeps, tanks, diggers etc. and there is space for an additional zombie in each (or the co-op player).

That co-op mode works brilliantly. It's identical as the single player, there are no more enemies, no extra vehicles, but you can obviously put the difficulty up. There are no slowdown or framerate issues, and it works flawlessly. It's definitely the sort of game that you would dig out every time you have a friend over, just to show off your knowledge of third party, overlooked games, that are in fact great fun and really good for a laugh. Perhaps even up to four players in co-op could have been put in, and a minigame such as survival against an onslaught of humans, where you gradually build up a zombie army, but with more and more humans keeping coming, as this would have really added additional life to the game, and could have allowed for some Xbox Live and Internet scoreboards.

The menus are great and there's some well suited music to match. The loading screens are as hilarious as the main game, with moans of 'brains' emerging – loading times are long, but rare.

A great game, with a really good attitude that isn't common in modern gaming. Well designed, polished, and implemented, but there is a fair bit of repetition throughout, although the multiplayer helps to bypass this.

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