Killing zombies is one of the staples of the first-person-shooter genre. And quite frankly, we’re a little sick of it. We’d much rather fight smarter, more challenging opponents. The typical Romero-style shambling zombie just doesn’t make a compelling opponent anymore.
But playing as a shambling, Romero-style undead is a whole other story. In Stubbs the Zombie you play as the so-named character, doing the traditional zombie shuffle across a variety of weird 1950s-utopia environments, noshing on brains, overpowering citizens with your flatulence, and chucking “gut grenades” at anyone who gets in your way. A few seconds after you kill any of the humans, they return from the dead and begin their own attack on the living.
Stubbs’ reliance on melee attacks makes for a different experience than most shooters offer. Instead of using cover and taking shots when it’s safe to do so, you’ll need to stumble through the middle of firefights, using your minions as undead shields, until you’re close enough to grab and gnaw on your victims. This is exactly the type of behavior that would get you constantly killed in a more traditional shooter.
To mix it up a bit, Stubbs has the ability to remove his hand, and to possess normal humans by attaching the appendage to one’s head. Crawling around the environment on five fingers is surprisingly fun, and picking just the right person to possess can be tricky. Each human has a particular weapon, ranging from pistols, to single-shot rifles, to ray guns. Is it better to control the guy with the bazooka or the guy with the sniper rifle? Using the living does have a downside—humans that you kill with a gun don’t return to life, and therefore don’t add to the zombie horde you rely on for your protection.
Detracting from Stubbs’ novel gameplay are the game’s low-res environments—the buildings, lawns, and even roads are flat and unexciting. We also wish we could have given our zombies more direction, even something as simple as pointing to a location and having them go there would have been better than the frustrating try-to-push-them-in-the-right-direction minigame.
Month Reviewed: February 2006
ESRB Rating: M