It’s a rare video game that will let you take control of a zombie. Most of the time, players are limited to competitive shooters where it’s humans versus the undead (Go Team Zombie!) or in action games via a sort of temporary “extra life” as a shambling corpse(read: SO SLOW). There have been a few games with undead protagonists like the mummy Chuck D. Head in DecapAttack or the ghoulish Polterguy in Haunting, but these examples are not really “zombie” games, strictly speaking. You don’t exactly lead Polterguy to devour brains or guide Chuck to create a legion of creeping creatures. That’s the sort of thing you leave to Stubbs the Zombie.
Rebel Without a Pulse hit store shelves in 2005, during the appropriate month of October. The titular Stubbs the Zombie was once Edward Stubblefield, a traveling salesman who met his untimely demise from a gunshot, courtesy of his gal Maggie’s father. After collapsing in the woods in 1933, Stubbs is reanimated in 1959, at the grand opening of Punchbowl, Pennsylvania. Angered at the venture capitalist who disturbed his eternal rest, Stubbs decides to hunt the wealthy playboy and cause quite a bit of carnage along the way. What follows is a comedic and creepy quest through a sort of retro-future metropolis; the “city of tomorrow” that might have been seen in 1950s science fiction.
Most of the game is spent trailing industrialist Andrew Monday through the city of Punchbowl. As Stubbs, players can attack the citizens of Punchbowl, eating their brains and creating a group of zombie comrades that devour right alongside you. Stubbs has some additional actions, most of which involve tearing off his own arm to beat enemies, activate switches, and take control of better-armed adversaries for some shooter options. There were also plenty of vehicles to commandeer and drive recklessly through the perfectly polished pathways of Punchbowl.
For my college self, the gameplay and visuals in Stubbs the Zombie felt like second nature, since the game was developed using the Halo engine. As an avid Halo 2 junkie, the co-op campaign and Xbox controls made the transition from space marine to dopey zombie salesman rather seamless. My friends and I would switch off between stages, playing as a pair of zombies on a mission of revenge (and eating tasty, tasty brains). As we shambled through Punchbowl, a fantastic soundtrack of 50s and 60s era hits covered by modern alternative rock artists kept us bouncing in our seats. The whole game was a delightful tribute to the goofy-spooky horror movies of the past.
Just like the previous title in our zombie game round-up, Stubbs the Zombie is a tough title to track down. Our zombie friend was briefly ported to the Xbox 360 as an “Xbox Original” download, but the game was removed from the Marketplace in 2012. There are still original Xbox, PC, and Mac hard copies floating around the internet, but an appropriately retro system is required to play any of these versions. Since the developer, Wideload Games, was purchased and closed by Disney Interactive, it is unlikely that Stubbs will rise again on any modern offerings.
Even for the heady price that most of the original Xbox copies are calling for, Stubbs the Zombie is worth checking out. It is a hilarious and gory co-op romp through a quirky science fiction setting. There is a lot of fun to be had and brains to be eaten, so shamble forth with a friend and help Stubbs find his fate!