You can't help but play Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse without thinking of that classic Monty Python line, " And now for something completely different." Though nowhere near as bizarrely original as last year's cult hit Katamari Damacy, Stubbs is still a game that evokes a very strong "What the?" the first time you see it. But it's also a game that quickly grows on you, as we discovered as we played it at the show.
Stubbs is the debut game from Wideload Games, the new studio founded by Alex Seropian. Prior to Wideload, Seropian worked at another little studio that he cofounded, one that you may have heard of: Bungie. If that weren't enough to get you interested in Stubbs, then the fact that Wideload uses the Halo graphics engine should push you over the edge. But if you were expecting another first-person shooter, you're in for a big surprise. The title alone should clue you in that you're in for something completely different.
The plot of Stubbs is fairly complex, but the gist of the game is that you play Stubbs, a zombie simply looking to get some eternal rest after the land he's buried in becomes covered with a modern city of the future. Poor ol' Stubbs comes out of the ground and proceeds to put the "smackdown" on humanity, which he can do in so many outrageously effective ways. He can melee attack someone, rip off their limbs or head (and after death, the limbless or headless, or in some cases, limbless and headless, torso is reanimated as a fellow zombie), suck their brains out, and more. The controls are fairly simple. X lets you jump, Y lets you grab and then suck someone's brains out, and the right trigger lets you melee attack.
The surprising thing about Stubbs is just how much depth there is to the game. In the demo we played, Stubbs must neutralize the heavily armed militia members defending a farm. One way you can do that is to simply walk up to each militia guy and kill him. But that's slow, and you can die. Another way is to kill a militia guy by turning him into a fellow zombie and repeating the process several times, thus letting you create a small army of zombies to overwhelm defenders. Another way is that Stubbs can actually detach his hand and control it directly, kind of like Thing in the Addams family. When you do this, you switch to a hand cam of sorts, and you can use the hand to sneak inside a house and then open a lock door. Or, in the case of the militia, you can sneak up behind a guy and then grab his head, thus possessing him. You can then "operate" the possessed human like he was under remote control.
In keeping with the cheeky title, there's also a very wry sense of humor throughout the game. The militia members you battle are caricatures of the "black helicopter" crowd, and there are some great cutscenes where Stubbs will sigh in disappointment as yet another crazed human, armed with a shotgun or chain saw, confronts him. Graphically, the game has a grainy look to it, like an old '50s zombie movie, and Stubbs is a zombie with style, with a hip suit and hat. In fact, if not for his green skin, shambling walk, and the huge hole in his torso, he'd look pretty sharp. Stubbs is a game with a lot of charm, and it'll be interesting to see how the gaming community responds to it. It should ship later this year for the PC and Xbox.