Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse Updated Hands-On
Aspyr and Wideload show off an updated version of the upcoming zombie action game.
Stubbs the Zombie is the upcoming star of his own self-titled game from developer Wideload. We've been following the promising game since it clawed its way from the earth last year. We got the opportunity to check and even play an updated version of the game today and are pleased by how development is progressing. Besides boasting improved visuals, the version of the game we saw included some brand-new features that seem destined to take zombie action in new and exciting directions.
The demo began with a look at the tutorial level that shows off the pristine majesty of Punchbowl, the utopian society where the action begins. The primer on the gameplay is preceded by an amusing cinema that introduces Andrew Monday, the playboy who made it all possible, and Dr. Wyr, the scientist with a questionable past who helped him. The cinematic is done in a faux '50s-news-reel style, complete with overemotive narrator. The look at the utopian society winds down with a look at a young couple about to enjoy a hot dog. Our two picturesque lovebirds are interrupted by the arrival of Stubbs, who unceremoniously snatches the hot dog they're about to share. The tutorial is fairly straightforward and runs through the core suite of moves Stubbs possesses. What makes the experience good is that you're essentially terrorizing the citizens of Punchbowl, which is hilarious.
Following a demo of the tutorial, we got a chance to see a level that sends you through the city again. But this time things are quite different. If you hadn't heard before, zombies tend to drive property values down pretty quickly, which means Punchbowl goes to seed shortly after they arrive. The city we saw Stubbs shambling through was in quite the epic state of disarray. Speaking of shambling, the new demo showcased the latest breakthrough in Wideload's zombie technology: Stubbs' gait now alternates between the slow, expected shambling you see zombies practicing and a faster running that helps you get to where you need to go much more quickly. The other new addition is the ability to use Stubbs' head--once it's been removed, of course--as a bowling-ball-style projectile. Not only does using it do wonders for knocking over foes, but also the gases that leak from it are deadly...so there's an added bonus. Beyond Stubbs' own physical abilities, the undead butt kicker can drive vehicles when the need arises.
We had the chance to try out the post-zombie-invasion Punchbowl level and were pleased by how the game handled. Stubbs was surprisingly responsive and spry for an undead creature. Using his detachable hand to possess enemies or to pitch his head for bowling down foes handled well. Better still was managing your undead minions, who'll tag along and help spread the insanity. We were especially pleased to see that if you possessed the right soldier, you'd basically have access to any of the firearms in the game. The other sweet new element in the game that we were able to try, albeit in an early state, was the two player co-op mode, which lets you and a friend tear it up through the game's story. The only catch is that, unlike other games, you won't be able to swap between the single- and two-player experiences on the fly.
The visuals in the game continue to show off more polish every time we see them in motion. This time out, we were happy to see improvements to the various effects used to reflect Stubbs' special attacks. The look for head bowling is nicely done and represents a good blend of goofiness and special effects thanks to the appropriate use of screen filters and camera angles. Explosions are also well done, whether they be of the technological or flatulent variety. The camera handles the varied action in the game pretty well, although the switch to controlling Stubbs' head or hand can be a bit jarring.
Stubbs' audio is shaping up to be one of many highlights in the game thanks to a winning combination of good voice acting and strong writing. There's a healthy amount of personality in the lines you'll hear from Stubbs' many victims as they fall. While some are your basic screams of death and agony, others are funny gems. The music, a previously announced collection of tunes from well-known artists, is peppered smartly throughout what we saw, and it works well.
Based on this work-in-progress version of the game, it looks like Stubbs is following through on the promise of its twisted premise. The single-player game continues to both get tighter and gain new features, which is cool. The multiplayer game has the potential to be a lot of fun, as everyone knows that two zombies running around causing havoc are much better than just one. Stubbs the Zombie is currently slated to ship this October for the Xbox. PC and Mac versions are slated to follow shortly thereafter. Look for more on the game in the coming months.
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