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Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse

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Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse is a third-person action video game developed by Wideload Games and published by Aspyr Media, and built with the Halo engine. It was released on October 18, 2005 for the Xbox video game console, and was released for Windows and Mac OS X in November that same year. The game was released on February 10, 2006 in Europe. Later, Valve Corporation made the game available for purchase via Steam on May 17, 2007. This title became available on Microsoft's Xbox Live Marketplace as a Xbox Originals on May 19, 2008.

Plot

In 1933, Stubbs is a traveling salesman during the Great Depression trying to make a living. He temporarily finds happiness with a girl named Maggie Monday, but he meets his unfortunate end when Otis, Maggie's father comes home, chases him outside, and murders him, dumping his body in the wilderness.

The game takes place in the fictional city of Punchbowl, Pennsylvania at its opening ceremony in 1959. It just so happens that the city, founded by Andrew Monday, Maggie's son, has been built directly on top of Stubbs' not-so-final resting place. Stubbs rises from his grave as a zombie and decides to get his revenge by eating the brains of the inhabitants of Punchbowl, quickly creating his own army of the undead, causing increasing amounts of havoc as the zombies clash with the various militant factions of the area. During the chaos, Stubbs kills Otis Monday by blowing up his house after a brief reunion. Shortly before this, in a spoof of the war film Patton, Stubbs stands in front of an American flag hanging from a barn wall and gives a speech to his zombies. Though the speech consists only of the word "Brains" said in many tones with limited gestures his zombies apparently understand him well enough to let loose a cheer of "BRAINS!" before shuffling away.

Stubbs eventually reunites with Maggie and the two lovingly embrace - with Stubbs promptly eating her brain. Before her brain was eaten, Maggie revealed Stubbs was in fact Andrew's father. Andrew tries to avenge his half-destroyed, zombie-infested city, and his mother, by killing Stubbs from behind a force field. Stubbs, however, destroys the force field and looms toward Andrew, but Maggie, now a zombie, convinces him to spare their son. The game ends with Stubbs and Maggie sailing off on a small rowboat, kissing as Andrew and all of Punchbowl are destroyed by a nuclear bomb to cleanse the undead infestation, and they both "live" happily ever after.

Setting

Punchbowl is a retro-futuristic city that resembles the future as portrayed by the media in 1950s. It includes hovercars, laser weaponry, a monorail, and robots. Punchbowl was envisioned and funded by Andrew Monday and created by his teams of scientists, led by former Nazi scientist Dr. Hermann Wye.

Gameplay

In Stubbs the Zombie the player plays as a zombie, and the primary goal is therefore to kill humans and devour their brains. Eating brains gives back a certain amount of lost health to the player as well as converting those humans into zombies, causing them to fight alongside the player. The player also has the option of beating an enemy to death with melee strikes to transform them into zombies.

Stubbs' zombie state prevents him from wielding any conventional weapons, and instead wields a variety of improvised weaponry and combat techniques, most of which are done using a specific body part as explosives or makeshift devices.

All of the aforementioned improvised weapons, excluding Stubbs' hand, have a chance of converting the humans they kill into zombies. Stubbs can herd zombies which are in range by whistling. Since there is a limit to how many zombies will follow him at a time, Stubbs can guide the rest by sending whole groups of zombies in a direction with a single shove. Stubbs' zombie followers can kill humans and eat their brains, just like Stubbs can, and any human killed by one of his minions will also turn into a zombie. An enemy that fires upon a zombie in a group will attract the attention of all the rest of the zombies. Crowds of zombies serve as a great shield when approaching enemies armed with ranged weapons and are needed for sowing the necessary chaos and confusion into a difficult melee.

Stubbs can also drive a wide variety of vehicles, such as cars, tractors and tanks.

Development

Stubbs the Zombie was Wideload Games' first game after its founding. The company's founder, Alex Seropian had previously co-founded and worked with Bungie and used the production as an experiment to determine how he would run an independent studio. The game's development began with a team of twelve, but Seropian decided to use contractors which raised the number to sixty. This decision brought difficulties when the hiring process wasn't properly overseen, leaving the team with a shortage of producers and lack of cohesion. A game development model was developed, with 12 full time employees overseeing pre and post production phases, while independent contractors worked with the remaining content. Using the Halo engine provided some problem in the early stages. The engine was completely developed by Bungie and it lacked notes from them or peer reviews that would emphasize possible programming problems. Due to this, an excessive amount of time was spent determining which contractors would require training to use the engine, as well as how long they would receive instruction.

From the onset, the game's concept intended to innovate the horror genre by letting the player play as a zombie. Seropian claims that the team intended to take "something that people are familiar" and turn "it upside down." The game was intended to contrast with what was regarded as the general idea of zombie games, changing the "straightforward good guys versus zombies" format found in games like Resident Evil. Humor became a key aspect during the developmental stage, with Seropian claiming that the team wanted to go "beyond just amusing dialogue in a cut-scene". Character dialogue and game mechanics were designed so that "funny results" are directly based on the player's action, preventing them from becoming repetitive or stale.

Reception

Stubbs the Zombie received a generally positive reception in North America, with IGN giving it 8.1 out of 10.0, GameSpot 7.8 out of ten and GamePro 3.5 out of 5. However its reception in Europe was lukewarm, with Eurogamer giving it a score of 4/10, claiming that it has "lots of reasonable ideas that don't quite work" and "a general lack of cohesion". Metacritic gave the Xbox version of the game a score of 75/100. The Windows PC version earned a score of 72/100.

The game was perceived as "painfully short" and "linear", but "never boring".

The game's environments were described as "nicely varied", noting that "places like Punchbowl, the city of the future, are extremely well designed and appropriately cool looking." The game's soundtrack received predominantly positive reviews. The character's voice acting was described as the element that "set the game apart", to the point of claiming that "Never before have the sounds of zombie moaning been done so well in a game." IGN emphasized the "futile cries from civilians and armed foes" and "squishy, scalp-munching sound effects." as elements contributing to a higher quality that the game's visuals.

Stubbs the character was ranked second on EGM's Top Ten Badass Undead.

Cannibalism controversy

Stubbs the Zombie, along with F.E.A.R., encountered controversy in November 2005 regarding cannibalism in games. NIMF's David Walsh and US Senator Joe Lieberman also criticized the game as "cannibalistic" and harmful to underage children. Senator Lieberman stated "It's just the worst kind of message to kids, and furthermore it can harm the entirety of America's youth".

Wideload Games responded by saying:

The current kerfuffle in the US media about Stubbs the Zombie can be summed up in one word: semantics.

Stubbs, they say, is a cannibal.

This is nonsense, as anyone with a working knowledge of cannibals can tell you. Stubbs fails all the classic litmus tests for cannibalism. He does not wear a bone through his nose. He does not help FBI agents track down serial killers. He has not written a cookbook. He is not named Jeffrey Dahmer. The list goes on and on.

Stubbs is a zombie. Thus the title "Stubbs the Zombie." Zombies eat brains. That's what they do. Stubbs cannot just saunter into the cafeteria and order a plate of freedom fries. He has to fight for his meals. In fact, actual cannibals only make it harder for Stubbs to eat, which is why this "cannibalism" story is insulting as well as injurious.

It's no surprise that the all-human media cartel resorts to distortions and name-calling; their anti-zombie bias has been evident for decades, and Stubbs is just the newest target.

If you're a thinking adult, you're probably ready to hear the other side of the story. You'll find it in Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse, in stores now for Xbox, PC and Macintosh. Don't let the humanity-centric media tell you what to think about zombies. A free mind is a tasty mind.

GamePolitics also chided the report, calling it "ridiculous" and citing 36 mainstream news outlets had picked the story immediately after the NIMF report.

Soundtrack

The soundtrack to Stubbs features covers of 50s and 60s-era songs, as well as the original track "The Living Dead", all performed by modern-day artists.

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