Review – Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse (Switch)
Way back in 2005, a little OG Xbox game called Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse was introduced to the world, but didn’t really gather much attention at the time. It had a unique premise and was a game that I had fond memories of. Falling into obscurity, Stubbs the Zombie became a somewhat difficult game to find and play, one of the Xbox’s most desired collectors’ gems, but original developer/publisher Aspyr has finally brought it back to modern consoles, Switch included. Does it live up to the nostalgia?
You play as Stubbs, the undead salesman who rises from his grave in the recently opened Punchbowl City, the “city of the future” (at least for 1950’s standards), complete with hover cars and robots. As Stubbs awakens he sets out on a personal journey and to raise an undead army to help him on his way. The story is exactly what you’d expect: wacky, dumb, and often times hilarious, with a lot of its jokes surprisingly landing pretty well even after all these years. The fact the game doesn’t take itself seriously at all might actually be its main highlight.
Stubbs has a number of abilities to help him with his plans. Biting your victims’ brains is your main way to kill opponents, turn them into allies, and also refill your other abilities. You can also throw pieces of your body (or even your head) as a sort of explosive, you can fart to stun enemies, and most interestingly, you can throw your hand to gain control over a human target, allowing you to use their guns. Whilst these abilities are fun to use, there’s very few of them and can get a bit dull over time.
It’s very much the same game that was released back in 2005, with some control alterations to give a slightly more modern feeling. Stubbs the Zombie is at its very best when you are exploring semi-open areas and causing as much chaos as possible. Raising an army of the dead and using them to push forward to your next objective is a delight. It’s a unique gameplay loop that is incredibly engaging and something we really don’t see very often in modern games, with the exception of the Destroy All Humans remake. These moments alone make the game well worth picking up.
Sadly, these open levels don’t show up often enough. Often times the more open maps are traded in for boring linear missions. This causes a lot of pacing issues, where sections of the game just tend to drag on and go against its lunacy-driven strengths, forcing you down linear corridor after linear corridor until you reach the next map without very much thought. It becomes much less about you experimenting and just having fun with the game’s mechanics, instead slowly forcing your way through each encounter. Often times I would just use the possess ability and shoot my way through these sections to get over with them as soon as possible.
As everyone that has ever played Stubbs the Zombie has said during the years, this game is running on the original Halo engine. The exact same iteration that was used way back for Halo 2, to be even more specific, which is a fact thrown around every time that the game is mentioned and even on the box art for retail copies on the OG Xbox. This remaster is no different, as it is an almost 1:1 port of the game with slightly upscaled textures here and there, as well as a more stable framerate and resolution. Know what to expect from it.
Even with its blatant pacing issues, as well as the fact that this is, at the end of the day, an upscaled port of a game originally released three console generations ago, Stubbs the Zombie is still well worth checking out today. The charming story, carefree attitude and unique gameplay is something we really don’t see a lot of these days.
Looks pretty much exactly like the game did back in 2005, with just a resolution increase and a more stable framerate.
Stubbs‘ core gameplay is engaging and holds up remarkably well, though it is lacking when it comes to variety.
Sound design is also the same as it was back in 2005. Some of its aspects aged well enough, while others are showing some aging scars.
Fun Factor: 6.5
Stubbs the Zombie has always had the potential to be a great game, but it has always been limited by its linear level design. It’s no different in this version, though portability is a nice addition.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse is available now on PC, Xbox One/Series, Playstation 4/5 and Switch. Original version was released on Xbox.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse was provided by the publisher.