Bioshock – The rich man’s Stubbs the Zombie
Something has been bugging me since I finished Bioshock a few weeks ago. I realized that, while I enjoyed the environments, I hadn’t found them quite as interesting as everyone was saying. The outside vistas were amazing (the one time you got to see them at the beginning of the game, and the occasional look outside a window), but the inside’s art deco setting just was not as jaw dropping pretty as I wanted them to be.
I have just realized: I played this game before. Outsider interloper from the past enters a Utopia built by a single man with a dream. Innate characteristic of foreigner brings change to society and pits character against enigmatic city founder. It a 1959’s retro/futuristic setting.
“But wait, Phokal. Bioshock takes place in 1960.”
“Your right, sir, but Stubbs the Zombie is placed in 1959.”
Stubbs the Zombie carries no less commentary than Bioshock. It is in the delivery that is different. Bioshock has a very dirty, real feel to its dystopia. The city has collapsed and you fight off a bunch of crazied, zombie-like citizens as their addiction to Adam, mentally deranged state, and Andrew Ryan’s pheromones direct them to all attack you. The game, as just about everyone has said, portrays an Ayn Rand setting, with the gameplay (slightly dumbed down) of System Shock 2. Playing Bioshock is like reading a novel. Through recorded playbacks, a series of detailed characters and backstory to this dystopia is slowly revealed.
In Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel without a Pulse, you are a literal zombie thrown into a 1959 utopia filled with letter jacket wearing football quarter backs dating cheerleaders down by the drive in movie theater. Helpful robots (think Rosie from the Jetsonâ€™s) help direct and guide you to different parts of the city. Men in brown suits and hats go off to their jobs. Hick gun nut farmers protect their land. But in this game, the citizens are no less zombies than you. Andrew Monday created the city of Punchbowl with the help of former Nazi scientist, Dr. Hermann Wye. While not as deep as Andrew Ryan, Andrew Monday portrays a very similar charismatic leader who created a society he considered better than could be found anywhere in the world. Based on traditional American ideals of capitalism and patriotism against the Soviet Union, Punchbowl was an American city of the future. As mindless cheery drones go about their daily task in this idyllic city, you are introduced on the day of its official opening. The game is a satire, with some straight humor and intense violence thrown in to break up the pacing. Lines like: “He’s eating my braaaaiiiinsssss. Ahhhh!” delivered alongside scenes of shopping centers, parking lots, perfectly planted trees down a perfectly lit street as Sugarpop lollipop plays in the background. Even the prison is clean. Until, of course, you change this. Your individuality destroys punchbowl. Ironic, seeing as everyone you kill becomes a mindless follower.
If everything wasn’t so perfect, the game would have an easier time not falling into the Halo 1 “omg where the fuck am I going?” rule of map design. As it is, getting lost is just as easy, and far more aggravating because, as a zombie, you move even slow than a Master Chief wearing a 1 ton suit of armor,…pushing your way through the line for the Halo 4/Madden 2010 crossover,….covered in molasses,…on Jupiter.
Gameplay-wise, this is saved by the fact that the entire game can be played co-op. Yes, you can eat brains and have them, too. Being the only game (I can think of) based off the Halo 1 engine, it plays very similarly. The Co-op “spawn when no enemies are nearby” rule applies. The level select and profiles menu has an identical layout to Halo (this = pretty good). The map hazes as The Flood destroy-…I mean, zombies destroy the city. Weapon control is very similar the few times you have it. Most of the time, though, you run around and melee, or sneak up behind and eat brains. Eating brains results in gaining brains to power your special abilities. Both result in the corpses rising from the ground a few moments later to join you in your quest. If you play a level right and keep your comrades “alive,” you can amass a very large army over the course of a level.
I notice Stubbs is on the backwards compatibility list. If you are looking for a fun co-op romp, like zombies and 1960’s dystopias, and can still find a copy, you should give Stubbs the Zombie a try.