February 4, 2023

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Stubbs the Zombie is an uncanny classic

How quickly when you’re thinking about Halo does the music come into your head? I’m imagining it’s probably there before the first images. Mournful, ancient, righteous, heroic, the music in Halo is doing an awful lot. It’s been described in interviews as the thing that makes everything else twice as good, and it’s hard not to suspect that’s true. Get in a Warthog and the camera moves back and that music starts up: let’s get on with it.

Leaving that for just a second, it must be annoying having been part of the team that made the original Halo. Annoying in a way that being in the Beatles must be annoying. Whatever you do next, you know where the comparisons are going to lie. Even when you take a very different tack, like Alex Seropian, for example, who ditched the Master Chief for Stubbs the Zombie, a fascinating curio that has finally made the transition to modern machines, with a port that I’ve been playing on Switch the last few days. There’s a lot to think about with Stubbs, but inevitably Halo comes into it quite often – and not just Halo, but Halo’s music.

I remember playing Stubbs very briefly back when it came out in – jeepers – 2005. My take at the time, and it was hardly original, was that here was a game in which you played as the Flood rather than the Chief. Stubbs uses the Halo engine to conjure one of those atomic utopian hellholes the 1950s were so good at imagining. Punchbowl is the ultimate futuristic town for the decade of Doris Day and Reds in the Bed. It has its own monorail! People are doing weird things with agriculture! You get shown around by a robot! And the police force is gigantic and militarised.

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