Let The Probing Commence!
It’s hard to believe it’s already been 15 years since Destroy All Humans waged war against humanity on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. First released in 2005, the game became a sleeper hit for now-defunct developer Pandemic Studios, the team responsible for developing the excellent Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction that same year. However, while that game’s action unfolded behind enemy lines in a war-torn version of North Korea, Destroy All Humans instead took the fight closer to home. Set in a satirical version 1950s America, it put players in the skin-tight spacesuit of Crypto-137, a little gray alien with a bad attitude and a knack for harvesting the brains of any humans foolish enough to get in his way.
Destroy All Humans didn’t quite set the world on fire at the time of its release (no doubt much to the game’s leading extraterrestrial’s chagrin). Still, it did offer a fun and quirky adventure unlike anything else out there at the time with its unique premise and hilarious story heavily inspired by the alien invasion movies of the Cold War era.
Now, much like Okami, Spyro the Dragon, and Shadow of the Colossus before it, Destroy All Humans is the latest game to find its way to this console generation with a fresh coat of paint. Featuring revamped, Unreal Engine 4-powered visuals and the addition of a new mission saved from the cutting room floor of the original release, this remaster is a great way for newcomers to experience the game. However, it might not do quite enough to warrant a return visit from intergalactic invaders who’ve already seen everything the original releases had to offer.
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
True to its name, Destroy All Humans is all about eradicating humankind for the glory of the Furon Empire. To do this, you’ll be able to make use of an assortment of devious weapons and abilities. From guns that fire arcs of electricity like personal Tesla coils to disintegrator beams and brain-draining anal probes, Crypto’s bag of tricks provides plenty of ways to enact your twisted version of population control on the human race.
In addition to the game’s four guns that you can upgrade with the DNA you collect from human brains, Crypto has access to a jetpack that he can use to fly short distances as well as a host of Furon powers. These otherwordly abilities allow you to do things like temporarily disguise yourself as anyone you encounter to gain access to restricted areas or throw off your pursuers. You can even use mind control to recruit cops and soldiers to fight alongside you. My favorite of these powers is psychokinesis. There’s just nothing that comes close to scooping up exploding cows with your mind and launching them like living mortars into clusters of G. Gordon Liddy -esque G-men. Or, if you’re feeling especially daring, snatching oncoming rockets mid-flight and sending them whistling back whence they came.
When not stomping around on the terra firma, you’ll also be able to hop in the cockpit of your flying saucer and rain death on humanity. Though admittedly a bit shallow and rarely challenging due to the ease with which you can replenish your shields by draining any vehicle you see, these segments can be a refreshing change of pace as you level entire city blocks with hot plasma.
Whether on foot or in the air, waging war against mankind with Crypto is fun enough. But things do start to become repetitive after a while. You’ll be chewing through the same waves of dimwitted soldiers, shadowy government agents, and tanks for the duration of its 12-hour campaign. The mission variety also leaves a bit to be desired, too, underscoring just how much more ambitious open-world games have become over the past 15 years since Destroy All Humans first released.
But that’s not to say developer Black Forest Games hasn’t done anything to spice things up for this remaster. One of the most notable improvements is the controls, which have received an overhaul over the 2005 version of the game. Now you can fire your gun while performing actions like brain-draining and asking your PK abilities, which makes the combat feel much snappier this time around. Additionally, Crypto can both dash and glide when using his jetpack, which makes the airborne antics feel much more nimble as you now can quickly dodge oncoming fire while in mid-air.
Another nice bonus is the inclusion of a “lost mission” that the game’s original developer Pandemic scrapped. The mission tasks Crypto infiltrates Area 42 to sabotage a spacecraft the US government has reverse-engineered from his flying saucer. It’s a pretty fun mission, and I have to give Black Forest Games and THQ Nordic credit for including it in this remaster. Though I don’t think it’s a must-play mission that demands those who’ve had their fill of the original release go out and buy the game post-haste.
Of course, you can’t talk about a remaster without mentioning its overhauled visuals. In terms of presentation, Destroy All Humans’ jump to Unreal Engine 4 something of a mixed bag. For starters, the character models are much improved and pack plenty of personality. The problem is their robotic animations are unchanged from several console generations ago, which is disappointing. As for the environments, they also benefit from enhanced textures and lighting effects that look nice. But these locales are mostly empty and lifeless – especially when viewed from the skies in your UFO. Still, the game runs buttery smooth, even when there’s a ton of enemies and particle effects showcased on-screen.
100% More Fun Than Cattle Mutilation
Fifteen years since it first appeared, Destroy All Humans is, unsurprisingly, starting to show its age. But that’s not to say it isn’t worth your time. Shallow missions and questionable enemy A.I. be damned, subjugating humanity for its precious gray matter is still a lot of fun. With its great sense of humor and insanely violent, over-the-top weapons, this is a game that’s sure to appeal to fans of games like Maneater and Stubbs The Zombie. If you’ve yet to experience Crypto’s origins story, there’s no better time than the present to embark on this anal-probing, body-snatching quest for revenge.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC; Publisher: THQ Nordic; Developer: Black Forest Games; Players: 1 ; Released: July 28, 2020; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: A review copy was provided by PR.