There were numerous series that saw their life begin during the mid-2000s and one of these happened to be Destroy All Humans! which, despite having four releases over the course of that decade, ended up becoming something more akin to a cult classic action game that has been left in the dust for twelve years. Now here we are in 2020, a solid fifteen years after the original game was released with THQ Nordic and Black Forest Games teaming up to bring Destroy All Humans! back to modern consoles with a remake that is more akin to a remaster of the first game.
Set in the idyllic 1950s or 1960s the military accidentally manages to blow a spaceship out of the air while trying to test a rocket of their own. An alien creature manages to crawl out of the flying saucer before collapsing and being captured by the government, but that isn’t where the player will be. Instead players are placed into the space-boots of Cryptosporidium-137, better known simply as Crypto, a Furon that is now being tasked with not only possibly retrieving its earlier number, but also with harvesting human brain stems for their DNA. In perfect schlocky sci-fi fashion, it turns out that Furon DNA was placed into humanity long ago and now the only way to keep the Furons from going extinct is to extract this DNA.
Destroy All Humans! plays its story in a humorous fashion with the aliens seeing Earth more as their stomping ground than anything else, so expect plenty of dark humor here, and takes full advantage of the numerous sci-fi cliches that fans of the genre have come to expect. While mostly straightforward, the plot does begin to get a bit more twisted as players progress through the main story and encounter a shadow organization and see that their actions are continuously covered up as either random coincidences, acts of Communism, or other scares that were prevalent during the ‘50s and ‘60s.
What really drives the story presentation here happens to be the performances of the main two aliens in the game, Crypto and Orthopox, even if they seem more like they are from completely different games at times and haven’t aged the best, but more on that later. Pox is voiced by the same actor who voiced Invader Zim back in the day and anyone who has seen that show will immediately hear that character during any interaction thanks to the over-the-top performance and humor involved while Crypto is played mostly straight and has tons of action one-liners that work well when juxtaposed against Pox and simply how overpowered he can be compared to the humans he is taking on.
One of the most immediate changes that returning fans of the games will notice is that the gameplay mechanics in Destroy All Humans! have been entirely modernized, making the game feel like a modern day action title, albeit one that is a bit too easy. Crypto feels like an overpowering force right out of the gate simply due to the fact that he is already equipped with an easily controllable jetpack, telekinesis to throw everything from chickens and people to entire vehicles around, the ability to simply pop the brains out of humans, and of course a wide array of alien weaponry starting with a powerful lightning gun that requires little aim.
What makes this even more powerful is the fact that most of these abilities can be used in tandem with one another, where previously things were much more limiting. The enemy AI players battle against isn’t the best unfortunately though they will quickly begin to swarm Crypto once he begins targeting the human populace enough, bringing everything from standard police to mysterious men in black to try and put down the alien menace. While players have plenty of weapons of their own to take advantage of, including a signature “anal probe” style weapon that is more of a joke than anything else, the ability to fly around in Crypto’s UFO is always an option.
Controlling the flying saucer is an easy task as players can control their altitude with ease while blasting away at anything humanity can throw at them with a giant death ray and a variety of other unlockable weapons. There are also a number of stealth sections that players will be required to play through from time to time and these require the use of the “Holobob” to disguise Crypto as another human. These stealth sections are unique feeling the first time around but unfortunately don’t really feature a lot of variety and can feel quite repetitive even through the game’s fairly short story length.
Players will find that the campaign is spread across six different map locations that feature a variety of missions that players can complete and as mentioned before, they range from action to stealth missions. Each mission often features sub-objectives that reward the player with extra DNA for performing unique kills or various other tasks. Once these missions are completed players can return to each area to either farm DNA from enemies, explore these maps in sandbox format to see more of what they have to offer, or take part in a few side-activities like races and abductions in a chance to earn more DNA.
DNA obtained from missions and enemies can be used by Pox to power up both Crypto as well as his flying saucer. These power ups often add various improvements to Crypto’s weaponry as well as his health, which is protected by a shield that is depleted anytime he receives damage or touches water. It is worth noting that while the game may not be the most difficult at times, players will not want to slouch on their upgrades as there are a number of difficulty spikes that can occur in a few missions, especially at the end, that will catch many players off-guard if they have been steamrolling through the best humanity has had to offer with no upgrades.
Those who played the original release of Destroy All Humans! will also notice that a brand new mission has also been included in this game as the development team has included a previously cut mission as part of the story now. This little addition is a nice touch that fits right into the story and, in retrospect, feels a bit odd to be removed from the original release.
Visuals & Audio
When designing Destroy All Humans! the development team appears to have tried to stay as close to the original designs as possible while improving them to modern day standards, allowing for the game to look quite good with Crypto’s design really standing out as impressive in nature as well as the numerous cutscenes that appear throughout the game. The designs for the humans are a bit more cartoonish looking this time around, likely for the best given the way players plow through them, but suffer a bit from there being too few models to work with, making way too many humans appear similar to one another in the six different stages in the game. As for these stages, they are unique enough in design if a bit sparse in some spaces but work well, especially when players zip around in Crypto’s UFO.
There is something to be said for authenticity but also something to be said for trying to keep things up to a certain standard. While most of the graphics and gameplay mechanics have been improved, the voice work has been taken entirely from the 2005 release of the game and while this does allow for the great performances of the two main characters to stay untouched (in case they couldn’t return to reprise their roles) the aged sound clips sound rough at times and often bits of dialogue are constantly repeated during combat so players will quickly get tired of hearing the same phrases over and over again.
When handling a game that many loved from over fifteen years ago, it can be difficult to judge just how much should be changed and Black Forest Games’ handling of Destroy All Humans! was a light-handed one. While modernizing the control scheme and updating the graphics to close to modern standards have seen the action game revitalized for many, it also is one that can often feel a bit too simple at times and although the comedic writing is great when it comes to its main characters, it doesn’t move beyond that.
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