Review – Destroy All Humans!
Destroy All Humans was originally released in 2005 and developed by the sorely missed Pandemic Studios, the same people behind the original Star Wars: Battlefront games. It clearly was a product of its time. A wacky open world game (or as we used to call them back then, a “GTA clone”) themed after sci-fi B-movies from the 1950s, with an equally crass and endearing sense of humor. It wasn’t exactly the most beloved game, especially when talking about its mediocre sequels, but it still managed to garner a sizeable cult following. Enough it seems for the current iteration of THQ Nordic to revive the franchise for the current generation of consoles. Destroy All Humans is back, in more ways than one.
The 2020 version of Destroy All Humans isn’t a reboot, nor a remaster. This is a full-fledged remake of the original game, paying homage to what made it so endearing back in the day. All while updating its graphics, physics, controls, and extra unlockables, in order to bring the franchise to the current landscape of gaming, be it to various degrees of success.
There is a plot in here, but it acts less a compelling narrative and more like a (very) cheesy excuse for your abductions and massacres on the poor human population. Set in 1959 America, you control a Furon soldier called Cryptosporidium-137 (or Crypto for short). Your mission is to study and collect human brain stems, as they contain traces of uncorrupted Furon DNA that can help their race resume their cloning process, since they can’t actually reproduce due to a general lack of genitalia. Over the course of the story, you find out about a shady government organization called Majestic, and lots of confrontations against them will follow shortly after.
I love Destroy All Humans‘ setting. It’s obviously inspired by the golden age of terrible sci-fi movies of the 50’s, namely Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space. The plot is completely crazy, crass, and hilarious. It constantly pokes fun of how paranoid the general American populace was back in the late 50’s due to alien conspiracies and the Cold War. At the end of each mission, the player is presented with a newspaper featuring big headlines trying to blame Crypto’s most recent acts of chaos on communists and the “rebellious youth”. It’s almost like we haven’t changed at all over the past sixty years.
As previously mentioned, you can completely ignore the story if you want, as the main focus of the game is in its chaotic gameplay. However, you can have a ton of fun watching Crypto interact with his immediate superior, Orthopox, voiced by the same man who voiced Alpha in the original Power Rangers series, as well as the titular character in Invader Zim.
In fact, the voice acting is the same that was featured in the original 2005 game. The developers have managed to find the original recordings and decided to remaster them and include them in the 2020 remake. It still sounds compressed as hell, and the sound mixing is very janky, but I think that was a good choice.
“Janky” pretty much defines this remake as a whole. The original wasn’t exactly a masterpiece, but for its time, it was actually considered your average AAA game. It had a somewhat decent budget, professional (and expensive) voice actors, and it featured multiple open worlds in a time where having one open world was already revolutionary. This remake is clearly not trying to turn the old Destroy All Humans into today’s equivalent of a AAA game. It’s a noticeably cheaper game and you can see that in its aforementioned janky soundtrack, as well as its visuals and gameplay.
The graphics are a mixed bag. The game’s visuals were remade from the ground up, and they feature a slightly more cartoonish vibe than the original game, but that doesn’t mean it looks appealing. Crypto and the other Furons look adorable in their own creepy grey alien way, but the humans just look way too ugly. In fact, they look so weird that one could argue they look more alien than the aliens themselves. The rest of the game looks decent enough, however. The environments are colorful, the lighting effects are crisp, and the framerate is stable for the most part, only dropping when you start destroying entire buildings with your saucer’s laser cannons.
The gameplay did receive some much-needed improvements. It doesn’t feel as heavy as other modern games, as Crypto is still pretty light and nimble, having access to dash maneuvers, a jetpack, and a complete immunity to fall damage. The aiming mechanics are a bit wonky, as pressing the left trigger automatically locks you onto the nearest interactive object, be it a person, a car, or a basketball. The hit detection could have received an extra degree of polish as well. All in all, those are the main issues I have with the gameplay, as the ability to wreak havoc and torture mankind is still pretty freaking cathartic.
Crypto has a humongous arsenal at his disposal, ranging from powerful weapons to psychic abilities and what I can only describe as “torture devices”. You can use telekinesis on almost everything you can find, be it a person, a car, or a bench, and throw it with increased momentum onto foes like a heavy projectile. The Force is strong with this one, indeed.
You can also use lightning bolts, a particle disintegrator clearly ripped off from the one featured in Mars Attacks, grenades, hypnosis, and a Scanners-esque mind attack that blows human heads off. And of course, it wouldn’t be a game about alien invasion without an anal probe.
It’s nowhere near as graphic as the ones from South Park, however, being a simple beam that goes straight into a victim’s, err, “orifice”, and then sucks its brain stem out. You can even restore your health by doing so. I don’t understand the practicality of removing someone’s brain from the farthest orifice in their body, but hey, it made me giggle like a dumb teenager more than once. You can also steal a person’s identity and fool others by interacting with them. You can even pretend to be a mayor and tell people that there’s no such thing as aliens, it’s just a communist conspiracy.
It might be visually unappealing and quite janky, but I still had quite a bit of fun with this remake of Destroy All Humans. It’s a relic of its time with a brand new coat of paint and an unapologetically dumb parody of B-movies and Cold War hysteria. Even though it’s riddled with issues that are mostly likely caused by its low budget, I think that THQ Nordic and Black Forest Games’ decision to remake the game as a simpler AA title was a smart move. This is aimed at 2000’s enthusiasts and fans of dumb, comedic, and over-the-top action games. Considering the fact that the original Destroy All Humans wasn’t a masterpiece either, this remake ended up as good as it could possibly be, and I’m definitely not disappointed with the end result.
The game received a brand new visual style, with some decent lighting effects and passable framerate. Somehow the humans are ugly to the point that they look more alien than the aliens themselves.
The gameplay received some much-needed revamps and adjustments, therefore this version of Destroy All Humans doesn’t feel like a game from 2005, at least in the gameplay department. The hit detection and aiming mechanics could have received an extra layer of polish, but it’s still quite good.
The voice acting is excellent, but then again it is the same exact voice acting from 2005, complete with a noticeable amount of audio compression. The overall mixing is also uneven.
It’s janky and somewhat buggy, but it’s still very humorous and cathartic. Wreaking havoc on humans with your alien weapons and psychic abilities is as fun nowadays as it used to be fifteen years ago.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Destroy All Humans! is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Reviewed on Xbox One.
A copy of Destroy All Humans! was provided by the publisher.