Destroy All Humans! Review – Sixth Gen Content With A Current Gen Shine
Destroy All Humans! is a complete remake of Destroy All Humans!. I never played the original Destroy All Humans! from 2005 in earnest, but as I understand it, this is a shot-for-shot recreation. Originally premiering on the PS2 and Xbox, it received positive reception but fell quite a bit short from its contemporaries. My initial hope was that the game would receive some updates for the content, not just gameplay but also story. Destroy All Humans! 2020 is, unfortunately, still in 2005.
In Destroy All Humans! you play as Cryptosporidium, or Crypto for short. Crypto is the 137th Crypto, a Furon clone tasked with both dominating humanity and investigating the whereabouts of his predecessor, #136. Humanity is important to the Furons, because after such extended periods of cloning, their DNA is all mixed up. Humans have some Furon DNA within them, and the survival of the Furon civilization requires getting as much of it back as possible.
Landing in a muddy field, Crypto tries communicating with the dominant life form on Earth (bovine) and subsequently realizes that Earth is not a planet worth not-destroying. Thus, your adventure begins. The narrative of Destroy All Humans! is mostly unremarkable. A Men In Black style organization called Majestic is working against the goofs and gags you and your handler Pox are performing on various humans (rearranging propaganda networks, abducting people, etc). The story is the excuse for gameplay, which is fine. Even the characters in the game are aware it’s often arbitrary, commenting stuff like “you have to do this, but for some reason we need you to do it without touching the ground.” I like the self awareness.
A typical mission in Destroy All Humans!, will have Crypto fly down from space, do some menial task, shoot everyone, then leave. Many of the missions are mostly irrelevant to the overarching story, but in a good way. Crypto and Pox trying out different methods of gaining dominance, you may have to jump around and point a bunch of TV antennas at the sky to amplify some mind-rays or whatever. But it’s too powerful and everyone’s heads explode and you go back to your ship having accomplished basically nothing. I found these to be some of the most enjoyable.
The humor of Destroy All Humans! is clearly the primary selling point. Intentionally ridiculous, the humans you are to destroy in 1959 America are caracatursihly American. Virulent rage against anything perceived as communism, hoggish consumers, petty and greedy and passively cruel. But this satire of unhinged Cold War paranoia would have already been out of date in 2005 for all but the 20 year old players.
15 years on, I would imagine half of the audience would not get the joke, and the other half would unironically agree with their sentiment. And why wouldn’t they? It’s a bit like the humor in South Park, where everyone is laughably horrible, but nothing comes from it other than the message of “everything is bad so who cares.” The humans in Destroy All Humans! are vile, but so is Crypto and the rest of the Furons. Thus when you’re blowing everything up with disintegration rays, hey. Everything is bad. So who cares.
The gameplay for Destroy All Humans! is the same as the original as well. Still adequate, especially for fans of the original, but certainly not the modern mechanics a new player might expect. Crypto can leap a bit and use a jetpack to fly around, but beyond that has about as much mobility and agility you’d expect from a three foot tall creature who is 60% cranium and 10% eyes.
What he lacks in physical ability, Crypto makes up for in technological and mental superiority. Destroy All Humans! gives you access to a number of guns and abilities to give you the edge. You start out with a lightning gun, and eventually get a Mars Attacks plasma shooter, some kind of grenade launcher, and the probably-funnier-in-2005 anal probe. These are perfectly adequate, and when upgraded can even become fun. But the weapons are actually the least interesting ability of Crypto’s arsenal.
Crypto has powerful telekinesis, and really, what else do you need. Destroy All Humans! is a game about destruction, and you can’t be limited by things like “ammo” and “fire rate.” While waiting for the impotent little static gun to recharge, just pick up one person with your mind and launch them at another. Simple and effective and most importantly fun. Later you can get even better brain upgrades, letting you throw bigger and more devastating objects, such as cars.
Would it surprise you to hear that Destroy All Humans!, for all its destruction, actually requires a ton of stealth? Crypto may have incredible and terrible powers, but he’s also as large as a toddler. Once his shield is down, a light breeze will blow him away. So to keep from fighting endless waves of soldiers and police, Crypto has abilities to sneak around unnoticed.
Most notably is the “holobob,” which allows him to disguise himself as any human he can find. Destroy All Humans! requires a bunch of sneaking into bases and occasionally impersonating people, so this is the ability you’ll use most. There are also other telepathic powers that can let you get humans to fight for you, or just dance the terror of being mind controlled by greys away, but generally the simplest solutions are the best. Throw car and sneak are the best strategies around.
And the final mechanic is the UFO. You can fly a little saucer around and blow up cars and buildings. Destroy All Humans! likes to end missions by having you get in your UFO and shoot things with the death ray, but I can’t say I found it that riveting. The fixed camera angled towards the ground means that you have to position the UFO to aim, certainly a relic of PS2 games, and the clunky movement makes this worse. It’s not bad, just not that interesting.
Destroy All Humans! is a blast from the past, and that’s something that a new player should definitely consider before buying. If you’re well and inundated with PS2 era platformers like Ratchet & Clank or Crash Bandicoot, you already have a good idea of what to expect mechanically. This is a 2005 game, and though it was a perfectly good game in 2005, it carries all the antiquated mechanics with it to the present.