We live in a time where all sorts of games are getting a chance to be remastered, remade or even to get a sequel. Some make sense, and some are genuinely surprising choices. I’d say Destroy All Humans is the second one. Originally released in 2005 it did reasonably well with a Metacritic score of 74 and solid sales which spawned several sequels. Still, despite myself and a lot of other people having a lot of fun as Crypto the alien, Destroy All Humans seems like a strange choice to be brought back in 2020. I’m glad THQ and Black Forest Games decided to once again stage the alien invasion of Earth, though, because Destroy All Humans is a light-hearted, entertaining romp.
Once again we step into the technologically superior boots of Crypto-137, the latest in a long line of clones created by the slowly dying Furon race. They’ve resorted to cloning to prolong their lives, but the cloning procedure has been slowly degrading. Lucky for the Furons they stumble across Earth whose pathetic inhabitants have pure, ancient Furon DNA contained within their fleshy, disgusting exteriors. Crypto gets his orders: subjugate the planet in the name of the Furon Empire. Oh, and some anal probing wouldn’t go amiss.
It’s a simple plot for a simple game. Crypto is the star of the show – he’s snarky, sarcastic and really just wants to blow shit up. The game leans heavily into the classic alien B-movie vibe and its 1950’s Cold War setting with dramatic men in black, secret organizations, cheery citizens and a focus on blaming the dastardly commies for all the mayhem you cause. When in doubt, blame the Reds. Works every time. If I have any real complaint about the story it’s that the main baddie is just sort of…there. However, you get to fight a giant robot president, so that makes up for it.
I wouldn’t call Destroy All Humans a laugh-out-loud funny kind of game, but you’ll probably have a smile firmly affixed to your meatbag face for the majority of the time. There’s a warning that flashes up when you first launch Destroy All Humans that says the game was made in a different time, and thus might be offensive. I have no idea why; there’s nothing here that’s potentially offensive unless you deliberately set out to be offended. Mostly it’s all harmless fun with a satirical slant.
Rather than opting for a simpler remaster, Black Forest Games decided to remake the original Destroy All Humans entirely in the Unreal 4 engine while keeping the original voice acting. Aside from the obvious technical upgrade there’s been a number of changes to the visual style. The biggest is a much more cartoony vibe compared to the original’s more realistic look. The humans you mercilessly disintegrate look more like cartoon caricatures, and a lot of the levels that previously took place at night now take place in broad daylight. This change is immediately on show in the game’s very first level, the once dark farmland now awash in vibrant colours. Likewise, Rockwell is set during the day and is a riot of colours. I’ve got mixed feelings about the change: on the one hand the remake does look quite nice, even if some of Crypto’s personality has arguably been lost with the new animations. On the other hand, the more realistic style and night time missions of the original Destroy All Humans fit better with its B-movie tone.
As for the audio I’m pleased to say that all the fantastic voicework from the original game has been kept. In fact, it’s generally been tidied up so that it sounds sharper and clearer than it once did. J. Grant Albrecht voices Crypto while Richard Steven Horvitz plays Orthopox who bosses Crypto around. Both deliver great performances and their work holds up brilliantly even after 15-years.
For the most part your objective is to simply trash stuff and kill pesky humans using a couple of weapons. There’s the simple zapper which can be upgraded to electrocute multiple foes at once, the disintegration ray that does exactly what it says on the tin. I love the new death animation when using the disintegrator, too, which melts the flesh from the target leaving only a skeleton standing there for a second before it turns to ash. The anal probe that I’ll leave to the imagination, and then there’s the Ion Detonator, which serves as a grenade launcher.
Missions take place across a few different locations, ranging from the secret Area 42 installation to Capitol City, which is absolutely, definitely not Washington D.C. Thanks to the remake the streets and areas have more people and cars in them, but they still feel a bit lifeless and flat. There needs to be more NPCs and more cars and just more life to aid the sense of destruction and terror that you’re supposed to be inflicting.
The action is simplistic 3rd person action, involving nothing more than running and gunning while occasionally ducking behind something to let your shield regenerate. Frankly, there’s very little that actually poses much of a threat to your alien powers, to the point where it’s all a bit too easy. But it does give you a nice power fantasy. It’s the kind of mindless action that’s easy to sink into for an hour or two and just have a good time without needing to overthink things. There’s nothing wrong with straight, simple, entertaining games. In fact, sometimes that’s exactly what you need, especially if, like me, you’ve maybe been playing a lot of Death Stranding on PC. Destroy All Humans is an excellent palette cleanser.
If shooting stuff isn’t enough to get your rocks off then you might be glad to know that Crypto comes packing telekinetic powers that let him hurl crates, snatch missiles out of the air and even lift entire cars. The controls have been revamped so now it’s a simple case of targeting something and tapping the shoulder button to pick it up, or holding and then releasing it to throw it. Honestly, I just enjoyed lifting up hapless humans and carrying them around with me like the harassed family cat being forced into a pram by a toddler.
Crypto would be a crappy alien if he didn’t have a flying saucer. Occasionally a mission will involve hopping into the flying disc of doom, at which point you get access to its firepower and can fly it around. You’re limited in terms of only being able to move up and down a little, but the saucer features so kickass weapons that let you annihilate buildings and cars. It even has an Abducto-ray that can be used to fling cars around or just kidnap innocent cows.
Sadly my biggest complaint about flying the saucer has managed to make it from the original game into the reboot. I’m talking about the tight camera that really limits your view when obliterating the puny humans and their buildings. An option to zoom the camera out a bit would have been fantastic. Not only would it have helped the gameplay but it would have also let the developers show off the environments more.
If you aren’t zapping every human in the area then your other typical mission objective involves taking on a disguise. Crypto can use his Holobob to imitate any human he wants, and then can use quick scans of other humans to maintain the disguise, letting him traipse into restricted areas without a problem. These sections are a decent break from the regular chaos.
Your holo-disguise isn’t foolproof, mind you. Majestic Agents can see through it if you linger too long. That means sneaking into top-secret areas is a case of dodging the agents and scanning humans to keep your disguise intact. There’s always the memory wipe ability should someone spot you, too.
The biggest change made to the gameplay is that you’re no longer limited to doing one thing at a time. Originally in Destroy All Humans you couldn’t fire your gun while using telekinesis, for example.. For the remake the developers have redone the mechanics so now you can mix and match. You can fly around with your jetpack while firing off your gun and lifting a car with your mind. You can rip a brain from a soldier while firing an anal probe straight into someone’s special place. It makes the action a lot smoother. Without this change I don’t think playing Destroy All Humans in 2020 would have felt very good.
There are some other tweaks and changes, too. For example, you can hang out in the air longer thanks to your jetpacks glide feature, making airborne human evisceration a lot easier. And if you accidentally hurl yourself into the ocean while flying around it’s no longer instant death, which is a welcome little change. Meanwhile the Transmogrify ability that was originally introduced in Destroy All Humans 2 has been transplanted into this remake. With this you can turn random objects into ammo which helps keep the action flowing better.
Since this is a fairly faithful remake of the original game it’s has also inherited the same flaws. By this I mean as fun as removing a human’s brain through their anus can be, and it certainly is, it’s all a bit…basic. From the on-foot combat to the disguise system to the mission design and all the way up into the saucer the gameplay is shallow. Hell, even when it launched back in 2005 there were reviews which pointed out how simplistic it all was. With that said, Destroy All Humans isn’t a long game (about 6-8 hours unless you want to get absolutely everything) and because of that it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Just as I was starting to perhaps feel a little bit tired of destroying all the humans the credits rolled.
As you blast through the game, suck up brains and complete challenges you’ll be rewarded with DNA points that are spent on upgrading both Crypto and the saucer. The game dishes out points, unlocks upgrades and tosses in new weapons at a good pace, so there’s always something to work toward or look forward to. My one criticism is that some brand new weapons or even ones from later in the series could have been brought into the mix since Destroy All Humans only offers four on-foot guns to use. While the developers said they wanted to keep
For extra DNA you can jump into the different locations free of the main mission objectives. You can just reap some mayhem if you like, but there’s also four unlockable challenges that reward you with bigger doses of DNA. There’s a basic race that’s not much fun, another which has you using your telekinesis to hurl things into a beam so they can be taken up to the mothership and yet another which has you fighting waves of bad guys. By far the most entertaining is Armageddon since it involves blasting eveyrthing to pieces in the saucer, letting you revel in the destruction of the buildings.
There’s also a bunch of probes to collect at each location that offer for DNA points, if you can find them. They don’t add much to the game unless you’re a pretty dedicated player, though.
As a nice bonus there’s four skins you can unlock by completing the optional objectives in certain missions. I’d like to have seen more than just four skins (one is Crypto’s look from the original game) included in the base game, though, especially since pre-ordering nets you a couple more such as an evil clown skin.
Playing through the remake I was struck by how much I want a proper, new Destroy All Humans game that takes advantage of the scope modern tech can offer in terms of levels and destruction. The remake is fun, sure, but because the developers stick close to the original game’s designs, which were in turn limited by 2005 tech, you can feel all the areas in which it could be so much more spectacular. It’s my firm hope that if this remake does well we might see Destroy All Humans 2 get the same treatment, and that in turn could lead to a true sequel or reboot for the franchise.
All in all, Destroy All Humans is a solid remake of a great little game. Naturally the mission designs and some of the other gameplay elements are a little creaky in 2020, but the developers have done a good job of modifying the core gameplay so that it holds up quite well while still retaining the feel of the original game. Hopefully those who played Destroy All Humans back in 2005 can relive their memories along with a brand new audience who can discover the joys of anal probing.