In the early 2000s, it was common for game developers to focus on making an experience that was purely fun above all else. Now, it seems like every game needs to have a serious tone. People want to feel something. That’s why the return of the cult classic Destroy All Humans is both unexpected and wholly welcomed.
Destroy All Humans is an excellent remake of a game from the PlayStation 2 and Xbox days that I figured was long forgotten. And though the game’s original platforms hold it back from what it could be if it was developed from scratch today, it had me grinning from start to finish.
Take me to your leader
In terms of story, this is the same experience players got in 2005. The Furons are an alien race seeking immortality through cloning themselves, but the clones are slowly losing their power. When Crypto-136 is captured by humans, his clone, Crypto-137, heads to Earth to mount a rescue and obtain information to aid the Furon Empire in its pursuit of galactic conquest.
You are led by Pox, a controlling brainiac Furon voiced by Richard Horvitz, who portrayed the titular character in the early-to-mid-2000s Nickelodeon cartoon Invader Zim. I was a huge fan of that show growing up, so it was an absolute joy to be led by that voice. I couldn’t get enough.
Instead of having the cast revoice their roles, developer Black Forest Games took the original dialog and enhanced it. For the most part, this sounds good. Between Crypto and Pox, their lines make sense and are delivered well. It’s when you run past NPCs that you start noticing outdated references.
This is an area where I wish new actors were brought in. It’s a small nitpick, but constantly hearing references to They Live and The Shining gets old fast. That being said, Destroy All Humans is heavily inspired by crappy B-movies, so in a strange way, the awkward NPC deliveries do feel like they belong.
The story is campy and nails its brilliant interpretation of a 1960s United States that is laser-focused on American superiority and squashing communism. It perfectly shows how ridiculous the American government can be and highlights the comedic overtones of extreme patriotism.
Destruction elements from another time
Destroy All Humans is arguably the purest fun I have had in in a game so far in 2020. As Crypto, you are an unrivaled killing machine. Your superior technology completely outclasses any opponent you come across.
Unfortunately, it never feels like you quite reach the peak of your power. As you collect DNA from humans, you steadily upgrade your weapons, but they never give you that absolute bad ass feeling you get from a game like Doom, where you feel distinctly more deadly than before with each upgrade. These lackluster power-ups continually remind me that this is a game from 2005. None of them feel like that must-have addition that changes gameplay for the better.
While on foot, you are held back to only really being able to affect humans. You can vaporize them, steal their brains, force-throw them, and more, which is all great fun. You can unlock a couple of upgrades for your dash, like one that will give you an invisible skateboard to ride around on, but the lack of upgrades for your jetpack, and the fact you can’t destroy buildings on foot, takes away some of the enjoyment.
But once I got a chance to fly around in Crypto’s saucer, where I could burn my name into the ground and demolish buildings with its death laser, I truly began feeling like the threat I was meant to be. At first, the controls of the saucer felt a little clunky, and it took some getting used to. But once it clicked, I seldom wanted to leave the cockpit.
Close encounters of the Furon kind
Throughout the campaign, you are routinely dealing with a military that can’t catch a break against you. But they are not the real threat here. A federal group called Majestic is hunting you, led by someone who calls themselves Silhouette. This group is continually coming up with gadgets and experiments to take you down.
Still, you will not deal with too much resistance. Anytime you take damage, if you simply take cover, you will regenerate health pretty quickly. Your shield can take quite a beating before it breaks, too, and I never found myself too worried about health.
At least not until the final level, where out of nowhere the game dramatically spikes in difficulty. This sudden jump is off-putting, but if you have been upgrading your equipment, you should still not have too much an issue dealing with it.
Part of the reason the game is so easy is the overreliance on mediocre stealth mechanics. When infiltrating areas, Crypto will need to disguise himself as a human with a Holo-Bob, a holographic disguise power. This form is held by reading human thoughts, which is always too easily done. You just need to stand near a human and press a button that lets out a mindreading beam that cannot be seen by anyone, even out in the open.
Even with certain technologies decreasing the time before needing to refuel your disguise, I never once dealt with an issue of being compromised. This is an area that could have used some extra thought put into it; revitalizing this aspect of antiquated gameplay for the remake would have gone a long way.
To infinity and beyond—mostly
Visually, Destroy All Humans has its hits and one miss. I love the design of Crypto and Pox. You can see the orifices on the back of Crypto breathing with life, and the new motion-captured movements bring a new level of detail to the cutscenes. In the environments, animals look better, plants look livelier, and the lighting is brought up to current-day standards.
The same cannot be said for the humans, though. Human faces look more terrifying than the aliens because of how overly stretched the textures are, and frankly, I would say the original Xbox and PS2 designs look better.
My biggest worry about this remake is the game’s performance. I had frequent problems with frame rates dropping to near unplayable levels when starting up the game on PC, mostly when it was loading the world around me, or when a lot of explosions were happening at once. For the first few minutes after booting up, I had to endure constant issues of bad stuttering, but eventually it would fix itself. After getting better, it would happen now and then, but by no means to the point that was unplayable. These types of issues could be easily fixed with a day-one patch.
Overall, Destroy All Humans is a game you should enjoy whether you played the original or not. It knows exactly what it is, and it doesn’t try too hard with its comedic and destructive overtones. While it would have been nice to have a more in-depth upgrade system and more satisfying stealth mechanics, that’s more of a complaint toward the PS2 and Xbox versions than this remake.
For anyone complaining that games are too long today, you will be happy with the six to seven hours it takes to beat this story. Until the final level, there is no real challenge, and while there are collectibles and mission challenges to attempt to extend your game time over the 10-hour mark, it is mostly unneeded and easily ignored.
For the most part, the game looks great, and outside of the occasional performance issue, it will keep you entertained throughout its brief campaign. If anything, I came away from Destroy All Humans hoping we see a brand-new game in the series sooner rather than later. There is a lot to build on here, and using this remake as a launching pad could be a giant leap for the series.
8 / 10
|+||Pure destructive fun|
|+||A campy story that mostly holds up|
|+||The voice of Zim giving you commands is great|
|+||Left me wanting more|
|–||Poor stealth gameplay|
|–||Humans look freaky|
|–||Frame rate issues (that hopefully will be fixed)|