The cult-classic returns! Terrorize the people of 1950s Earth in the role of the evil alien Crypto-137. Harvest DNA and bring down the US government in the remake of the legendary alien invasion action adventure. Annihilate puny humans using an assortment of alien weaponry and psychic abilities. Reduce their cities to rubble with your flying Saucer! One giant step on mankind!
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Reviewed on: PS4 (Pro unit)
Also available for: Xbox One, PC, Stadia
Cast: J. Grant Albrecht, Richard Steven Horvitz, Andre Sogliuzzo
Developer: Black Forest Games
Creative Director: Jean-Marc Haessig
Technical Art Director: Eric Urocki
Technical Director: Johannes Conradie
Lead Game Designer: David Sallmann
If you’re a fan of Crypto-137’s antics from 2005, you’ll likely find the brain popping and Cold War-era sendup this remake offers to be a trip down memory lane. I have exploded thousands of heads and thrown cars, humans and cows across levels for much enjoyment. All the things I, & I’m sure other fans, recall as the peak of entertainment from Destroy All Humans. However, if you don’t have a lick of nostalgia for the Jack Nicholson impersonating alien invader and his supreme Furon race of aliens, this is going to be something you’ll want to skip.
The game wasn’t aimed at my generation when I played it on PS2 back in 2005 and the target audience is still not my generation, or the next. The Day the Earth Stood Still and Invaders From Mars are just two early 50’s alien films that clearly inspired the jokes and tone of Destroy All Humans. Two films I doubt modern audiences would appreciate the send-up of. There’s also plenty of Richard Nixon jokes as well as references to the Roswell UFO landing and an assortment of classic films from Citizen Kane to The Shinning. It’s a pop culture joke-fest, for a certain time and audience that most likely are not playing this game.
Destroy All Humans’ plot is pretty simple. As Crypto-137, the 137th clone of the Furon race, you’re tasked with invading Earth in search of your missing brother, Crypto-136, and extracting human brain cells along the way for research.
There’s 22 mission including a restored bonus 13.5th mission that was excluded from the original game. It’ll take you somewhere around 5-6 hours to finish the campaign, a little bit longer if you complete the bonus objectives in each mission. These range from simple things like dumping a cow in the lake in the first mission to never breaking stealth in others.
Your main mission objectives remain unchanged for the most part. Some levels have slight tweaks but nothing massive. The general structure of each mission though is most definitely outdated. You’ll be tasked with either destroying a whole heap of things and popping human brains, or in others, you’re to impersonate a human, be stealthy for a while, and then blow up a bunch of stuff.
Crypto has a basic weapon that’ll fry humans over a couple of seconds, a disintegration ray and a big nuke-like weapon. The most fun of his abilities still remains his PK powers which let you levitate and throw objects around. It’s the first game I ever remember having ‘force-like’ abilities in and they’re still a bunch of fun.
As part of Crypto’s PK powers, you can stun, mind-control and use ‘Holobob’ to pretend to be a human. This does lead to some of the games funnier moments with Crypto attempting to be a human but it also shows the age of the game. There’s a handful of human NPC’s in each level and often I’d be Holobob’ing one only to have one or two of the same character stand next to me. Maybe not a big deal in 2005, but super-noticeable now.
When I played the original game on the PS2 the most fun I had was hearing the sound of a brain popping from within a humans head and it is safe to say that whatever violent tendencies I enjoyed back then, I enjoy them just as much now. In fact, I wish I had more reasons to collect brains. I was just popping more than I needed for fun half the time.
Ultimately that’s the best way to describe the game. While the general mission structure is very outdated, Crypto’s abilities and combat remain still very fun.
Given it’s very obvious that developer Black Forest Games was targeting fans of the original, they could have cleaned up a few things to make the overall experience even more enjoyable. The load times aren’t the worst I’ve experienced all year, but they’re still unacceptable in 2020. Sometimes you’ll finish a cut-scene just to walk forward 20 metres and get another one, and each has a second or two load screen. If you die or need to restart a mission for some reason expect to be waiting 20-30 seconds on average and it’s just a tedious reminder that you are indeed playing a remake of an old game.
This remake hasn’t received the same coat of paint that other remakes have recently when it comes to the presentation. The levels themselves are a substantial upgrade, especially if you do a side-by-side comparison. Some of the particle effects when you destroy a building from above or shock a string of humans looks great. However, the character models are distractingly ugly. Crypto gets away with it because he’s an alien (no offence aliens), but the human characters all look liked stretched pixels of their original counterparts.
The first thing you see when you click play for the first time is a message explaining that the jokes in the game are from “a different time.” And that they are. Although there’s nothing I saw or heard that pushes the game into territory that it should never have been released, there are jokes that standout. Reading the mind of military personal often repeated the same line about the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ A policy that basically said gay and bi people could join the military, as long as they kept their personal business, personal. Pair this with a lot of extra-material affairs jokes with, of course, the pun being it’s the nagging wife’s fault and some other homophobic and sexist jokes and it’s obvious that this is a game of a certain time. None of this is enough to ruin the experience for me, but it’s definitely worth mentioning and being aware of and I’m glad they acknowledge it at the start of the game in some fashion.
Destroy All Humans is, as I mentioned, at its best when you can just explode a bunch of stuff as Crypto on foot or even when you jump into his spacecraft. Which, by the way, now lets you look down Independence Day-style and rain laser attacks from above. The best place to do any of this is when you unlock the ‘exploration mode’ for each location. In these modes, you’re free to rain havoc however you please as well as search for the collectibles on each map and compete in an assortment of challenges.
The challenges are the best additions to this remake. Some give you a time limit to destroy as much of a town as you can in your ship, while others have you racing around town chasing a bot in a time trial. The earlier levels offer moderate challenge while the latter step it up to a ridiculous degree. I haven’t managed to complete them all as of writing this review but I would like to try.
I wish there had of been more of these challenges and collectibles to track down in the exploration mode. It’s when the game feels most alive and open for player choice and havoc. But this begs the main question: why remake the campaign of this game at all. Why not make a new entry into the franchise?