Published on August 3rd, 2020 | by Zorbz
REVIEW: Destroy All Humans
REVIEWED BY: SNRUB
A blast from the past – probing our memories via our buttholes to remind us of what things were like in 2005… before videogames (and us gamers) grew up. Rebuilt from the ground up, with the original “story, words, and images contained within [which] may be shocking to the human brain!” does Destroy All Humans still work? And can it still make us smile in 2020? It’s complicated.
Story: You play as Crypto-137, a sarcastic grey alien from the Furion race hell-bent on destruction and enslaving the human race, directed from the mothership by another Furion alien named Pox (Richard Horvitz, Invader Zim). During the 23-Mission campaign, you abduct, brainwash, and destroy your way to enslaving the human race by using your weapons and your flying saucer while collecting DNA-stems from the pathetic humans, who carry some small amounts of Furion DNA due to aliens “having some fun on Earth” centuries ago, before they evolved into a genderless, clone-based race.
Destroy All Humans sets you up as something of an anti-hero, a bad guy doing bad things to stupid/bad people including a subplot seeking revenge for what happened to Crypto-136. All of the people in the world of Destroy All Humans are caricatures, both through their original dialogue, and their exaggerated features that come with the brand new look – which helps make the humans… a little less human and much more cartoonish. This lightens the mood when you zap, vaporise, and anal probe thousands of the filthy worm-food.
The story also takes place in a Pulp Sci-Fi parody of postcard 1950’s America, where every alien action can be blamed on those darned Communists. Is it clever? Not really. Is it funny? Not particularly… but hey, it tries. Even though I never got a chance to play this game when it first came out, the game’s classic edgy humour and style still managed to make me feel like I was a teenager in 2005 playing something I probably shouldn’t be.
Graphics: While the graphics probably won’t win any awards, they definitely work to make an old game feel new again. Non-alien faces and lip syncing are stiff and barely emote, but when you’re out destroying humans the details are impressive. Leaving long burning trails with your flying saucer that leave permanent damage (until the level re-loads) is particularly satisfying, as are the explosions, as buildings collapse like slow-motion models in an old B-Grade film with massive amounts of fire.
There are a few minor issues with pop-in at the start of levels, and frame-rate drops when hundreds of enemies/buildings are exploding on screen, but only very occasionally – and for the most part… after two and a half very long minutes to load the game things look amazing. There’s no reason to try playing the original version now that this one exists – everything that needed to be kept intact has been – and everything that needed a visual update is here – including effects on the back of Crypto’s pulsing, translucent head.
The artwork at the start of every level fits brilliantly taking inspiration from films like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, but it’s disappointing to see the character models in-game aren’t as impressive with a plastic/wooden look to them, or as another reviewer put it “hair made of lego”.
Overall, the graphics do impress, but still leave me wanting more – especially after being spoiled by other games with more realistic lighting.
Gameplay: The game starts off like a linear 3rd person action game but after the first mission/first area unlocks (there are 6 areas in total) a free roam option becomes available with 4 time-limit challenges in each:
Armageddon – destroy as much of the area as possible with your flying saucer
Rampage – destroy as many enemies as you can on foot
Abduction – throw enemies or items into the floating/moving tractor beam
Race – follow a flying droid through the air and along the ground
Each challenge earns points (and DNA) to help you upgrade your weapons and abilities, which becomes increasingly important towards the end of the game unless you want to grind (or “farm”) for more human brains. I had to go back a few times to be able to defeat the final bosses.
When it comes to the main game, the levels are short but varied between stealth and action – where stealthy infiltration relies on using a hologram to copy other humans. It took me a while to figure out when and why my hologram was losing power, and sometimes it seemed to stop working almost at random but was never too frustrating.
Other missions are more straightforward – getting from Point A to Point B, while either protecting or attacking a certain target with one of your 4 hand-held weapons (zapper, probe, sticky bomb, or blaster) or 3 flying saucer weapons (laser beam, sonic blast, or the rare implosion blast). Each alternating play type includes weapons that automatically recharge which means the action keeps rolling even when you’re low on ammo.
The main story missions themselves also include optional objectives that pop up while you play, so you have an opportunity to get them right on the first attempt and earn bonus DNA for upgrades without being frustrating or impossible – this is definitely something other games with more vague star-rating systems should keep.
Sound: While the graphics have had a massive overhaul, the sound has not. The original voice cast recordings have been restored, with awkward pauses in dialogue still bizarrely kept in. This means that attempted jokes with two characters responding to each other can be disjointed, sounding like the two people speaking weren’t really bouncing their lines off each other.
Other games from 2005 and before had this problem during cut scenes to allow loading time between animations, but it lacks the fast-paced delivery that modern games are supposed to have. Richard Horvitz is just as incredible as his other famous larger-than-life characters (Angry Beavers, Invader Zim, Raz from Psychonauts), which guides you through the game without needing your character to respond – but the cutscenes still feel dated due to the pauses.
In terms of music there’s some great sci-fi use of a theremin in the score, but nothing that makes great use of the 1950’s setting or music that sets any sense of danger or tension. It’s cheesy, if functional and not exactly memorable.
The other issues with the sound include some very annoying NPC dialogue that repeats, and unpleasant fluctuations in audio levels – where one character speaks softly and the next is almost full volume.
Lastly, while talking about the sound it’s hard not to talk about what’s being said. While other satire has lasted decades Destroy All Humans lacks the same level of timeless charm, and the faithful remake was probably not the one we needed – but a ‘New and Improved’ dialogue option would have been nice, instead of being stuck with a few awkward sexist jokes made at a time when certain games were targeted more at boys rather than everybody.
Awesomeness: Hearing the diabolical insanity of Pox was probably the main highlight for me, channelling his inner Invader Zim. He also had some of the more story-driven dialogue and less of the snarky attempts at political satire, so even when he didn’t make me laugh, I was still able to enjoy his constant presence throughout the game.
Final word: If you’re a teenage boy at heart, and you still enjoy jokes about rednecks, butts, and women, then Destroy All Humans! might be the politically incorrect blast from the past against woke culture you wanted… but even if you overlook those things there’s still a unique well-crafted game in here worth trying (I did play it all the way through to the end). If there’s enough interest, maybe we’ll get the Destroy All Humans we really need today. But this one will do for now.
Out of 5 Bugs!