THQ Nordic continues its series of remasters and remakes with Destroy All Humans! which sadly doesn't merit the risk of first contact.
Destroy All Humans! is one of those bizarre titles that worked best in the period that it was originally released; at a time when high concept single player games could thrive. It wasn't exactly what most gamers would call a classic but thanks to a unique premise and a distinct visual style, it left a lasting impression for anyone who played it or even saw the trailer. Sadly, what made it so endearing 15 years ago now feels a bit outdated, frustrating, and even cringy at times.
For starters, the plot is about as hokey as you can get. Taking place in 1959, the story focuses on the alien Crypto and superior Orthopox as they attempt to invade earth, harvest DNA from humans in order to save their race, and battle a mysterious government and Men in Black type organization. Along the way, they infiltrate army bases, abduct people, and eventually blow up everything in sight. Sadly, despite a fun premise, this remaster contains problems in its own DNA that detracts from the entire experience.
The best way to describe Destroy All Humans! is to compare it to an aging individual who got a facelift. Sure, they'll think that they look younger and might be able to pass themselves off as such but then they might get on the dance floor and reveal how old they are.
Speaking of which, from a purely visual standpoint, Destroy All Humans! looks pretty good. While the franchise itself was never a graphical powerhouse, the visuals have been updated thus giving all of the character models and environments a fresh coat of paint. It certainly doesn't compare to something like The Last of Us Part II but it does have a unique enough aesthetic that you'll probably remember it for long after you stop playing. Unfortunately, the graphics are the only thing that was updated.
The big problem with Destroy All Humans! is that its mission and level designs are repetitive and hopelessly outdated. A good chunk of the missions have you infiltrating various bases and cities while trying to gather information on threats before blowing them up. The majority of the missions are not that challenging and mostly have you go to one location then grab an item or hypnotize a person into doing something for you as you try and keep your disguise charged up. Functionally, it all works but there really isn't much innovation and it lacks any sense of tension. Since the original Destroy All Humans! released in 2005, we've seen these kinds of missions play out in dozens of games. As a result, it all just comes off as very monotonous.
Eventually, you're allowed to cut loose and destroy every human but even that lacks a substantial sense of satisfaction. For example, the flying saucer combat has you fly around while literally blowing up entire cities with death rays yet it's not all that gratifying. In other words, you don't really get any feeling of catharsis in these actions as it simply feels disconnected.
The actual gun fights sadly don't fare much better. While it is a bit more enjoyable than the stealth and flying saucer sections, it still falls into the same traps that a lot of games from that era did. Mainly, Crypto is incredibly overpowered when compared to every enemy that he encounters and he can cut through them like butter. So, instead of confronting enemies that actually stand a chance against you, the game simply throws waves upon waves of easily disposable adversaries at you. The frustration that comes with this is that it doesn't feel like a challenge; it just feels cheap. It's like the developers decided that instead of giving us something interesting to battle, they would shower you with bullets and bombs and kill you with sensory overload.
This is all made worse when you have to either defend something against the military or escort a person or object while being attacked. Often, the way they'll attack these locations or NPCs feels cheap and lacks nuance. Because of all of this, whenever you finally beat one of these missions, it feels more like luck as opposed to actually improving your skills and growing as a player.
Some of the frustration factor is smoothed over by the plot. Now, don't get me wrong; the plot isn't exactly Shakespearean. Plus, the voice acting is a bit awkward with weird pauses between lines of dialogue and the humour is clearly targeted towards young teens. That being said, the humour begins to grow on you after a while and you'll find yourself a little bit more invested in the cast of idiots than you initially expected. It also helps that there is a layer of cleverness when it comes to its subtext which directly goes after American culture and the anti-communist paranoia of the '50s which is sadly relevant today. It's not exactly The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt with its story but you'll find yourself having a decent enough time with it; provided you're in the right mindset.
In the end, Destroy All Humans! works well enough and has a nice graphical update with a plot and characters that grow on you. On the downside, the gameplay feels horribly outdated and you're likely going to find yourself get bored by it eventually.
If you played Destroy All Humans! when it originally released and have some nostalgia for it then this might be worth playing but for the rest of us, this is a game that should have stayed locked away in Area 51.
- + Nice graphical improvement
- + Endearing characters and plot
- + Immature sense of humor grows on you
- - Generally unsatisfying gameplay, especially the flying saucer combat portions
- - Repetitive mission structures
- - Cheaply designed enemy AI