In recent years, the successful revivals of Crash and Spyro have proven that older, beloved franchises that were thought to be dead still have a lot of cache in the market. Destroy All Humans! was never as huge as those two, but with its chaotic, destructive action and light-hearted tone, it endeared itself to many. Now, THQ Nordic are bringing it back with a remake of the series’ first game, developed by Pandemic Studios in 2005- and the results are definitely a net positive.
Destroy All Humans! was very much a product of its time when it first came out, from design choices and mechanics to its approach to storytelling and humour, and in being extremely faithful to that game, Black Forest Games’ remake offers up a nearly identical experience. That proves to be the game’s biggest strength, but also its biggest weakness.
On one hand, blasting humans, vehicles, and buildings with ridiculous weapons is just pure dumb fun, the kind that isn’t found in games much anymore. Right off the bat Destroy All Humans! whisked me away to a time long past, where games were concerned with nothing but being just fun– and it’s hard to quantify the value of a game that makes you feel like that in 2020. But on the other hand, this remake often does show the age of its formula and structure as well, especially with its repetitive mission structure and choppy, segmented storytelling.
"Destroy All Humans! was very much a product of its time when it first came out, from design choices and mechanics to its approach to storytelling and humour, and in being extremely faithful to that game, Black Forest Games’ remake offers up a nearly identical experience. That proves to be the game’s biggest strength, but also its biggest weakness."
In Destroy All Humans! you play as Cryptosporidium-137, or Crypto for short, a soldier of the alien Furon Empire tasked with invading Earth and, true to the game’s name, wreaking untold havoc on the planet’s denizens. The game takes cartoonish, gleeful pleasure in flipping the script of your typical alien invasion story and putting you in the shoes of unflinchingly evil invaders. Crypto is not a great tactician, nor does he care too deeply about the ambitions of the Furon Empire- he just wants to have fun, and for him, fun means killing and messing with humans in the most inventive ways possible.
In that, he’s the perfect protagonist for a game such as this one, because his philosophy is very much the philosophy of the entire game. There isn’t much that it’s concerned with as much as it is with letting you lose in its sandbox environments to cause mayhem with an arsenal of ridiculous weapons. When Destroy All Humans! is doing that, it’s pure, unadulterated fun, thanks in large part to Crypto’s unique and varied arsenal of weapons and abilities.
Those who played the 2005 original will be very familiar with what’s on offer here. When you’re on foot, you can, among other things, use weapons that zap targets, or ion bombs that can deal deadly area-of-effect damage. Crypto also has psychokinectic abilities that allow him to do a number of things, from sending enemies hurtling through the air to disguising himself as humans to getting humans to follow him around and fight by his side should you find yourself in combat.
If none of that sounds interesting, you can always hop aboard Crypto’s flying saucer and deal death from above using its own unique arsenal. All of these weapons and abilities can also be upgraded between missions using Furon DNA you’ve extracted from human brains, and though the upgrade system isn’t the most extensive, it does its job well enough, allowing you to chain electricity with your Zap-O-Matic, increase the ammo capacity of your Disintegrator Ray, improve your flying saucer’s shields, and more.
"There isn’t much that Destroy All Humans! is concerned with as much as it is with letting you lose in its sandbox environments to cause mayhem with an arsenal of ridiculous weapons. When it’s is doing that, it’s pure, unadulterated fun."
Mixing and matching those weapons and abilities in the heat of combat is a lot of fun, and there’s nothing quite as gratifying as watching a building explode as you fire a death ray at it from your flying saucer while scores of military vans and trucks speed in your direction. You can also revisit any of the game’s sandboxes in between missions whenever you want for some good old free roam gameplay, taking on challenges or just aimlessly causing chaos, which is when Destroy All Humans!’s bombastic nature really shines.
Unfortunately, the game does often falter when it comes to missions, which can either be too limiting or too repetitive. For instance, some missions might let you off the leash to just wreak havoc in the sandboxes, and in these moments, you’d think all of your arsenal would be made available to you- so discovering that you cannot use your flying saucer for some arbitrary reason can be disappointing. Mission design is also a little repetitive and generic, and things start feeling a bit too same-y after you’ve taken on multiple missions in a row that essentially all ask you to do the same thing. The controls can also be a bit of an issue sometimes, especially when you’re flying Crypto’s saucer, when the game can feel a bit too rigid and mechanical.
Other than the destructibility of its environments and the tools it gave players to leverage that, one of Destroy All Humans! defining characteristics was its humour, which feels a bit hit or miss. There are a few good jokes in here for sure – a pair of Majestic agents, one a figure of authority and the other a bumbling idiot who takes everything too literally in particular always got a few chuckles out of me, while the newspaper clippings you get to see every now and then are also consistently witty, for the most part – but more often than not, the humour either felt outdated or just fell flat. Honestly, the game’s much funnier and much more entertaining when the humour is of your own making. No single part of Destroy All Humans!’s script got me smiling as widely as sending scores of humans hurtling hundreds of feet through the air.
One area where Destroy All Humans! stumbles is how segmented the entire experience feels. Being divided into missions and different sandboxes isn’t really a problem, but it does become a problem when the game is constantly transitioning between them and breaking up the action. All too often the game cuts to black in the middle of gameplay, only to abruptly transition to a cutscene that lasts a few seconds, before cutting to black and then back to gameplay again, while frequent loading screens before, during, and after missions also often kills the pace.
"The game does often falter when it comes to missions, which can either be too limiting or too repetitive."
In isolation, these problems might not seem like much, but when they get in the way of gameplay as often as they do here, they do start to add up. Visually, however, Destroy All Humans! is a treat. It’s not the most technically impressive game you’ll ever play, but the quality of everything from the character models to the environment assets to the animations is top-notch, and greatly contributes to the game’s humourous and irreverent nature.
The net result, at the end of the day, is positive, as I mentioned in the beginning of the review. Destroy All Humans! recreates the 2005 fan favourite very faithfully, and while that faithfulness does prove to be an issue every now and then – most noticeably with its mission structure – in doing so the remake also manages to capture the bombastic enjoyment that the original game delivered in spades. Destroy All Humans! has no qualms with being a silly, dumb game that just wants its players to have a good time, and it’s better for it.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Weapons and abilities are varied and a ton of fun to use; Wreaking havoc in the sandbox environments never gets old; Looks great.
Missions are repetitive and often a bit too restrictive; Frequent and abrupt transitions to loading screens and short cutscenes break the pace of gameplay; Occasionally frustrating gameplay; Inconsistent humour.