Destroy All Humans! is a modern remake of the 2005 PlayStation 2 and original Xbox game. Developed by Black Forest Games and published by THQ Nordic, the remake invades store shelves on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Google Stadia on July 28th. As someone who loved the original game, Destroy All Humans! truly is a visually stunning remake that still has the humor and personality that made me initially fall in love with it. Unfortunately, the gameplay itself doesn’t completely hold up in 2020.
In Destroy All Humans!, you play as Crypto-137, a cloned alien Furon that arrives on Earth in the 1950s to, well, destroy all humans. A long time ago, Furons landed on Earth and mixed their DNA with humans, but, in the 1950s, the Furons are only able to reproduce through cloning. However, the cloning process is becoming less and less useful since their DNA continuously pollutes itself, becoming weaker and weaker. To fix this, Pox, a scientist and your boss, enlists you to go to Earth, recover the original Furon DNA found in human brains, and destroy all humans.
The game is based around a simple mission select system. In each mission, Pox gives you an objective, typically to either stealthily learn more information about humans or to wreak havoc and destroy everything in sight. You use your alien powers, like moving things with your mind or taking on the appearance of a human, along with your high tech equipment, to accomplish the tasks Pox sets out for you.
Missions also have optional objectives that will earn you extra DNA for Crypto. These optional objectives usually aren’t too difficult and doing all of them on a single level can sometimes unlock special rewards, like new cosmetic skins. Additionally, after a mission is complete, you can go back to that area and do bonus challenges for more DNA and bragging rights.
The story missions and optional objectives aren’t difficult most of the time, but I did really struggle with the challenges. Most of Destroy All Humans! is a walk in the park, but the challenges feel 10 times harder than the rest of the game. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you want to dedicate some time to hone your skills, but since you can also farm DNA from just exploring the world and terrorizing humans, it didn’t feel worth the frustration at all. After the first few tries, I decided to skip the challenges altogether.
In addition, the challenges don’t actually give you that much DNA, which is used to upgrade your equipment, abilities, and flying saucer in between levels. The average amount of DNA from challenges was around 200, plus whatever bonuses you get from how well you completed them.
In contrast, messing around and stealing human brains earns 25 DNA per brain. When you’ve got an army of 15 guys coming at you every couple of minutes, it’s actually easier to earn more DNA by fighting the army than it is to finish challenges. This renders challenges almost useless unless you want the satisfaction of getting that checkmark. To me, it just didn’t feel like a good way to spend my time since I wasn’t going for 100% completion.
In general, DNA didn’t really factor into my gameplay at all since the game is pretty easy, assuming you know what you’re supposed to be doing. Pox usually gave clear instructions, but there were a few times that I kept doing something wrong and failing the mission and wasn’t quite sure why because the tutorial information or mission information wasn’t explanatory enough.
This wouldn’t have bothered me so much if restarting the mission didn’t take so long. It would pop up with a “Mission Failed” box, go through a loading screen, show you the cutscene again (which you could skip, thankfully), and then boot you all the way back to the beginning of the level. Sometimes there would be checkpoints halfway through a mission, but that wasn’t the norm, Which meant if you failed, you had to sit through everything all over again.
Plus, while the regular missions weren’t super difficult, the boss battles were, making the loading screen process even more frustrating. The bosses each had three phases that took a long, long time to whittle down. But that wasn’t hard to do in theory because the process was fairly simple. What did make these boss fights so difficult, was how Crypto had to heal. Instead of having items or being able to manually heal, Crypto heals by not getting hit for a long period of time and then slowly regenerating health. That’s fine when you’re fighting police officers or other enemies that you can dodge or run away from for a brief time, but in boss fights, where they have backup and are firing missiles and rockets at you every second, there’s almost no break in combat long enough for you to get away.
While I did appreciate the old school video game feel of just learn the patterns and get good at the game, sometimes it felt a little ridiculous how unevenly matched things could be. It’s been a few years since my last replay of the original, but I’m pretty convinced that the boss battles are harder in the remake than they were in the 2005 version, although I could be wrong.
That said, almost all of my issues with the game stems from the gameplay, which feels very early 2000s, but I can’t deny that Destroy All Humans! is an absolutely phenomenal remake for returning fans. The game is insanely beautiful and everything looks smooth, shiny, and new. The human models would look a little weird in cutscenes sometimes and there were a few moments where textures would take a second to pop in, but overall, it looks how I remembered it looking in 2005 but a million times better. I was constantly at awe with how the game looked and ran, comparing it over and over to YouTube videos of the original.
Even though core aspects of the gameplay sometimes felt old, it still played incredibly well. Switching out guns, shooting at enemies, flying across suburbs, and stealing people’s brains felt so smooth that if I didn’t know it was a remake, it could very well pass as a modern 2020 game. I never had any issues with the controls and the updated HUD made the experience pleasant and easy to understand.
For example, in the original game, it wasn’t possible to use different guns and your psychic powers all at once. Even though you do still need to switch between guns (since Crypto doesn’t have 20 arms), everything is streamlined, and swapping out equipment is quick and easy.
Psychic powers don’t need to be switched in and out, either. Psychic powers are used by pressing on the D-Pad while jumping, shooting, and dodging is designated to buttons and triggers on the right side of the controller. There’s a new power as well, Follow, which is pretty self-explanatory and convinces humans to follow Crypto around. If they’re enemies with weapons, they’ll even fight for Crypto too.
This new ability was incredibly helpful, especially for missions where you need to take on the appearance of a specific human. The Follow power made it so much easier to lead the human away and turn into him in a secluded place instead of waiting around hiding and hoping no one sees you.
Movement is streamlined in the remake as well, both on the ground and in the flying saucer. Everything feels smooth and fluid. It’s not quite at the level of being an actual shooter, but it’s still so much better than the occasional choppiness of the original, especially in the flying saucer where you have to be able to move the ship in any direction while firing weapons and dodging missiles.
The humor and absolute ridiculousness of the story are still there too. From all the jokes and references in the mission titles to Crypto constantly being furious that the humans refer to him as green to the comedic stupidity and incompetence of the American military, the Destroy All Humans! remake captures that 2000s humor, goofiness, and parody of the Red Scare that made the original game such a hit.
There were a few jokes that I wasn’t quite sure about, however. In military areas, when you read people’s minds, there are a lot of jokes about homosexuality and I could never figure out if it was homophobic or a parody of homophobia. It didn’t bother me too much though since the entire game is making fun of 1950s American culture. I’d like to give the game the benefit of the doubt and hope that it was supposed to be a comedic parody that just didn’t quite stick the landing, but I’m still not too sure on that one.
Overall, Destroy All Humans! is a fantastic remake that I’m sure will please returning fans of the series but might frustrate new audiences. Everything about the game looks great and runs well but since nothing about the core gameplay has changed, it feels stuck in the early 2000s. Its character remains intact, however, and if new players can get past the occasionally outdated gameplay, there’s so much to enjoy in this bizarre, funny game about blowing up everything you possibly can in 1950s Red Scare America.
Destroy All Humans! is available July 28th on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Google Stadia.
Destroy All Humans!
Overall, Destroy All Humans! is a fantastic remake that I’m sure will please returning fans of the series but might frustrate new audiences. Everything about the game looks great and runs well but since nothing about the core gameplay has changed, it feels stuck in the early 2000s.