Destroy All Humans! Review
Back in 2005, the now defunct Pandemic Studios (a moment of silence please) created one of the most fun, creative, and criminally underrated games of the mid-2000’s. Destroy All Humans! gave players a chance to experience an invasion of earth from the point of view of the alien race. They also threw in some funny dialogue and some over the top gameplay, just for good measure. On the 15th anniversary of its release, Black Forest Games gave the world a remake of Destroy All Humans! Something a lot of us didn’t know we needed.
We live in a world where remakes are the norm. The main entertainment mediums television, movies, and video games seem to have a new one every week. For the most part, they leave fans disappointed if not outright annoyed. More annoyed than if the customer had just watched or played an original poorly made product. That’s because we have a higher expectation going into them. We often view pieces of entertainment we saw in the past with rose-tinted glasses — remembering all the good things and letting the bad seep through the cracks. That’s why all the Disney remakes have been duds so far at least in terms of reviews by fans and critics.
So when is it okay to make a remake? The best rule of thumb is that if the old version is no longer enjoyable, it’s time for someone to get to work on making an updated version. Fortunately for fans of the original Destroy All Humans!, someone realised it was a perfect candidate for a makeover. Because while the original is still clever and a fun idea, the graphics and mechanics make it unplayable by today's standards.
As the game downloaded I sat on my couch hoping that they didn’t change too much of what made the game special. Once the game started I was met with this message which caught me off guard.
“While the experience has been upgraded, the content and historical record of the original invasion of the Furons remains a near-identical clone! The story, words and images contained within may be shocking to the modern human brain!”
After reading this, I immediately started trying to remember the dialogue from the original. I had a sinking feeling that maybe some offensive content had gone over my head when I played it as a child. Finding out one of your favorite games is racist would be like finding out your parents were roadies for Nickelback — you’ll always have the fun memories but probably won’t want to continue the relationship going forward.
But thankfully, that wasn’t the case. The entire time I played there wasn’t anything that stood out as ‘punching down’ or making fun of a marginalised group. The only people the game consistently made fun of were Americans, which I can say in confidence we are okay with because it means we are the centre of attention.
Most of the dialogue in Destroy All Humans! is between the main character Crypto, voiced by J. Grant Albrecht, and his commanding officer Orthopox, voiced by Richard Steven Horvitz — the same voice for Zim in Invader Zim. For the remake, they used the same voice recording from the original. It was an excellent choice. Without a doubt, it's the best part of the game. They both nail their parts and it feels like there is a lot of chemistry between them. The entire game both characters are making fun of how far humans have progressed as a species — mocking the use of carbon combustion engines and the use of Nuclear weapons — while also not understanding basic knowledge of earth, like thinking cows were in charge when Crypto first arrived. Some jokes don’t land, but considering how long ago they wrote the dialogue, it’s impressive how enjoyable it still is.
Naturally, the story went unchanged as well. Both characters are members of the highly advanced Furon race. Orthopox sends Crypto to earth with the purpose of collecting the trace amounts of Furon DNA, that is inside all humans. The DNA is there because of Furon sailors visiting Earth many years ago and from what the game implies, got busy with the locals. Unfortunately for us Homo sapiens, the only way to get that DNA involves our heads exploding. Crypto uses advanced weaponry, his UFO, and psychic powers to take on the United States government. It takes place during the 1950s and pokes fun at how scared everyone was of communism, like how the newspapers often blame Crypto’s activities on Communist spies.
While the voices and story remain the same, the differences in the graphics and overall feel of the game are noticeable. The level of detail on Crypto’s model is worthy of praise and the number of items in the world also stands out. The original could feel bare at times but the 2020 version has filler items with much higher polycounts. It makes sense that the graphics would be far superior just given the advancements in technology, but Black Forest did something rather bold and changed the human character design drastically. The original attempted to make the humans look as real as possible, but the remake features humans with exaggerated, caricature-like features. I think it fits the campy feel of the game more than the realism of the original.
Another significant change was the movement of Crypto. In the original, he felt stiff, and it was difficult to get around quickly. Black Forest gave controlling him the feel of a modern game. It is easy to auto-lock on enemies, and they also added an ability for Crypto to skate around the ground which makes battles much more interesting. They also included his signature jetpack, but while the 2005 edition required players to upgrade it, the 2020 version starts the game with it at max power.
Overall, the developers did a wonderful job of knowing what to change and what to leave alone — except for one thing. They left the mission design the same. Most game developers in the early 2000s hadn’t mastered the art of giving a game flow. Destroy All Humans! is no different. More times than I could count, the game would stop me after a task was complete, drop me into a cutscene that would show Crypto and Orthopox discussing what was going on using a hologram. After they finished, it would suddenly throw me back into the mission. There were times a mission would start and I would walk 20 feet and it would trigger these cutscenes. Why couldn’t the game have them speak while the player completed the mission?
The other problem with the missions is that they are too repetitive. The general formula went like this. You would use your powers to take on the form of a human by using the mind power Transform. Crypto would use the disguise to sneak into a secret area and then after learning new information reveal himself and start killing humans. There were exceptions to this, but it happened enough that I would dread when I needed to disguise myself.
Overall, the Destroy All Humans! remake is a quirky, fun game. The things that made it great in 2005 like the charm, originality, and funny dialogue still hold up to this day. The visual changes and the updates to mechanics make it on par with most games released this day and age. The repetitive and somewhat outdated missions are tiring but it’s clever enough in other areas that it’s still worth playing. My nostalgia for the game I’m sure made me enjoy it more but I believe even a newbie to the franchise would still have fun attempting to destroy all the humans.
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