For as memorable as it was, I honestly thought Destroy All Humans! stuck around longer than it did. It felt like a staple of the sixth generation of consoles, and while I wasn’t too familiar with it, I assumed there were a few seventh-gen entries as well. Alas, the series only put out four entries across the two generations before going into deep hibernation. The memorable premise of the series perhaps explains why THQ Nordic decided to reboot the series with the aptly-titled Destroy All Humans! Fans have been waiting, and all developer Black Forest Games needed to do was deliver upon those expectations.
Set in the idealistic world of 1950’s America, Destroy All Humans! explores what would have happened in the event of an alien invasion. Cryptosporidium-137 is a member of the Furon species of extraterrestrials. A dangerous and crafty bunch, the Furons only really end up in America due to the country shooting down another member of the breed, Cryptosporidium-136. With his fellow clone captured by the military, Crypto-137 sets off to bring him home. However, Crypto’s superior, Orthopox-13, has other plans in mind for the planet Earth.
Going off the same script as the 2005 original, I was surprised at how well most of it holds up. The title is a loving parody of post-war Americana, as well as an homage to the classic creature films of the time. From jokes about repressed emotions and philandering businessmen to a parody of Richie from Happy Days, the humor is exactly what you would expect from such a parody. The actual revenge plot at the core of the title is fine enough, even if it lacks the emotional resonance needed to completely make it work. Crypto-137 is a fun character, though, and his disdain for pretty much anyone and anything gives him a sinister charm. At the very least, I’d be interested in further adventures with the character, if this reboot does lead to such a thing.
As with the script, Black Forest Games has kept the gameplay of the original intact for this 2020 re-release. The best way to describe the game would perhaps be to call it “quasi-open world.” Upon landing on Earth, Crypto-137 first visits the town of Turnipseed Farm. Once it’s been laid to waste, he’ll move onto the next city, and so on and so forth. Each area houses its own specific missions, but upon completing them, you are free to return to them to collect bonus probes and knock out additional side missions, or you can just go in and cause more chaos. Obviously, these aren’t the sprawling worlds found in modern releases, but there’s a solid amount of bonus content to be found.
Whether it is for a mission or just to mess around, though, every area of Destroy All Humans! begins the same way: with Crypto-137 leaving his ship. The minuscule extraterrestrial is well equipped to deal with any human threat he faces. The most potent tools in his arsenal are the uniquely devastating firearms he gains access to. My tool of choice was typically the Zap-O-Matic, a devastating energy weapon that can be upgraded to chain damage between targets. Later weapons such as the Disintegrator Ray and Anal Probe offer stronger attacks, but with limited ammo. Additionally, Crypto can use his psychic abilities to toss around humans, animals, and whatever else isn’t chained to the ground. He’s very much a one-alien-army.
Crypto’s most important skill, though, is one of his least deadly. The Holobob ability allows an alien to alter his appearance in order to properly blend in with humans, and as long as he hasn’t been spotted by any other bystander, he can essentially assume the form of an NPC. It’s a critical skill to have, as it’s really the only way to get around without constantly having to battle someone. Considering how long it’s been since the original game released, I appreciate the fact that you can approach the missions either using stealth or mayhem. It gives the title a good dynamic and allows the player to experiment with Crypto’s full range of abilities.
It’s hard to appropriately describe, but there’s something extremely comforting about Destroy All Humans! and its down-to-earth gameplay — I would describe it as the gaming equivalent of comfort food. It’s not terribly difficult, and the mechanics don’t require a lot of effort to understand. It’s simplistic and enjoyable in a way that’s nice to have in the current climate. The addition of a focus mode for the remake also goes a long way towards making the combat less of a mess than it could have been. The on-foot sections don’t do anything to reinvent the wheel, but Black Forest Games has done an excellent job of making them palatable for modern tastes.
I’m less enthused about the vehicle segments, which take place in Crypto’s saucer. The ship is deadly and powerful, there’s no doubt about that — it has a variety of attacks, can repulse missiles, and, of course, can abduct people and objects. It can feel like a real power trip when you go to town on the military with it. However, the limited camera angle makes aiming and moving around more troubling than it should be. It’s hard to fully make out where you are aiming and what’s attacking you at any given moment. I often wanted to just get through these portions in order to get back to the more enjoyable on-foot sections.
As a complete remake, Destroy All Humans! looks on par with a mid-level release from this console generation. The various locations all have their own unique flavors but lack sufficient detail to make them truly stand out. The same can be said for most of the character models. Crypto-137 looks fine enough, but that’s to be expected for the main character. It’s the NPCs that are the problem, as the same handful of designs pop up over and over again, though it all looks fine enough at the end of the day. Unlike the visuals, the sound design has been brought over from the original release. J. Grant Albrecht and Richard Horvitz do an excellent job as Crypto and Pox, respectively. I like the voice work for the NPCs as well, but, similar to their visual design, there does tend to be a bit of repetition with what they say.
Unlike another recent THQ Nordic revival, Destroy All Humans! has made a successful transition to modern consoles. The gameplay has held up well, and smart additions — such as a focus mode — allow it to fit in with other similar efforts. Even the storyline, which has its fair share of childish moments, is a fun homage to the classic alien films of the ’50s and ’60s. Some aspects of the revival could (and should) have been tweaked, but that would have gone against what Black Forest Games wanted to achieve with this release. The studio wanted to stay true to the memories of those who loved the original series. Obviously, as someone who has limited experience with the first entries, I’m not that audience. If I still enjoyed this remake, though, they must have done something right.
This review was based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A copy was provided by THQ Nordic.
Rather than completely re-imagining its core aspects, Black Forest Games has recreated the best portions of Destroy All Humans! for a modern audience. Aspects from the 2005 original that have been brought over hold up well, and the studio has introduced a handful of smart, but important, improvements.