The subject of alien invasion isn’t a new one when it comes to video games. Whether it be the unmitigated disaster that was ET: The Extra Terrestrial or the sublime horror of Alien: Isolation, stories of “not so little green men” are a truly well-worn trope. However, despite the frequency of other-worldly visitors, they rarely take on the role of protagonists. Even the epic space drama Mass Effect required a human to bring the galaxy together to defeat their common enemy. In 2005, Pandemic Studios changed this track record, introducing us to a cynical alien called Crypto who had one simple mission: Destroy All Humans.
I consider Destroy All Humans to be one of the many gems of the 6th console generation. It’s not outstanding, it’s certainly not in the pantheon of the greats like MGS3 or GTA: San Andreas, but it came out at the right time in my life, delivering exactly what I wanted & expected from it; because of this, it holds a special place in my heart. Unlike many alien-centric games that attempt to create a realistic interpretation of what an alien invasion of Earth would look like, Destroy All Humans throws gritty realism out the window, instead taking inspiration from the very best & worst that B-movies have to offer.
Destroy All Humans tells the tale of two members of the Furon empire, Crypto & Pox, who have been given the mission of saving one of their cloned comrades that has crash landed on the planet Earth. Things soon go awry when Crypto comes up against a mysterious organisation called Majestic that appears to know about Crypto’s race & their goal of harvesting the brain-stems of humans, to sustain the empire’s cloning methods.
Destroy All Humans drew on the fears & paranoia that many Americans had at the time, chiefly the fear of Communism & its agitators. Simply reading the minds of the poor citizens unlucky enough to cross your path provides a snapshot of ’50s attitude towards race, gender, immigrants, Communism & female repression. In many ways, the game is a parody of a B-movie, that in itself is parodying the 1950s. The game doesn’t shy away from overgeneralising the ignorant attitudes that plagued America at the time. One mission that typifies these fears sees Crypto bodysnatching the mayor of a sleepy midwestern town called Rockwell (a parody of Roswell, New Mexico). Upon gaining the disguise you have to give a speech to the good people of Rockwell who are deeply unsettled by all the strange going-ons.
All that’s required to reassure the rural townspeople is a few empty promises with a dash of xenophobia to assure the people that you will protect them from the comming menace. With their support obtained, you’ve successfully diluted them into completely discounting the destruction of their town & the abduction of several of their citizens. Like all good B-movies, Destroy All Humans takes place mostly around sleepy towns, sunny seaside hamlets & desert locations. Later missions see Crypto in a larger city location, based on Washington D.C, but the focus on smaller locations really emphasise the feeling of remoteness and the inherent mystery that come with it.
Gameplay revolves around on-foot & flying saucer sections. Each mission has several objectives that ultimately involve causing carnage and generally fanning the flames of the already burgeoning paranoia of 1950’s America. Your saucer is kitted with several weapons from the classic death ray to seismic weapons that can floor entire block of buildings in seconds. Crypto’s personal arsenal looks like any you would find in a H.G Wells novel; my favourite being the disintegrator ray that leaves your targets in a mound of smouldering ash. Causing carnage in Destroy All Humans is never boring & once you have completed all necessary objectives in one location, you can return whenever you want, to wreak havoc all over again.
Pandemic Studios had a way of extracting the essence of a decade’s culture. This led to a successful sequel set ten years after the end of the previous game. The paranoia of the ’50s had given way to the free love movement of the late ’60s. The game’s publisher, THQ, saw promise in the IP and two games followed in 2008 & 2009, respectively. Due to Pandemic working on other projects, the development of these sequels was handed to other, less talented studios. These sequels were bad. So bad were they in fact, that the developers would go out of business not long after release. In 2013, THQ went broke & many of the publishers IP’s were sold off to Nordic Games, who would rename themselves THQ Nordic three years later. Ten years of silence has passed since the Furons’ last outing and it looked like the franchise would remain a happy memory in the minds of its fans, but Crypto isn’t done with the human race just yet.
THQ Nordic announced in June 2019 that a remake of the original Destroy All Humans is being developed by Black Forest Games, a fairly new studio formed out of the remnants of Spellbound Entertainment. The remake will follow the original storyline while adding one mission omitted from the original game called Area 42. The voice acting also seems to have been recycled & polished for ears of modern gamers. Destroy All Humans was a franchise full of charm that through studio mishandling was quickly discarded and resigned to the graveyard of dead IP’s. A remake doesn’t necessarily assure a resurrection for the series, but if any franchise deserves another chance, Destroy All Humans is that franchise. If you haven’t played Destroy All Humans, make sure to check out our review of the PS4 port of the original game.