Destroy All Humans Review: An Imperfect Nostalgia Invasion (PS4)

The Destroy All Humans franchise has a strong cult following, but does this remake have anything to offer modern gamers? While fun and saturated in periodic sarcasm, this remake can't escape the pitfalls of the original, laying bare the frayed edges of nostalgia. Scanning: Destroy All Humans Review.

Destroy All Humans review - An imperfect nostalgia invasion cover

The 6th generation gave birth to many of the franchises we still have today. Some built upon their successes, surviving the changes in audience expectations, like God of War. Some franchises weren’t as lucky, and Destroy All Humans was one of them. Despite having a cult following, the franchise started losing its steam after two great entries. Eleven years after the last instalment, THQ Nordic and Black Forest Games have revived the wise-cracking extraterrestrial for another invasion in the shape of a remake of the original 2005 game.

After a decade-long hiatus, is it worth your time returning to 1950s small-town USA? Let’s find out with this Destroy All Humans review.

Destroy All Humans is available on PS4, Xbox One X and PC

Destroy All Humans! (2020) - Release Trailer | PS4

Story – Jack Nicholson From Outer Space

To paraphrase H.G Wells, no one would have believed that in the middle decade of the twentieth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by two Furons from a massive spacecraft just outside Earth’s orbit. It’s the 1950s, and the world is a significantly more paranoid place than before. The face of the planet has been split by an iron curtain, separating the economic ideologies of capitalism and communism. Fear of “commies” has lead to an ever-present weariness in the USA, hyperaware of anything coming from the sky. As the US army test their latest missile, a UFO crash-lands, being taken captive for experimentation. Only one Furon can save his fellow clone and bring the human race under the chrome space boot of the Futon empire.

Our little grey (not green!) protagonist has a Jack Nicholson drawl that's 1 part classy and 2 parts sleaze.

Our little grey (not green!) protagonist has a Jack Nicholson drawl that’s 1 part classy and 2 parts sleaze.

You play Crypto 137, a wise-cracking clone with a bootleg Jack Nicholson drawl. Hearing of the failed landing on Earth, he flies into a rage. Given permission from his boss, Orthopox (Pox for short), Crypto travels down to the Planet’s surface. Like almost all UFO sightings, he lands in the middle of nowhere, USA. Destroy All Humans isn’t merely a parody of UFO sightings, but a parodic indictment of the entire decade of the ’50s, and a love letter to the B-movies that spawned from it. Strange lights in the sky are explained away by public officials as a Soviet plot, something the local hicks are all too ready to accept. One mission early in the game sees you body-snatch the mayor of a sleepy mid-west town called Rockwell and quell the fears of the local populous by speaking sweet nothings and patriotic gibberish.

The game’s preference to keep the most of the action based in small towns across the country is one I appreciate. Each town captures the postcard image we have of that time. A sleepy town with a drive-in theatre,  a hamlet by the beach, or a mining town next to a millinery base. Each location reminds you of the vastness of the United States and the inherent mystery of it all. These small parcels of humanity are populated by a verity of goofballs, sporting the outdated opinions you’d expect. Crypto can scan the brain of any human, giving him a snippet of internal dialogue. Listening to the citizens reminded me that this is a game of its time, parodying an earlier time. Almost every scrap of dialogue has been ripped from the original game, meaning some slightly outdated content survives. Hearing jokes about “don’t ask, don’t tell” and police brutality can be grating to our modern ears.

Humanity has learned to co-op Furon technology for military usage.

Humanity has learned to co-op Furon technology for military usage.

Despite the story being funny and light-hearted on the surface, it does deal with several mature themes that are handled in as comedic a way as possible. Topics like national isolationism, American exceptionalism and irrational fear of differences are all dealt with a sardonic tone—though, don’t expect a deep probing of these issues; DAH isn’t that kind of game. Content that was cut from the original has been added, though this one mission doesn’t change the narrative in any way. As a whole, this remake hits the story beats of the original, while adding a small bit extra into the mix, though not enough to change the endgame in any meaningful way. It’s dated, but still entertaining enough to keep your attention for its short narrative. 

Gameplay – Invasion Of The Body Snatchers 

This is a game built on old bones. Causing chaos with an arsenal of havoc creating weapons is never dull, but many aspects of Destroy all Humans haven’t aged well, especially mission design. Each mission revolves around completing a set of tasks that nearly always end in the same outcome – destruction. They’re concise nuggets of story that can be completed in approximately five to ten minutes each, making the game itself short by today’s standards. Optional tasks pad out the missions, giving you a 100% completion rating as well as extra DNA for your troubles. It is here where problems start to show themselves. 

Crypto's abilities can all be upgraded, allowing you to levitate everything from cows to small aircraft.

Crypto’s abilities can all be upgraded, allowing you to levitate everything from cows to small aircraft.

To upgrade your abilities and weaponry, you need to harvest DNA stems. You are rewarded with DNA when you complete a mission, challenge or directly from a human by blowing off their head or using an anal probe. These upgrades are vital as many of the game’s activities are nigh on impossible to beat without them. Each location can be revisited in exploration mode where you can cause mindless mayhem, sandbox-style or complete challenges. These challenges each have a three-star rating and are split into four categories and are uniform across every location, though they require you to do different things for the same end. The challenges include Abduction, Race, Rampage and Armageddon, all of which I found overly tedious and challenging. 

You won’t be completing any of these challenges in the early stages of the game, so I often found myself grinding for DNA the good old-fashioned way, with a bit of mental probing. The timing on these challenges is so tight that you’ll have to make the most of every second. Once I had unlocked every upgrade, some rampages and abduction challenges remained annoying. There isn’t a lot of meat on this game’s bones, making any return to a location either a twenty-minute grind-fest or attempting the same annoying challenges you found in the last place you visited.

I love the smell of death ray in the morning

I love the smell of death ray in the morning.

Putting those issues to one side, general gameplay runs smoothly throughout, apart from some frame-rate drops in the latter half of the game. The capped 30fps can’t handle some of the bigger explosions, sometimes freezing the screen for a couple of seconds. Control-wise, I’m a fan of the more streamlined approach, making all of your abilities accessible with one button, through keeping all that control info on the HUD left the screen feeling cluttered, obstructing my view of enemy attacks. I’m a big fan of Crypto’s new dash ability, which allows him to glide through each location as if on a skateboard.

I enjoyed playing Destroy All Humans, but with a lack of replay value and overly burdensome challenge modes, I didn’t find myself looking forward to playing it once I completed the main story. The nostalgia value is here for long-time fans, but if remakes and remasters do anything, it’s shining a light on the flaws of old gameplay and narrative structures, and that’s on full show here.

Graphics & Sound – Lipstick On An Alien 

The developer made clear before releasing Destroy All Humans that they wanted to remake the game people remember playing, not the game itself. To that end, Black Forest Games has succeeded. Where the original has a far more realistic art style and character models, the remake sees a complete overhaul. Every location has been lovingly crafted to evoke the original while providing a level of modern-day polish. There’s an almost cartoonish level of colour that grounds the game in its parodical style. I came across a few graphical bugs, but nothing worth complaining about. Textures would sometimes take a few seconds to load upon landing your spacecraft, but overall, I was satisfied with the artistic changes made for the remake.

The remake sees a significant graphical overhaul from the original as this side by side comparison shows.

The remake sees a significant graphical overhaul from the original as this side by side comparison shows.

The original had several audio glitches that never received a fix when the game was ported to current-generation consoles, but the remake has fixed these annoying glitches. Every line of dialogue has been ripped from the original and cleaned up for a crisper sound. Destroy All Humans is a funny game, with fantastic performances for Crypto and Pox. Each weapon has to look and sound otherworldly and deadly. Each on-foot and saucer weapon delivers its own unique sound and effects. The soundtrack nails the sci-fi feeling, but doesn’t appear to have changed from the original. 

The whole remake feels like the personification of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. A graphics update helps push the franchise into the present while keeping every location memorable. The soundtrack is as good as it ever was, but all of this can’t hide the fact that in near all respects, this is a fifteen-year-old game masquerading as a revived IP. Ultimately, Destroy All Humans does everything it needs to to look like a modern product while staying true to the roots of the original, for better or worse.  

Destroy All Humans was reviewed on PS4.

Destroy All Humans is a fun game, there’s no doubt about it. A slick coat of paint and a control reconfiguration helps make the game feel fresh, but the bones of a fifteen-year-old game are everywhere, especially in mission design. In this sense, Destroy All Humans feels like an aberration in terms of gameplay and content. Franchise fans will find an enjoyable chaotic stroll down memory lane, but it might be a hard sell for anyone who hasn’t played the original.
  • Entertaining (if short) narrative
  • Artistic changes work in the remake's favour
  • Likeable protagonist
  • True to the original, for better or worse
  • Repetitive side content
  • Gameplay structure hasn't aged well
  • Little replay value
  • Frame rate issues in the latter half of the game

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