Review: Destroy All Humans! (2020)

Now part of the Furon Empire

Developer: Black Forest Games
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Genre: Action, Adventure, Third Person Shooter
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Rating: T for Teen
Price: $29.99 (PC), $39.99 (PS4, Xbox One)

In 2005, the original Destroy All Humans! became one of the few games out there where you play as the alien invader, rather than earth’s defender. At a time when killing aliens was popular—indicated by Halo 2’s massive sales—Destroy All Humans! inverted the genre by switching player roles. 2016 saw a remaster on the PlayStation 4, which was more of a slight polish for the graphics than anything. Now, just after the fifteenth anniversary of the original, we have a full rework of the entire game.

Normally, there are two kinds of remakes. The first is the complete rebuild and revision from the ground up, as we just had earlier this year, with Final Fantasy VII Remake. The second is the total overhaul of the graphics, and possibly some tweaks to the gameplay, while keeping everything else essentially the same. That’s what we have here.

In Destroy All Humans, load screen watches you

Content Guide:

Violence: As the title suggests, carnage is a primary element of the game, and there are myriad ways to do it. You can electrocute humans, light them on fire, vaporize them, throw them around like a rag doll, and extract their brains by causing their heads to explode.

Language: A**, D***, G**, G**D***, B***h, B*****d all appear frequently, as well as S*** in German.

Sexual content: As a result of too many wars with unregulated nuclear weapons, the Furons no longer have genitalia, and are forced to clone themselves to keep their race going. Orthopox goes into a brief overview of how all humans ended up with a strand of Furon DNA. Additionally, there are numerous sexual jokes throughout.

Story time!

Review

In Destroy All Humans!, you play as a Furon named Cryptosprodium-137, or Crypto for short. Your mission is to find a way to take over Earth and harvest the pure Furon DNA present in every human’s brain. Furons keep their race alive through cloning, and need the pure DNA to continue.

Immediately after the game loads, and you see the title screen, it’s clear how faithful Black Forest Games stayed to the original. The same music from the original plays while you observe the Furon mothership hovering above Earth. Starting a new game leads into the same cutscene as before, just with better graphics.

In what was one of the best moves Black Forest Games made, they kept almost all of the original voice acting audio files and used them here. There are some variations, as well as lines that weren’t in the original, that were either recorded then cut, or newly recorded for this remake. No one else could voice Crypto and Orthopox better than J. Grant Albrecht and Richard Horvitz respectively—the travesty that was Destroy All Humans! Big Willy Unleashed demonstrated that—and preserving the original recordings also meant keeping the delivery that gave the original some of its charm. They did however, cut out some lines that I loved, such as Pox saying right before you go to Rockwell, “Roswell, Rockwell. That’s the last time I take directions from a Cryptosporidium.”

Speaking of charm, this map never fails to make me smile.

There are several changes to the gameplay, while also keeping it very similar to the source material. One change regarding ammo, for example, is that they took the Transmogrify ability from Destroy All Humans! 2. It’s useful being able to turn objects into ammo, but it can be hard to find things that will actually work. Your saucer can also drain vehicles in order to restore the shields.

Easily, my favorite addition is the dash ability, especially because it can be upgraded to the Supra Kinetic Antigrav Thrust Enhancer. Otherwise known as S.K.A.T.E., the ability allows you to glide across the ground, which is much faster than running. Once you’ve upgraded enough times, you can “skate” indefinitely. It’s a great boon in battles, as you can fire while gliding, making it easier to dodge enemy attacks.

It also makes for very cinematic fight scenes

Another change I like is the removal of mandatory DNA collecting after a story mission. In the original, if you didn’t have enough DNA stored, you were required to run around and collect more until you hit the minimum required amount, even though it made no impact aside from what upgrades you could afford at that moment. It held up progress for no reason.

Fortunately, that’s no longer the case. You can go straight from one story mission to the next. Once you finish a story mission, the game brings you back to the mothership automatically. Granted, that can also be annoying if you want to stay and run around, but overall it’s an improvement. And if you can’t afford an upgrade, you still have the option to explore an area and collect DNA for as long as you want.

You can also hang out on the beach

However, DNA collection is more of a chore now. Before, the amount of DNA you got from a brain depended on the kind of human from which you extracted it. Mutants, Majestic agents, and high ranking military officers had a lot—typically in the 100-150 point range—while the average person walking around had brains in the 5-25 point range, and 25 only if you’re lucky. In this one, however, almost all of them are 25. It makes it take longer because you can’t farm the higher level ones.

An accurate portrayal of what most of Nevada looks like

All the weapons return without any additions. Using psychokinesis—psychic powers, basically, also known as PK—you can throw people into things and things into people. The Zap-o-matic electrocutes humans. The Disintegrator Ray lights people on fire and reduces them to a detailed, full skeleton before turning them into dust. The anal probe gun is self-explanatory, and extracts the victim’s brain by exploding their head. Finally, the ion detonator causes a large explosion that vaporizes everyone in the blast radius.

The saucer weapons include the super-heated death ray, the sonic boom cannon, and the Quantum Deconstructor. All three cause different levels of explosions, and the Quantum Deconstructor is the most fun to watch. The more upgrades it has, the bigger the radius of the blast, which can cause even more buildings to explode at once. The saucer also has the Abducto Beam, which you can use to pick up humans and vehicles, and slam them into the ground.

The explosions are mesmerizing

As for upgrades to these weapons, there are quite a bit more than the original. And while some are noticeable improvements, others don’t really change much on a large scale. There were several times where, though I had almost every upgrade, the power of the weapons was still underwhelming, and didn’t make my mission any easier. My favorite upgrade, however, was the final one for the S.K.A.T.E. ability, which allows you to glide on the ground indefinitely.

The holobob ability allows you to disguise yourself as a human. That happens to be a major feature of the game, as there are many instances where you have to infiltrate a location in disguise. It runs out over time, and reading the thoughts of others keeps the disguise going.

One frustrating part of that, however, is there were several times when the disguise just cut out for no discernible reason. That ultimately led to enemies finding and shooting me, and at times ruining my chance at finishing an optional objective. You also have to be much closer to the target to holobob, and it takes longer than before, and those lead to other irritations when you’re in an enemy base and need a quick disguise from a distance.

The smoke looks great, too

One big change to the death ray is that it leaves a smoldering trail that damages any enemy that walks onto it. It eventually goes out, but it’s helpful to burn the ground in front of an advancing enemy, then let the embers finish the job. Plus, the pattern stays for a while, which is great to see.

Crop circles are too mainstream

Most story missions have optional objectives in addition to the main ones. Completing all of them gets you more DNA, and in some cases, a skin. There are a few different skins to unlock, my two favorites being Classic Crypto—his outfit from the original version— and one that’s a Darksiders reference. The skins are purely cosmetic, but are great fun. Once I unlocked it, I went through the rest of the game as Classic Crypto, for old times’ sake.

After finishing the story, I went on to tackle the challenges, and generally cause as much havoc as possible, the latter being why I’ve spent hundreds of hours with the original over the years. The challenges can be fun, particularly the abduction mission in Turnipseed Farm. In that, you have to follow the motherships abducto beam, and throw as many cows into it as possible. It’s simple, goofy, and all around great.

However, the challenges in the later areas can just be frustrating. All of the ones in Capitol City, for example, are almost too hard. The apocalypse mission, where the objective is to cause as much financial damage as possible by destroying structures with your saucer, is ridiculous. The goal is absurdly high, and even with fully upgraded saucer weapons, they’re all underpowered for the job. You only have so much time to do the challenge, and every weapon takes too long to destroy the building. The best weapon for it is the Quantum Deconstructor, but that has severely limited ammo, and you don’t have time to go around and transmogrify everything just to get just enough ammo to fire one more shot.

This game has more life than the original

Running around causing destruction is where I first noticed a problem. Disappointment was eating away at me, but I couldn’t quite work it out at first why that was. After a while, I realized the problem: it lacked the silliness of the original.

Some of the most fun in the original game involved using psychokinesis to throw cars at people, just to have the cars bounce off their head and fly into someone else. Also entertaining was watching cars run into people who had run out in front of them—or, in one instance, watching a car do a u-turn and crash into someone running down the middle of the lane—and sending everyone around into a panic. Using psychokinesis while disguised as a human was hilarious because of the reactions you’d get.

But in this one, cars have better brakes than real life. They stop the millisecond something obstructs them. No more collisions from braking too late. Throwing cars usually brings a harder impact, which means no more goofy trajectories. Worst of all, if you use PK while holobobbed, it compromises your disguise so that people run and enemies shoot you. A lot of the silliness has been neutered. Though it’s fun, it’s not as fun as it could have been. There are fewer laughs, which lowers the replay value quite a bit for me.

This shot from the original is the exact kind of silliness the remake lacks

I also encountered significant framerate drops during some explosions. The cause wasn’t consistent, though. It would drop in some instances, and be just fine at other times under the same circumstances.

One of my bigger complaints has to do with the mothership. It used to be that when you were idle on the ship, Pox would occasionally have something to say, typically yelling at you for not doing anything or listening to him. He no longer does this. The mothership is now quiet while you’re idle, which makes hanging out on the screen pointless.

Beautiful sky

Conclusion

I started this game with a mixture of excitement and fear. I couldn’t wait to play a remake of one of my top games from the PS2 era. But I was also concerned that there would be too many changes, making the game a huge departure from the original. I was delighted to walk away from the game having had a mostly positive experience. It’s not perfect, but it’s still very good. It’s the game that longtime fans remember, and there is plenty of fun in store for newcomers to the series as well.

 

Silhouette is still one of the coolest villains around

The Bottom Line

Though it misses the mark on some important points, Destroy All Humans! (2020) is an incredibly faithful remake that is well worth picking up.

 

8.5

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David Koury

Writer and gamer residing in the wasteland that is Nevada.

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