Gaming

Destroy All Humans! Review: It Came From Outer Space

While I haven’t played the original, the remake still plays exactly like a typical early 2000s game.

Reviewed on PS4

All throughout this year, we’ve seen the successful remakes of older classics being released such as Final Fantasy VII Remake and Resident Evil 3. What better time for THQ Nordic to try and revive the small but beloved 2000s franchise: Destroy All Humans!

Destroy All Humans! was one of those games that I had always been meaning to play but had never gotten around to it, so I was admittedly thrilled when this remake was announced. While I haven’t played the original, the remake still plays exactly like a typical early 2000s game.

Although this means that the remake probably stayed true to its roots, it also means that it has left out any of the quality-of-life improvements that have become the norm during the span of the two console-generations that have passed since the original game released fifteen years ago.

Story

The game is set in the post-World War II United States, and is a parody of alien invasion movies that were quite popular during that era. You play as Crypto-137, the clone of a Furon alien sent to earth in order to retrieve brain stems from humans. Every human brain stem contains a small amount of pure Furon DNA due to a questionable encounter the two species had ages ago; collecting it is essential to prevent the extinction of the Furon empire.

Destroy All Humans! Review
Destroy All Humans! Review

The wacky plot never takes itself too seriously. The game relies on you living your childhood fantasies of being an alien that invades planet Earth, unleashing chaotic destruction and causing mayhem to keep you entertained during the duration of its rather short campaign.

The game has a very era-specific appeal; it reminds you of a time when video games weren’t the cinematic narrative-driven experiences they are today, but rather just fun-filled experiences that just aimed at providing a silly-good time. Hence, you always get the feeling that this is a game from a different time.

The writing is mostly hit-or-miss. The corny jokes in the dialogue never seem to land and there are a few genuinely funny gags in the beginning, but they get overplayed far too many times and overstay their welcomes. What pleasantly surprised me were Crypto’s observations about the world that provide insightful historical commentary over the scenarios that prevailed during that time. As such, Destroy All Humans! is more a political satire than anything else.

Gameplay

It’s pretty evident that the developers were just aiming for a mere visual upgrade here, and that’s a shame because the game has a ton of unrealized potential. Firstly, the game is way too simplistic and doesn’t have multiple difficulty levels to choose from. This results in a substantial lack of challenge to anyone who has ever played a standard action-game before. Oddly enough, the difficulty spikes abruptly during the last main mission which renders the last two boss fights (having three phases each) almost impossible to beat due to the lack of a checkpoint system after you complete one of the phases. It’s baffling that the remake didn’t touch upon such major frustrations.

The third-person gameplay is rather enjoyable thanks to a slew of interesting abilities such as Psychokinesis and hypnotism, and interesting weapons in Crypto’s arsenal. However, the always-enabled auto-aim and general lack of enemy variety oozes out any of the fun in it. The jetpack and skate hoverboard are fun to use regardless. 

Destroy All Humans! Review
Destroy All Humans! Review

The game does show its age in a lot of sections, for example the rudimentary stealth sequences. The holobob ability, which facilitates stealth definitely doesn’t hold up well in 2020 and it’s really disappointing that the developers didn’t put enough effort to bring much modern improvements to the game.

The mission structure is quite dated and takes you away from the action right the moment when things get interesting. The campaign is split into small missions that always end abruptly; these missions are spread over a semi-open-world map and each map location has bonus challenges which are more of the same. 

Crypto traverses across locations in his saucer and a simple upgrade system lets you upgrade your abilities, weapons and the saucer. It would’ve been nice if you could hop in and out of the saucer as per will, instead it is restricted only to particular scripted events in specific missions. However, don’t skimp on your saucer upgrades as there are some missions towards the end where you are restricted to only using the saucer. It would’ve opened up a lot of different combat scenarios if they’d just put choice in hands of the player.

Destroy All Humans! Review
Destroy All Humans! Review

The saucer sequences are wonky and the awkward camera angles means that you won’t be able to see where the projectiles are coming from. Controlling it is tedious, but something about destroying a town from above in a spaceship has a weirdly satisfying appeal. The gameplay leaves much to be desired, there’s clearly a lot of room for improvement here.

Visuals

The most highly-focused aspect of this remake is the visual upgrade, and the amount of work put in is pretty evident here. Firstly, Black Forest Games has done an exceptional job by transforming the game’s visuals and opting for a more cartoonish art style. It’s both modern and works really well with this type of game, and feels more fitting as compared to the original’s visuals.

Destroy All Humans! Review
Destroy All Humans! Review

The bright and cheery colours this time around is a stark contrast to the dark and spooky atmosphere of the original, and this shift in aesthetic actually works in the game’s favour. We’d like to say that it runs at a buttery 60FPS, but it disappointingly doesn’t, and that seems like another major missed opportunity. The game stutters anytime the action gets a little bit heated which could hint at poor optimization for the console versions. 

Overall, Destroy All Humans! showcases some impressive visuals and we hope that it encourages developers to make more stylistic choices like this in the future that better fit a game’s aesthetic while reviving old-school classics.

Audio & Music 

The game reuses original audio from the 2005 original that sound odd when coupled with the modern, updated visuals. Although Gary Schyman’s fantastical score got us excited and set the mood in the very beginning, all sense of excitement washed away the moment we heard the first dialogue.

The level of audio quality and fidelity just doesn’t hold up in 2020 and this mediocrity is simply not acceptable by modern standards. Even the gun sounds and explosions sound muffled which does not help the already sluggish visuals during those big moments. 

The NPCs have a small number of recorded lines and since you have to keep scanning minds to stay in the holobob during the dated stealth sections, these get repetitive and super annoying within your first hour of gameplay.

The developers probably intended to reuse the audio for the purpose of not losing the game’s essence, but they could’ve remastered the audio to obtain much better results. 

Verdict
Destroy All Humans! Review
Destroy All Humans! Review

Destroy All Humans! aims to be a blast from the past jumping into the 2020 nostalgia train. While there’s clearly some fun to be had here causing terror and mayhem, and unleashing chaotic destruction on Earth’s residents, the mediocre audio quality and absence of quality-of-life improvements mean that it doesn’t have the same effect as other modern remakes that have come out this year.

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7

Destroy All Humans!

While there’s clearly some fun to be had here causing terror and mayhem, and unleashing chaotic destruction on Earth’s residents, the mediocre audio quality and absence of quality-of-life improvements mean that it doesn’t have the same effect as other modern remakes that have come out this year.

THE GOOD
  • Fun abilities
  • Unique art-style & personality
  • Satire
THE BAD
  • Mediocre audio quality
  • Hit-or-miss writing & corny dialogue
  • Wonky saucer segments
  • Lack of any major quality-of-life improvements
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