Good ol’ fashioned alien-induced mayhem.
2005’s Destroy All Humans! was another great product of a great era of games. It was fun, irreverent, and generally silly. It was a nice game to have before the deluge of brown-colored World War II shooters that came shortly after that generation. It was full of old pop culture references, had an all-star voice cast, and the sequels- well, let’s not talk about the sequels. Anyway, the point I’m clumsily laboring toward here is that it’s back with a complete visual overhaul and some new modern conveniences.
You play as Cryptosporidium-137 (Crypto for short), a short-tempered alien who kind of sounds like Jack Nicholson. After one of your predecessors crashes on Earth while scoping it out for a potential invasion, it falls to you to pick up where he left off. Due to genetic degradation, Crypto’s race, the Furons, are in need of fresh DNA, and due to some ancient shenanigans with humanity’s ancestors, human brains happen to have that DNA, which means there’s going to be a lot of probing. The dialogue and writing have all been carried over from the original game, and while some of the jokes haven’t aged spectacularly, it’s still an entertaining little parody of 1950s red scare alien invasion movies.
There’s two major types of gameplay going on here: stealth and mayhem. When Crypto needs information, he can utilize his various psychic powers to take on human disguises and read minds. This disguise, known as the “holobob,” has been changed slightly from the original game; in the original, you’d just look at someone and copy them. Here, when you holobob someone, they become invisible and immobile. For the most part, this doesn’t really make a difference, though some players have reported a bug where, upon moving far enough away, your holobob victim despawns and your disguise vanishes. The holobob seems a little more temperamental in general, and you can’t use any offensive psychic powers without compromising yourself, which is a bummer.
Luckily, when Crypto drops pretenses and busts out the ray gun, things get much more fun. You’ve got lots of tools to wreak mayhem upon humanity, including a lightning gun, a Mars Attacks-style disintegrator beam, and you can lift and throw stuff with your mind. Oh, and if my comment earlier made you curious, yes, there is a probe weapon, and it goes exactly where you’re thinking. Of course, no alien invader is complete without his flying saucer, armed with tractor beams and death rays to completely wreck a city for funsies. One new feature is a dashing ability that lets you zip around on jet skates, which, while not especially necessary since you already have a jetpack, earns tons of cool points.
Compared to modern sandbox games, Destroy All Humans! is a lot smaller in scale, but it’s a little tighter for it. When you clear a mission in a new map area, you get access to a free roam where you can hunt down drones, complete a couple of challenges, or just terrorize the populace, all to obtain more DNA. More DNA means more upgrades for your ship, weapons, and abilities. It’s a simple cycle, but it’s a pleasant simplicity.
Despite some quirks arising from the remake process, Destroy All Humans! is still as fun a game as it was 15 years ago. While not all of the modernization efforts hit the mark, the ones that do are welcome improvements. If you don’t mind some old groaner jokes and a spot of wonky AI, it’ll make for some great stress relief.