Reviewed: November 19, 2006
Released: October 17, 2006
After spending nearly a month with THQ’s hilarious new B-Movie-Invading-Martian-sequel, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way this game could be any better was if I had the Mystery Science Theater guys down in the corner doing in-game commentary while I played.
For those who never played the original Destroy All Humans! I suggest you smack yourself soundly then run out to the nearest video game store and start scavenging through the budget bins. Thankfully, you don’t have to play the original to instantly fall in love with Pandemic’s witty new sequel, Destroy All Humans! 2, which picks up the story that started in the 50’s and takes us into the 60’s, complete with all the clichés of the era including free love and the Cold War.
The premise is simple. After the conclusion of the first game, Crypto has successfully infused himself with the Furon DNA and was now posing as the President. But while he was doing nothing to ease the Cold War tension the Soviets had discovered not only the Furon Mothership in orbit around Earth, but the fact that an alien was in the White House. In a coordinated attack, they launched missiles into space while the KGB prepared to assassinate the President…err, Crypto.
While they did manage to destroy the mothership, their attack on Crypto failed, and now, with the aid of Pox – who managed to download his brain into a hologram and send it to Earth along with numerous other pods of useful gear and information, Crypto must take on the Soviet threat and survive hippies, KGB, cops, the military, and even ninja warriors…don’t ask.
For those that played the original, you’ll feel right at home with most of the basic concepts like body snatching, probing minds (and other orifices). There are some new weapons, gadgets, and mental abilities with a cool upgrade system including a DNA sequencer (gene blender) that allows you to pick up a variety of ingredients (people) and mix them into a unique DNA-cocktail.
Destroy All Humans! 2 maintains the free-roaming style of the original, perhaps even more so now that you no longer have to return to the mothership to switch missions and areas. You’ll get to explore five rather large quasi-real-world locations that you can all identify but for either legal or humorous reasons, the designers chose to parody. It’s pretty obvious that Bay City is a lampoon of San Francisco, complete with famous landmarks like Coit Tower and Alcatraz.
Once again, gameplay consists of land-based missions combined with aerial assaults using your upgradeable saucer. Regardless of the mission it’s best to stay incognito, either through the cloaking device on the ship or by stealing the disposable meat sacks known as Earthlings. Often, you will need to implant yourself into a specific person (or type of person) in order to achieve an objective. A good example of this is when your alert level gets too high. You can use a police call box to call off the “alien search” but only if you are in the body of a policeman or soldier.
Stealing bodies is easy, but doing it covertly can be tricky. If anyone sees you snatch a body you’ll need to…ahem…dispose of the witnesses, or put enough ground between you and them until your Alert Level hits zero. Then you can proceed undetected. On a humorous 60’s twist, you now have the ability to invoke Free Love, which will erase a targets short-term memory and have them start mindlessly dancing around.
The levels are huge and you will not only need your ship to get around, you’ll also need to unlock landing zones around the maps. These take the form of alien idols (which nobody else seems to notice). When you find an idol a booming voice will give you instructions on how to unlock it. These are little mini-rampage missions that are great fun, and once unlocked you can land or summon your saucer from any of these idols.
Telekinesis is great fun and is mirrored by the tractor beam function when you are flying the saucer. You can grab and fling things and people around and you can upgrade these powers to increase your weight limit. One nice feature of the ship’s tractor beam is you can suck the energy from anything in your grasp thus repairing your saucer. There are also numerous other upgrades like improving your ship’s lasers or cool down time. Upgrades require you to find pods scattered about the levels. Some are obvious and others are hidden rather well.
Each area in the game has certain missions required to advance the story as well as a number of optional side missions that can be completed. The storyline missions are fairly straightforward and there are a number of optional side missions where Crypto is trying to start, or at least recruit disciples for a new alien religion, the Cult of Arkvoodle. I was surprised to find many of these side missions were actually more difficult than the core missions, but at least they are optional and you can finish the game while skipping any that prove too challenging.
It is nice to know that you cannot die, or rather dying has no derogatory effects. Actually, dying can prove beneficial since you will spawn pretty close to where you died with full health and weapons and no obvious penalties.
Pandemic seems to be caught up in the co-op craze and Destroy All Humans! 2 offers a two-player cooperative story mode via local split-screen. It works, both from a gameplay and technical level, but there is no Xbox Live support and if you hate sharing your screen (like I do) you probably won’t give this much of a chance. They do throw in some interesting mini-games like PK Tennis, and those are definitely enjoyable by two players.
Destroy All Humans! 2 looks even better than the original game (if that is even possible). The Xbox seems to be able to handle the larger draw distances better than the PS2 version, but there is still some noticeable pop-up when you take to the unfriendly skies. But as long as you are concentrating on the tanks, soldiers, and walking DNA samples below, you probably won’t even notice.
I am still amazed at how fantastic the textures are in this game, especially when you get in close on Crypto or complicated objects like his ship. There are so many fine details and this carries over to the great animation, both for simple things like walking and jet-packing around the levels, to using your telekinesis to toss people and items around.
The population of many of the areas in the game is quite large so expect to see reused models, but then again, all KBG look alike to me anyway. Specific characters key to the story definitely have an original look and are easily picked from the crowd. There is so much humor integrated into every aspect of the game, that you really have to examine your surroundings to catch even a fraction of it.
Jack is back…or at least Grant Albrecht who consistently turns in the best Jack Nicholson performance next to…well, Jack Nicholson. While the entire premise of the game is to poke fun at 60’s culture and lampoon humanity in general, having one of our best actors (or somebody who sounds just like him) deliver some of these irreverent lines is simply priceless. The rest of the cast turn in admirable and often exaggerated (for comical effect) performances including hilarious comments made by the public when you are caught out of disguise. Pox still makes me laugh almost as much as Crypto, and just about anything the Arkvoodle idols said made milk come out of my nose…and I wasn’t drinking milk.
Destroy All Humans! 2 features a groovy soundtrack that captures the 60’s flawlessly, and you can even buy it on a CD or download from iTunes. Between games like GTA and Stubbs the Zombie, I’m continually amazed at what these games are doing for licensed music and original artists. The rest of the audio presentation includes plenty of B-movie sound effects for lasers, humming saucers, gunshots, tank cannons booming, and the sickly squish of brain removal and body disposal. The Dolby Digital mix is outstanding and puts you right into the game.
Destroy All Humans! 2 is a fairly lengthy game, both by design and due to the fact that there are some seriously challenging missions in the game. While most of the challenge lies in the optional side-missions, those who like to totally finish a game can expect a solid 30-40 hours to uncover and unlock every last element in this sequel. If you are looking for a casual romp through the story, you can probably get your fill in about half that time.
The multiplayer is a nice touch if you don’t mind split-screen gaming, and the mini-games are uniquely tied into the theme of the game and great fun. I can’t see myself going back and replaying the game after finishing it, other than to show off some of my favorite scenes to friends.
Very rarely do I get to say that a sequel is actually better than the original, but Destroy All Humans! 2 manages to boost just about every level of humor, storytelling, and gameplay up at least a slight notch. Perhaps I can relate more to the 60’s than the 50’s, but I just had a better time playing this game than the first, but honestly, you should probably play them both.
Destroy All Humans! is a great franchise, and this latest installment is certainly worth your time if you love aliens, off-color humor, Jack Nicholson, hippies, free love, the Cold War, KGB, and free-roaming sandbox-style gameplay.